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Designer Lee Young-hee promotes Korean color

2006/04/19 | Permalink | Source

At the Venice Film Festival--one of the world's three largest film festivals--a new movie called "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" produced by director Park Chan-wook, who had already earned worldwide recognition for his thriller "Old Boy", was invited as an entry in the official long movie category. An official movie screening event of the Venice Film Festival was held concurrently as a red carpet event at Sala Grende Cinema. During the event, actress Lee Young-ae drew the local media spotlight when she appeared wearing a traditional Korean costume, called "hanbok", with knotted hair, red jacket, and dark brown skirt.

The question over who designed Lee Young-ae's hanbok, which looked graceful and stately yet was as fashionable as dresses designed by top-rated western designers, was a prime topic of conversation. Diverse rumors floating around said that her clothing had hurriedly been created in Milan, and that it was rushed to the event by air from Korea. Upon hearing these rumors, one might imagine how proud the person who designed and tailored Lee's hanbok felt. Lee Young-ae's hanbok spawned massive attention and became a hot topic of discussion among the people of the world thanks to its elegant and dignified look. The person who created the hanbok is Lee Young-hee, a 69 year-old hanbok designer.
Creating color with hands

Designer Lee Young-hee designed the hanbok Lee Young-ae wore on the red carpet by taking into account the actress wearing it and the movies she had appeared in. Lee designed the jacket to be short and tight with a reddish-pink color, and utilized a single-layer textile which looked semi-transparent. Actress Lee Young-ae's skirt, which was dark brown, was created using a high quality textile called "guksa" with a brownish-gray hue that accentuated the skirt's elegant lines.

Lee Young-hee's hanbok works are represented in rich color. The colors of her hanbok deliver a sense of humanity. She uses the same unique colors in her hanbok creations that she watched her mother make when she was young, using a careful method of manual dyeing.

Lee, who studied dyeing and design at Sungshin Women's University, opened the "Lee Young-hee Korean Costume tailor shop" in Seogyo-dong in 1977. She was already in her late 30s at that time. Though Lee was raised by her mother, who had exquisite manual skills, and had the chance to learn from her, she started hanbok tailoring rather belatedly in her career. She had high expectations when she opened the shop, but creating hanbok was never easy. The problem lay with the color. The bread and butter of hanbok is, after all, color, but she could not find textiles with the appropriate colors suitable for hanbok. She could not afford to design hanbok using any random colors which were neither western nor traditional Korean in origin.

Then, Lee found a glimmer of hope in "Seokjuseon". She regained a hopeful outlook about colors at Seokjuseon Museum. She started to dye and dry fabrics on her own tirelessly to formulate unique Korean colors. This is how she first created the colors that she still uses these days. She thus created "Korean colors" that only she can formulate, which include the rich brown with grayish hue and delicate reddish-pink, though this process.
Beauty becomes more abundant through winds
Lee made her debut in the international stage through a fashion show held amidst American Independence Day celebrations in Washington in 1983. Since then, she has hosted a Los Angeles Olympics opening fashion show, Tsukuba EXPO congratulatory show, Seoul Olympics Show held in Milan, and Seoul Olympics Eve Show held in New York, while introducing the beauty of hanbok to the world. She also participated in the Paris Collection in 1993, and drew massive acclaim by redefining hanbok fashion. Her hanbok designs garnered the nickname "clothes of winds" at that time. Her clothes acquired that unique nickname after the Le Monde newspaper commented on her works by saying "The beauty becomes abundant with winds", after viewing her collection.

One can visit the Lee Young-hee Museum on 32th Street in New York, and examine the diverse collection of hanbok works designed by Lee. But this is not a store meant to sell clothes. Lee opened the shop in an attempt to show Korean culture, and to allow people to realize the elegant and stately look unique to hanbok. When she first displayed her hanbok designs, westerners would call them "Korean kimonos" instead of hanbok. To people who would oftentimes recall only Japan's kimonos or Chinese-style costumes when they heard about Asian fashion, Lee introduced and promoted the unique style and beauty of hanbok. As a result, now westerners now use the term hanbok, rather than Korean kimono.

For spring and summer in 2006, Lee chose wrinkles as the highlighted feature of her hanbok style. She will also unveil new designs that feature the typically curved lines of hanbok. There is no conspicuous change in her designs. It is not easy to spot any changes in her clothes that are newly unveiled at collections. In reality, her designs make people sense the charm of subtleness. This is what hanbok is all about. It does not outspokenly boast about its own beauty. In an almost undetectable fashion, the elegant look of hanbok permeates the senses in a gentle fashion like the fragrance of Japanese apricot trees. In this way, hanbok attracts people with its elegance. This subtle beauty of hanbok is best described and represented through Lee's hands. Now, the very name Lee Young-hee itself has become a name brand. In addition to tailor-made hanbok, Lee is now presenting to the public a flurry of different designs, including "Lee Young-hee Paris", and "Maison de Lee Young-hee". The different designs came about because attire must change depending on venue and purpose. However, Lee's affection for hanbok and the elegance displayed by her clothes remain unchanged.


Date of birth: February 24, 1936
Date of birth: Daegu Metropolitan City
Education: Dyeing and art, Sungshin Women's University
Career highlights:
1984 Participates in fashion shows for the opening and closing ceremonies of the LA Olympics
1986 Fashion show to commemorate the centennial of Korea-France relations as allies
1993 Participates in Preta Porter
2000 Performs show at the main hall in Wind of History inside Carnegie campaign.
October 10 2004 Traditional clothes fashion show to mark the 40th anniversary of Korea-Japan relations
June 2005 Participates in ASIAN FANTASIA 2005
October 2005 Fashion show marking the first anniversary of Lee Young-hee Museum in New York and Washington
November 2005 Design traditional coats for the leaders of Busan APEC in last October

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