Hanbok Designer Kim Young-jin Takes Cultural Pride in Her Work

      March 05, 2009 08:03

      Kim Young-jin

      Kim Young-jin, who runs a boutique dedicated to making traditional Korean costume, hanbok, in Hannam-dong, downtown Seoul, is always elegantly clad in hanbok when she meets customers.

      Wearing a gray top embellished with flowery patterns and a yellow skirt made from Thai silk, her hair pulled back into a chignon and adorned with jade, a rod-shaped hairpin, tassels and a double ring, she seems to have been born for hanbok. "This combination of a moderate top and voluminous skirt was in vogue in the 18th century. I discovered the beauty of hanbok from this style," said Kim.

      Her boutique "Chai," meaning "difference" is a space for synthetic art. A space for making hanbok and a gallery are on the first floor of Kim's shop, while the second floor is used as her living space. A glimpse of the living space was enough to see that it is as beautiful as a gallery. Her works are not limited to traditional Korean dress only, but also include items such as wedding gowns adopting characteristics of hanbok, blankets, pillows, and gift boxes.

      A top and skirt ensemble fetches at least W1 million here (US$1=W1,551). "I feel upset sometimes. If you consider the material costs, the price should go up... People buy a kimono, even if they have to pay W10 million. For Japanese, a kimono is the dream of lifetime. It has symbolic meaning. Wearing a kimono makes a woman feel that she is a real woman. I hope we Koreans can have that kind of pride too. Although we have a good culture, we seem to despise it due to pragmatism. It's a pity," she said.

      "I think hanbok is the best haute couture dress. The era of tailor-made suits has returned. In making a hanbok outfit, creativity is key toward tailoring custom-made clothing with flair. The beautiful combination of colors, lines, and accessories in hanbok is unparalleled. I'd like to make a hanbok outfit which is comparable to the quality of European luxury brands yet still exhibits traditional Korean beauty," added Kim.

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