Doyenne of Hanbok Design Dies at 82

  • By Choi Bo-yun

    May 18, 2018 13:16

    Famous hanbok designer Lee Young-hee died of pneumonia on Thursday at the age of 82.

    "It was so sudden," said Lee Jung-woo, Lee's daughter and also a fashion designer. "All she thought about was hanbok. When she watched the inter-Korean summit on TV, she said she'd hold a big fashion show again in Pyongyang."

    Lee was the first Korean designer to hold a fashion show in Pyongyang in June 2001.

    Born in Daegu in 1936, Lee only started designing the traditional Korean attire in 1976. She gained international recognition when she became the first Korean designer to participate in a Prêt-à-Porter show in Paris.

    Lee Young-hee

    Her grey and purple dress, which was one of the most striking modern examples of hanbok at the time, instantly captivated people's minds. Laurence Benaim, a fashion reporter for Le Monde, called her dresses "clothes of wind."

    She opened a hanbok museum in New York in 2004 and held an exhibition at the Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C. in 2007. In 2008, she was named one of the top 60 artists in the world by Google.

    Italian designer Miuccia Prada once said her clothes were inspired by Lee's hanbok, and Georgio Armani bought several pieces at her boutique when he visited Seoul in 2004. Michael Jackson had several of Lee's outfits.

    Lee kept working into her 80s, including outfits for performers at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, swam every day and had fitness training twice a week.

    She leaves behind her husband, daughter, two sons and a grandson, who is married to actress Jeon Ji-hyun.

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