Unafraid to break the fashion rules! Young Korean fashion designer Leesle Hwang has taken the traditional hanbok and transformed it into elegant everyday wear. Her business has gone from strength to strength and has attracted both local and international customers. Designed for both men and women, her creations are uniquely attractive. While visiting Korea recently, I caught up with Leesle at her showroom and had a chance to chat with her about her background and her journey so far. Here’s an extract from our conversation.
“When I was young I didn’t like fashion. In fact I had quite a poor fashion sense but I Ioved handicrafts, sewing, drawing and cutting up paper art. I was also interested in comics, cartoons and especially the Japanese anime “Sailor Moon”. At one point in time, I thought about becoming a painter but by the age of 20, I started to experiment with design and fabric. My inspiration for creating contemporary styled hanboks came from the comic book called “Goong”. The story was based on a Korean palace in modern times and I really liked the illustrations. It was from this, that I decided to take the idea of traditional Korean clothing and transform it to fit the modern world. So I started by experimenting with different types of fabrics and with various colour combinations. The traditional hanbok is made of silk and hemp; usually it combines very bright and contrasting colours; and has a puffed up silhouette. I wanted to design a hanbok that was more practical for everyday wear and appealing to younger people. Initially it was my mother who helped me with the cutting and sewing of the hanboks.
I believe that “there’s no limit” to what a person can achieve. I would do whatever it takes to learn more in order to improve my clothing. Even though I studied Public Relations, as time went by I realised that I was more interested in designing and creating hanboks – I was passionate about doing this! So I went to the library and taught myself.
Then I decided that for me to expand my knowledge I needed to go to an academy; attend seminars and exhibitions to learn more and to improve. I studied for five years and eventually attained a Masters in Clothing and Textiles.
My designs are unique because they represent the spirit of Korea, they are comfortable to wear and are trendy. I place great emphasis on using quality cotton and pay attention to details like stitching, buttons, zips and ribbons. I want my customers to have a well constructed, elegant hanbok. They are available in both vibrant and muted colours; patterns and plain; and in a variety of sizes. My first customer was from Singapore and she bought hanbok socks. When I first started selling online I was amazed at the response I made BND 58,823 in 10 days. This positive response encouraged me to try and reach a more global market. I will continue to combine oriental and western styles to come up with my own unique creations. And I hope that this will continue to attract more global customers.
To me, fashion is like a marathon – you must keep going, keep on innovating to move ahead and to give customers what they want. Although the fashion industry is dominated by men, I believe that women like challenges and can be just as successful. No matter what you are interested in, whether it’s fashion or something else you should “Go for it with no fear!”
For more information, visit: http://www.leesle.com