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Looking back at a lifelong journey creating fashion : Rubina is being honored during Seoul Fashion Week with an exhibition that celebrates her cultural impact

Oct 21,2017
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Hera Seoul Fashion Week 2018 Spring/Summer opened on Oct. 16 with an exhibition from honorary designer Rubina’s titled, “Endless Journey,” which will run through Nov. 12. [YONHAP]
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Rubina’s exhibition, “Endless Journey,” is an archive of the designer’s 38 years in the fashion industry, featuring over 160 pieces. [RUBINA]
Hera Seoul Fashion Week 2018 Spring/Summer started on Monday and the honor of opening the country’s largest fashion event went to Rubina, a designer whose vast archive of clothes are on display in the exhibition halls at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) in central Seoul until Nov. 12. The exhibition, titled “Endless Journey,” features works from 38 years of her life as a designer, a journey that has taken her down paths she had no idea would be taking in her earlier years.

“I had experienced everything as a top model, a singer and an actress, and there was nowhere else for me to go,” said Rubina in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily. “Fashion design was a path that I took as refuge from my life. I started later than others, without preparation, so I had to work twice as hard.”

Upon seeing her tall figure and glamorous looks, one may easily think of the fiery redness of a ruby jewel, but the name Rubina is the name that she was given when she was baptized. The designer’s birth name is Park Sang-sook. Rubina graduated with a degree in classical ballet from Sookmyung Women’s University. What appealed to Rubina at the time, however, was the charm of the modeling world.

Rubina first debuted on the cover of a magazine named Yeohaksaeng, which translates to “female student,” during her high school years, when a photographer came to her school and decided to use her photos instead of the student the school had recommended. “After the magazine was published, I received hundreds of love letters from all over the country,” recollected the designer. “I visited my aunt every weekend, and boys from the nearby high schools would swarm in to see me.”

She officially entered the fashion industry after she dropped by the studio of the late fashion designer and professor emeritus of Ewha Womans University Bae Chun-bum as a university student. When word got out that the beautiful model was also a talented guitarist, a TV producer at MBC got in touch with the rookie model and asked her to be on a program called “Debut Stage.” The program, which exposed new singers to a large audience, turned out to open doors for Rubina’s career as a singer. She went on to release two albums over the next four years.

“I think I was the only singer who would smoke and sing on television,” said Rubina. “I think that came across as rude to the adults. I found out later that the then president Park Chung Hee saw me and said, ‘What is that, get rid of it.’ I was pulled off the program immediately.”

Rubina’s talents didn’t stop there, however. She was well known among her peers that she had decorated her apartment in a classic European style, and professor Bae introduced the place to movie director Simon Sheen. The very next day, Sheen sent Rubina a copy of the script he was working on, and she became the lead role in his movie, “Yeohyeongsa Marie” (Detective Marie).

“Back then [after the movie], I thought about what I liked to do the most. I thought about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and it was making clothes,” said Rubina. In March 1980, she opened her first studio. Ever since then, she has been living the life of a fashion designer, and the exhibition is dedicated to showing the long journey she took.

“I actually like traveling,” said the veteran designer. “Seeing as how I like traveling and clothes, I must have been a gypsy in my past life. In the end, I think our life is a journey in itself. I tread the path that I choose, but sometimes that leads me to new places and new experiences. At each point, I mature bit by bit. In the way that they’re both incomplete, life and journeys are the same. I’m taking that path with fashion, the love of my life, and it’s something to be really grateful for.”

Across nine sections at the DDP’s Design Pathway, visitors can see 160 pieces of Rubina’s past works. From old frames that the designer has been using for years, to a tunnel of fabric designed by herself, to decades-old mannequins, the exhibition crosses the lines of art and fashion, and takes the visitors to a new realm.

“Looking at Rubina’s clothes, you can imagine all kinds of delicate hand movements needed in making clothes,” said Seo Young-hee, creative director of the exhibition.

“She’s nicknamed the ‘queen of details,’ because she’s created such a diverse array of designs, and I wanted to show the results of her creativity and effort to the audience.”

“I’m going to jump over to Prague, my favorite traveling spot,” said the silver-haired designer. “Then I’m going to come back recharged, and write a detailed book for young people to learn from.”

BY SEO JEONG-MIN [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]


“모델, 배우, 가수로 살았지만 인생은 미완성” DDP 패션전(展) 여는 디자이너 루비나

“톱 모델로, 가수로, 영화배우로 모든 걸 경험하고 나니 더 이상 갈 곳이 없었어요. 패션 디자인은 인생의 새로운 도피처로 선택한 길이었죠. 남들보다 늦게, 준비 없이 시작했으니 두 배는 더 노력해야 했죠.”

패션 디자이너 루비나(69) 선생의 패션 인생 38년을 총망라한 전시 ‘끝나지 않는 여행(Endless Journey)’이 17일부터 11월 12일까지 서울 동대문 디자인플라자(DDP)에서 열린다.

169cm의 늘씬한 키에 서구적인 마스크를 처음 보는 사람은 누구라도 불꽃처럼 새빨간 보석 ‘루비’의 화려함을 먼저 떠올린다. 하지만 ‘루비나’는 어릴 적 받은 가톨릭 세례명(본명은 박상숙)이다.

순천 태생으로 순천여중을 졸업한 그는 서울예고, 숙명여대 무용학과를 졸업했다. 전공은 고전무용이었지만, 운명처럼 그를 끌어당긴 건 ‘모델’이라는 세계였다. 고교시절, 잡지 ‘여학생’ 촬영을 위해 학교를 방문한 사진가는 원래 추천받은 학생을 두고 표지 모델로 그를 발탁했다.

“잡지가 발간된 후 전국에서 연애편지 수백 통을 받았어요. 하숙 치는 이모님 댁에 주말이면 놀러갔는데 그때마다 하숙 친구들한테 듣고 인근 경복고등학교 남학생들이 몰려들었죠.”(웃음)

대학 때 우연히 이화여대 명예교수이자 패션 디자이너였던 고 배천범 교수의 의상실 ‘석경’에 들렀다가 본격적으로 패션모델 계에 입문했다. ‘이국적인 외모의 모델이 통기타도 잘 친다더라’ 소문이 나자 MBC 예능 프로그램 PD가 찾아와 당시 신인가수 등용 프로그램인 ‘데뷔 스테이지’에 출연시켰다. 그의 허스키한 목소리와 ‘눈이 나리네’ ‘고엽’ 등의 샹송은 아주 잘 어울렸고, 이후 4년 간 음반을 2개나 발표하면서 가수로도 사랑받았다.

“방송에서 담배를 피우며 노래를 했던 가수는 아마도 내가 유일했을 거예요. 그게 어른들 눈에는 언짢게 보였나봐요. 나중에 알았는데 박정희 대통령이 ‘저거 뭐야, 치워’ 한 마디 했다나 봐요. 당장에 MBC 출연정지를 당했죠.”

그의 타고난 감각은 이뿐만이 아니었다. 아파트 인테리어를 유럽스타일로 잘 꾸몄다는 소식에 배 교수 소개로 영화 촬영을 왔던 신상옥 감독이 그를 보자마자 다음날 바로 시나리오를 보냈다. 그렇게 ‘여형사 마리’ 주연으로 영화를 찍었다.

“그 시점에 내가 가장 좋아하는 게 뭘까. 평생 하고 싶은 일이 뭘까 고민해보니 옷 만드는 일이더라고요.”

1980년 3월 제일백화점 지하에 의상실을 내고, 이후엔 뒤도 안 돌아보고 패션 디자이너로만 살았다. 이번 전시 ‘끝나지 않는 여정’은 그 긴 여정에 찍는 일종의 쉼표와 같다.

“실제로도 여행을 참 좋아해요. 이렇게 옷을 좋아하고 여행을 좋아하는 걸 보면 전생에 집시였던 게 분명해요.(웃음) 결국 우리의 인생 자체가 또 여행인 것 같아요. 내가 선택한 길을 가면서 때로는 낯선 곳에서 색다른 경험을 하고, 한 장소를 지날 때마다 성숙함을 배우죠. 미완성이라는 점에서도 여행과 인생은 같아요. 난 그 길을 ‘패션’이라는 사랑하는 존재와 즐겁게 가고 있으니 참 감사하고 행복한 일이죠.”

DDP 배움터 2층 둘레길을 따라 마련된 9개의 전시공간에는 총 160여 점의 옷이 전시돼 있다. 낡은 합판으로 짠 크고 작은 액자들, 수백 종의 원단을 씌운 전등갓으로 만든 빛의 터널, 수십 년 동안 써온 낡은 마네킹 등으로 둘러싸인 옷들은 패션과 예술의 경계를 오가며 색다른 감각을 선보인다.

이번 전시를 기획한 서영희 크리에이티브 디렉터는 “루비나 선생의 옷을 보면 ‘엮다/뜨다/묶다/꼬다/꿰매다/물들이다’ 등 패션에서 구현할 수 있는 온갖 종류의 섬세한 손동작을 떠올리게 된다”며 “‘디테일의 여왕’이라 불릴 만큼 다양한 디자인을 창조해온 선생의 창의성과 노력의 결과를 관객에게 꼭 보여주고 싶다”고 말했다.

겸손하고 씩씩한 은발의 디자이너는 “전시가 끝나는 대로 가장 좋아하는 여행지 프라하로 달려가 잠시 새 에너지를 얻고 돌아와서는 후학들을 위해 디테일 책을 만들 계획”이라며 의욕을 불태웠다.

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