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LIE designer finds inspiration in Seoul: Lee Chung Chung’s latest collection reflects the city’s diversity and tradition

Mar 22,2019
A look from LIE’s 2019 Fall/Winter collection, showcased Wednesday at Dongdaemun Design Plaza, central Seoul, features a playful mixture of patterns and textures.
Designer Lee Chung Chung poses with models during the Hera Seoul Fashion Week 2019 S/S last October. [SEOUL FASHION WEEK, LIE]
Seoul Fashion Week is in full swing and the city’s fashionistas are dressed to impress.

During this season’s fashion extravaganza, over 50 local designers are set to present their 2019 F/W collections and hopefully make a splash with their designs.

Lee Chung Chung, CEO and creative director at LIE, is no stranger to fashion week. His F/W collection, a bright, colorful ensemble of checkered trench coats, multi-hued sweaters and flowy animal print dresses showcased Wednesday night under the theme of “Magical Reality,” is his 11th since LIE’s launch in 2013. A few weeks prior, Lee was at the New York Fashion Week showing off the same pieces on the runway.

Holding a degree in menswear from Central Saint Martins in London, Lee mixes in hints of masculinity into his womenswear line LIE.

Being “playful” and “mixing and matching” is the whole idea of the brand, he says. “Rather than going for ‘genderless,’ we like mixing up contrasting concepts. Our clothes are really good at adding an edge or matching with existing outfits.”

Though Lee may be well known for being the son of Lie Sang Bong, the legendary fashion designer whose outfits have been worn by global superstars like Beyonce, Lee’s hoping to leave his own mark in the industry. With his outfits already selling in 60 stores across the globe, he seems to be on the right track.

The Korea JoongAng Daily met up with Lee Chung Chung last Thursday at the Fashion KODE 2019 F/W trade fair at Seongsu-dong’s S-Factory, eastern Seoul, ahead of fashion week to discuss his new collection and Seoul’s fashion industry.

The following are edited excerpts from the interview.

Q. What is “Magical Reality” and what inspired you to make it the theme of this collection?

. I was inspired by images taken by the famous photographer Koo Sung-soo. Seoul is a very fantastical city. A lot of different aspects come together, from the high-tech Coex to the small traditional alleys of Insa-dong.

I focused on diversity when expressing Seoul. With fabric, I used a variety of materials. Brown tones represent the giwa, traditional roof tiles and earth, while grey colors represent the metropolis.

One of the dresses looks like it has animal print, but up close, you can see it’s haetae, a legendary creature in Korea.

We also focused on the convergence of fashion and technology for this collection.

How do you merge fashion with technology?

We work with vegan fashion, using eco-fur instead of real fur or leather. Animals feel a lot of pain and there are environmental consequences [of using real fur].

Although this is still a work in progress, we’ve also injected air into the clothes instead of fillings like duck or goose feathers. We will show a few of those pieces in this collection.

If the technology develops, we could even inject warm air.

What inspires you?

Photographs, paintings and movies. I get inspired visually, but also from social issues that I come across when reading the news.

In this collection I was trying to express images of Seoul and my story. My previous collection was about Amelia Earhart’s legacy. Before that, I was inspired by pictures of polar bears.

But I’m not trying to be serious. When I was representing the North Pole, for example, I wasn’t focusing on the polar bears dying, but on preserving their beauty. With Earhart as well, I tried to reflect the beautiful sunset-lit sky she probably saw during her flights.

Some people include Seoul Fashion Week as one of the “Top 5 fashion weeks” in the world after Paris, London, Milan and New York. Where do you think Seoul Fashion Week stands today?

I think the status of Seoul Fashion Week has risen considerably. Korean fashion has become very influential, so it’s inevitable.

Rather than including Seoul Fashion Week in the global Top 5 fashion weeks, however, I think it’s more meaningful to call it Asia’s No. 1 fashion week.

Asia is becoming a very important market independent from those of Europe and the United States. I don’t think it’s necessary to stick to certain standards.

Seoul Fashion Week itself has continued to improve. It’s not necessary to hide the faults, but we need to talk about the things it’s doing well. At the end of the day, Seoul Fashion Week is a government venture organized by Seoul.

I want to tell the government that Seoul Fashion Week is doing well, but that we can do even better with more investment. I hope they’ll open more doors, provide more support, and seek more sponsorships so designers can enjoy fashion week like a real festival.

How do you assess the domestic Korean fashion industry?

I think fashion needs to be more in the public eye.

We’ve performed shows in Paris under the Lie Sang Bong brand for 12 years. The day after the show, newspapers like Le Monde and Le Figaro will post huge pictures from the fashion show on their first page.

This is something that the [French] public is interested in, and these publications encourage people to think that Paris is the capital of fashion, that their fashion is the best. They think more about the designers, and why fashion is important.

I don’t think fashion has ever landed on the front page in Korean newspapers, but it’s important to remind Koreans how well Korean designers are doing, how important the fashion industry is and so on.

Korean consumers also have a tendency to devalue Korean brands and believe they should be cheaper in comparison to foreign designers.

The reason Japanese fashion has been able to succeed abroad is because of the support they received from businesses and department stores.

I hope to improve the [status of Korean designers] through media.

BY KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]