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MUNN does sporty, Korean style: At London Fashion Week Men's, designer Han Hyun-min adds traditional touches to athletic looks

June 25,2019
Models at MUNN’s show during London Fashion Week Men’s Spring/Summer 2020 wear pieces inspired by traditional Korean attire. [PARK SANG-MOON, MUNN]
In a bright, sunlit room at the Truman Brewery on the second day of the London Fashion Week Men’s, all eyes were on models wearing designs featuring traditional Korean elements from fashion label MÜNN during its London debut.

A multi-cultural line-up of models walked down the catwalk in wide-legged silky trousers and translucent black hats - common fashion items during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). One even held a tea table decorated with mother-of-pearl, creating a striking contrast with the sporty, neon-rimmed tunic draped over his shoulders.

“I wanted to bring something new, so I went for something more oriental than usual,” Han Hyun-min, MÜNN’s creative director, told the Korea JoongAng Daily last Monday at his studio in southern Seoul after returning from London. “I thought about what people would hope from an East Asian menswear designer.”

MÜNN was selected from a pool of several Korean designers to participate in the 2020 Spring/Summer London Fashion Week Men’s as part of an ongoing exchange program between Seoul Design Foundation and the British Fashion Council, organizers of the fashion weeks in Seoul and London. Earlier this year, British brand Cottweiler held a show at Seoul Fashion Week as part of the same program.

Although only six-years-old, MÜNN is one of the most recognizable names in the Korean fashion world. The brand has been selected to join Seoul’s 10Soul, a global designer incubator program, for four years and won the 2016/17 International Woolmark Prize Asia regional final. Last October, MÜNN received one of the greatest honors a Korean fashion designer could ever hope for - the Best Designer Award for 2018 Seoul Fashion Week.

The following are edited excerpts from the interview.

Q. What was the theme for the 2020 S/S menswear collection?

A. Sporty oriental. We used a lot of materials that are traditionally used when making hanbok (traditional Korean dress) like silk jacquard, floral patterns and translucent fabric. We also incorporated influences from bojagi (traditional wrapping cloth) and bokjumeoni (fortune pouch).

Since this collection was for Spring/Summer and London Fashion Week, which is known for its techwear and sportswear, we went for an athletic look as well, with shirred sleeves and drawstring bags. We took Asian and [specifically] Korean elements and turned them into sportswear, and took materials like nylon and polyester and made them into hanbok.

How did it feel to be presenting in London?

It’s only been six years since I’ve launched my brand, but after being selected as Seoul’s 10Soul and Best Designer, Seoul Fashion Week became something regular. The fashion week organizers, press and buyers in Korea pay close attention and treat us well.

But in London, it was exciting to go back to being total newbies. We had only our clothes to prove ourselves.

What were your impressions of London Fashion Week?

I was surprised at how professional the helpers backstage were. I think it was the best hair and makeup I’ve [encountered] so far. People were doing their jobs like they were creating works of art.

The venue was much larger than in Dongdaemun Design Plaza, and it had a tall glass ceiling that let in a lot of natural light. It felt nice to do a show in such a bright place.

Did you have any concerns before heading to London?

The announcement that we had been chosen to go show in London came out really late. It was nerve-wracking because we had little time to prepare, just three to four weeks. I was afraid that we would ruin a really good opportunity.

But we’ve received a lot of positive feedback after the show.

What kind of feedback did you get after the show?

I did a few interviews with news outlets backstage. Many told me that it was a style that didn’t exist in London. I think we gave off a sense of mysticism.

At the end of our show we had all 30 models walk in dresses we had made to look like white garment bags, and the audience really seemed to like it.

Some of the most memorable comments I heard were, ‘The British Fashion Council shouldn’t let go of MÜNN’ and ‘It’s a brand that’s fated to succeed.’

Will you be showing off the same collection in Seoul Fashion Week this fall?

We’re not going to do a show with MÜNN’s menswear collection for the 2020 S/S Seoul Fashion Week. We might do a show for womenswear or M082, MÜNN’s sub-brand, or we might not do any at all.

Seoul Fashion Week is important but we’ve always wanted to go global, so we are pursuing that direction. There are just so many variables right now. We could choose to show in Seoul, London or Shanghai.

The biggest concern is that holding shows abroad will consume huge resources. The London show would’ve been really difficult to do if we had gone independently.

How are the fashion weeks in London and Seoul different?

The clothes and brands in Seoul shows feel too commercial. Shows are supposed to propose new trends for the year ahead, so if brands are going to put forward daily wear, I think it’s meaningless to hold shows and invite people. The most important thing is to show the brand and its identity.

But in London Fashion Week, even if the pieces aren’t wearable, the brands had their own look and sent out a really strong impression.

Can you describe your philosophy of “defamiliarization”?

Defamiliarization is a term I took from literature. I like creating new patterns and reversing the order of needlework.

There are designers who join a corporation and make clothes that will sell well, and there are designers who try to show off their identities through their own brands. I want to be the latter.

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