Woo Youngmi has always been forward-looking. In the early ’90s, Youngmi and the set of young creatives she ran with in Seoul began a New Wave movement you may have never heard of: a DIY platform for the city’s design talent to showcase their wares, which laid the groundwork for the first-ever Seoul Fashion Week in 2000. In 2002, she went international, founding her almost eponymous menswear label in Paris (Wooyoungmi, no spaces).
The clothes she puts out, often color-blocked and boxily tailored, have always felt young and fresh—last month she released an exclusive collaboration with Mr Porter, complete with snakeskin-detailed sneakers and crisp photo-print shirts. But her show in Paris on Saturday felt even younger than usual. That’s because this season was her first sharing the title of creative director with her daughter, Katie Chung. The bass-heavy soundtrack featured Korean rapper Beenzino, and the collection came with baggy denim, graphic tees, and tank tops cinched at the waist with parkas. We got in touch with Youngmi to better understand the brand she’s been building for the last 12 years, and, after this very eventful season, where she sees it going.
TRADEMARKS: Each season I have a clear vision in my mind of the the man I am designing for. He is refined and elegant—a gentleman who appreciates the arts and takes care in his appearance. The pieces he wears are contemporary and masculine yet delicate in approach. Re-imagining a classic men’s coat is key to all Wooyoungmi collections.
BABY STEPS: Growing up I was greatly influenced by my parents—my mother’s creativity with textiles and my father’s wonderful sense of style. It came naturally to me to study fashion design.
INSPIRATION EVERYWHERE: My main inspirations come from my travels as I always find myself in awe of the different architecture of scenes of nature that I come across. For the summer capsule collection we created with Mr Porter, the main theme was the desert. We used real images of cacti and the sky, with sky blue and white. Because it’s a summer collection, we used light cotton and jerseys appropriate for warm weather. Generally, I’m inspired by all young and contemporary men around the world.
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PARIS, JE T’AIME: I was born and grew up in Seoul and I came to Paris in 2002 with the vision of bringing my design to a global market. For me, Paris was the only place to start this campaign! Paris has such a wealth of fashion history, home to the greats such as Christian Dior and Coco Chanel. It’s continuously inspiring and a privilege to be part of its narrative.
ON THE MARKET: The increased visibility of luxury menswear has meant that brands that may not be based in one of the four fashion capitals now have the capacity for global expansion. Having seen this, we’ve decided to take Wooyoungmi even stronger into global markets. We are concentrating on Europe and the US is going to be the next big market for us alongside doing a whole China focus as well.
MEMORABLE MOMENT: Opening my flagship store on rue Saint-Claude has been a highlight. To be able to put my stamp on the city of Paris and create a space that really communicates my brand ethos was thrilling.
BOYS VS. GIRLS: The attention to detail in menswear is what really sets it apart from womenswear; for a seasonal trend to be a success for women it is always quite bold or dramatic statement. For menswear a trend can be something as simple as the width of a lapel or the shape of the shirt collar while still causing a great impact.
FUTURE OF MENSWEAR: The menswear market is rapidly expanding and unlike the women’s market, there continues to be room for great development. I also believe that Asian men now have such enthusiasm for fashion that they can bring about a dynamic and prosperous era in menswear.
Menswear Monday runs every other Monday. For more, click here.
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