Lie Sang Bong Lie Sang Bong Photograph courtesy of Lie Sang Bong

Master of Fashion

What do Korea’s First Lady, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Rihanna have in common? They have all worn Lie Sang Bong’s designs. One of Korea’s most prominent fashion designers, he established the LIE SANGBONG brand in 1985. Mr. Lie blends traditional influences and innovative techniques, combining such diverse influences as Korean poetry, calligraphy and architecture, 1930’s Film Noir heroines, Bauhaus design, Cubism, and the natural world. Mr. Lie produces unique fabrics for his collections by applying such techniques to natural fabrics as laser cutting, embroidery and digital printing. In 1993 at Seoul Fashion Week, he debuted his first ready-to-wear collection, “The Reincarnation,” and quickly gained recognition among Korean celebrities and the press. He received the Designer of the Year Award from the mayor of Seoul in 1999 and he began expanding his brand’s business into Europe in 2002 at Paris Fashion Week. In 2007, LG Electronics launched the Cyon Shine Mobile Phone designed by LIE SANGBONG. This was one of the first limited-edition cell phones to be designed by a fashion designer. He has also created uniforms for the A1 Grand Prix Korean national team (2008) and designed an exhibit to celebrate the first anniversary of the Korean Cultural Center in London, which was later displayed in Trafalgar Square (2009). He currently acts as the president of Council of Fashion Designers of KOREA (CFDK) and a cultural Ambassador for the City of Seoul. Lie Sang Bong shared his experience in the world of fashion with Seoul Journal's Executive Editor Anthony Al-Jamie.

SJ: Can you tell us how you got started in your career?

LIE : : I never thought I would become a designer. At first, I came across an advertisement about an alteration shop in the newspaper. During that period of time, I was able to make a living out of it. While working at the alteration shop, I learned the basics of being a designer and I gradually grew interested in becoming a designer. 저는 제가 디자이너 될 것이라고 상상도 하지 못했습니다. 처음에는 신문에 난 구인광고를 보고 생계를 위해 수선집에 다니게 되었습니다. 당시에는 수선집만 해도 생계유지에는 걱정을 안해도 될 때 였습니다. 수선집에 다니면서 디자이너가 되기 위한 기초를 닦았고 점점 패션에 흥미가 생기가 되었습니다. 이러한 우연이 제가 디자이너가 되게 해주었네요


SJ: Has your experience as a theatrical actor ever helped to create new designs?

LIE: I believe it is good to have a lot of experience as a designer. The more experience one has, the more they are able to gain new inspiration and see different perspectives. My experience as a theatrical actor helped me with directing shows and making it become a “show,” instead of just a presentation. 저는 디자이는 다양한 경험을 하는 것이 중요하다고 생각합니다. 다양한 경험을 할수록 새로운 것을 보고 느끼고, 새로운 영감을 얻을 수 있으니까요. 제가 연극배우 생활을 했던 것도 제가 쇼를 진행하는데 있어, 모델의 눈빛을 지적한다던지 무대와의 조화 등을 생각하는 것도 연극배우 생활이 밑바탕에 깔려있기 때문이라고 생각합니다..

SJ: Your designs are often extremely elegant and mature. What kind of people do you intend to attract with them?

LIE: I intend to attract professional businesswomen with my creations. I tend to prefer females who have optimistic values, sharp identities, and who clearly know their likes and dislikes. 저는 보통 여자들보다 전문직에 종사하는 여성들이 제 옷을 좋아했으면 합니다. 자신만의 가치관, 아이덴티티가 확실하고, 좋아하는 것과 싫어하는 것이 확실한 여자들을 선호합니다.

SJ: What do you think sets apart Korean fashion from the rest of the world?

LIE: Before speaking about Korean fashion, I think we should pay attention to how Seoul is becoming the center of Asia. Many people, including celebrities and high-profile people, visit Korea thinking it is the “place-to-go” in Asia. I think that Korean fashion adapts to trends incredibly fast and develops them into its own way, and perhaps maybe that is what sets it apart from the rest. 한류패션을 말하기에 앞서 서울은 이제 아시아의 중심도시로 발돋움 하는데 주목할 필요가 있습니다. 많은 해외 유명인사들이 서울을 아시아의 패션중심도시로 생각하고 방문합니다. 이는 서울, 한류패션이 다른 것과는 다르게 전세계 사람들을 사로잡는 매력이 있기 때문입니다. 그 매력은 바로 끊임없이 빠르게 변화하는 트렌드와 다른 어떤 문화도 배척하지 않고 수용하는 개방성이라고 생각합니다.

SJ: Would you describe any of your designs as being especially Korean?

LIE: Being Korean is not just duplicating Korean-inspired designs from the past. It is all about creating something that is old and traditional while applying elements for the modern age. In that way, my designs are considered Korean. 디자인에 있어서 한국적이라는 것은 예전에 있던 그것을 그대로 가져와 복원하는 것이 한국적인 것이 아닙니다. 예전에 있던 것을 지금의 상황에 맞게 변화시켜 어울리고 조화롭게 재창조 하는 것이 한국적이라고 생각합니다. 그런 의미에서 제 디자인은 한국적입니다.

SJ: Do you think fashion can be used to make statements about the world and its issues?

LIE: I think fashion can be used to make a statement to a certain level. It really depends on the designer’s point of view.

SJ: Who or what inspires you?

LIE: I gain inspiration from everyone that I meet. Nevertheless, I tend to gain more inspiration from a specific country’s culture, especially when I travel and experience that lifestyle. 내가 만나는 모든 사람과 접하는 모든 것에서 영감을 받습니다. 특히 더 많이 영감을 주는 것은 각 나라의 문화나 생활 습관 등 각 나라마다 다른 라이프 스타일을 접할 때 영감을 많이 얻습니다..

SJ: Who are some of your favorite designers/prominent figures in the fashion world?

LIE: Starting off as a young designer, Yves Saint Laurent was my role model. As time passed by, I was able to relate to Alexander McQueen’s philosophy. 처음 디자인을 공부할때는 입생 로랑이 나의 우상이었습니다. 시간이 지나서는 알렉산더 맥퀸에 감성에 많이 공감했습니다.

SJ: Is there anyone you’d like to make a custom design for?

LIE: It would be a great honor for me to make a custom design for my long-time friend and the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde. 나의 오랜 절친인 라가르드 IMF 총재를 위해 옷을 한벌 만들어 주고 싶다

SJ:When presenting your lines at international platforms, how do you ensure that they will appeal to people from different cultures and perspectives?

LIE: When I first launched my collection in Paris, I did not think about being successful or not. Instead of having the desire to succeed, I was more determined to showcase my design to the world and share my perspective. 처음에 파리 컬렉션에 진출 때 성공할 것이라는 확신은 없었다. 성공하겠다는 열망보다는 그저 나의 옷을 전세계의 사람들에게 보여준다는 열의로 열심히 했을 뿐이다.

SJ: What fashion essentials do you think everyone should have?

LIE: One common essential that everyone has towards fashion is “joy.” Whether it is the type of clothes one chooses or the type of clothes one likes to wear, people find joy and happiness during this process. 모든 사람들이 공통적으로 가지고 있는 패션에 대한 본질은 바로 ‘즐거움’이라고 생각합니다. 사람들은 특정한 옷, 가령 내가 좋아하는 옷,을 입으면서 즐거움과 행복을 찾는다고 생각합니다.


SJ: How do you make your designs memorable in the world of fashion that is constantly prone to change?

LIE: When it comes to fashion, it is every designer’s dream to be recognized, remembered and loved by everyone. In order to achieve this dream, designers give all of their effort. The world, however, does not always allow you to accomplish everything you want in life. This is a hard question. 패션을 하면서 사람들에게 기억되고 오랫동안 사랑받는 것은 모든 디자이너의 꿈이라고 생각합니다. 그 꿈을 이루기 위해 모든 디자이너는 최선의 노력을 다합니다. 저도 여러가지 방법으로 그 꿈을 이루기 위해 노력하지만, 세상이 바라는 대로만 이루어 지지는 않죠. 참 어려운 질문이네요

SJ: Aside from fashion design, do you have any other artistic pursuits?

LIE: I actually thought about this. Not as a fashion designer, but as another artist, such as in the theater or fine arts. But it came to me that this would only be a hobby. As a career, there is nothing that suits me more than fashion. 음….. 가끔 그런 생각을 해본적은 있습니다. 패션 디자이너가 아니라 다른 예술분야, 예를들면 연극, 혹은 미술이라던지 다른 쪽의 분야를 생각해봤지만 그것은 어디까지나 취미 혹은 상상에 그칠뿐 직업으로써 저에게 맞는 것은 패션뿐이라고 생각이 들었습니다

SJ: I understand you like ping-pong. Can you tell us about that?

LIE: When I was growing up, ping-pong was extremely popular. I slowly started playing ping-pong and even nowadays it is the only sport that I enjoy playing. 제가 성장하던 시기에는 한국에서 탁구가 유행하던 시기였습니다. 자연스레 탁구를 접하게 됬고, 거의 유일하게 하는 운동입니다.

SJ: What are some of the trends that you would like to see featured more in global fashion?

LIE: I thought about this before, and please note this is only my imagination: once I imagined that it would be interesting if all people got to run around nude in a beautiful natural setting. 저는 언젠가 그런 생각을 해본적이 있었습니다. 상상이지만 딱 하루만 전세계 모든 사람이 옷을 벗고 누드로 사는 풍경, 자연과 함께 뛰놀며 어울리는 풍경.

SJ: What is your favorite city, in terms of fashion?

LIE: I currently have the most affection towards Paris. Paris is where I first launched my collection abroad. Due to the fact that it took me 14 years to prepare for this, I have both good and bad memories of Paris. After relocating my collection from Paris to New York, I am currently in the process of exploring and getting to know the city more. 가장 애정이 많이 가는 도시는 파리입니다. 파리에서 첫 해외컬렉션을 시도했고 14년동안 컬렉션을 진행했으니 미운정 고운정 다 들었습니다. 요즘은 뉴욕으로 옮기다 보니 뉴욕에 대한 호기심이 가장 많고, 뉴욕을 알아가는 중입니다.

SJ: What has been the biggest challenge in your career?

LIE: One of the biggest challenges was when I first launched my collection in Paris. 처음 파리에서 컬렉션을 시도했던 것이 가장 큰 도전이었습니다.

SJ: What has been your proudest achievement?

LIE: I am most proud of my Hangul (Korea’s national script) fashion. Hangul has become my trademark. When most people think of LIE SANGBONG, they often think of Hangul. I started my Hangul designs during the earlier stage of my career and and they are still loved by many people. 가장 자랑스러운 것은 한글 패션입니다. 많은 사람들이 이상봉 하면 떠올리는 것이 한글이듯이 한글패션을 저를 대표하는 심볼이 된 것 같습니다. 초창기부터 지금까지 계속 꾸준히 디자인을 하고 있으며 아직도 많은 사랑을 받고 있습니다.

SJ: What are your goals for the future?

LIE: Just as I currently have a flagship store in New York City, my goal is to open a flagship store in Paris as well. I want to be able to share fashion, music, tradition, and stories with the people in Paris. 저의 최종 목표는 지금 뉴욕에 플래그쉽 스토어를 오픈한 것처럼 파리에 플래그쉽 스토어를 열어 그곳의 사람들과 패션, 음악, 문화등의 이야기를 나누며 소통하는 것이 나의 목표입니다.



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Anthony Al-Jamie

Anthony Al-Jamie lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years. His in-depth understanding of Japanese language and culture has allowed him to carry out interviews with many of the most renowned individuals in Japan. He first began writing for the Tokyo Journal in the 1990s as Education Editor, later he was promoted to Senior Editor, and eventually International Editor and Executive Editor. He currently serves the Tokyo Journal and Seoul Journal as Editor-in-Chief.




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