While in Seoul, Marja paid a visit to the boutique of renowned designer Lee Young Hee. In the fashion industry, Lee’s name is synonymous with hanbok, traditional Korean dress clothes. Her designs have graced the pages of Vogue and her collections are always eagerly anticipated. She’s one of the major names responsible for introducing hanbok to the western world, and incorporating newer, modern elements. Her resume’s chock full of impressive accomplishments from being one of the first designers to establish a hanbok boutique in Paris, participating in the establishment of a Korea gallery at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and even starting her own museum in New York, the Lee Young Hee Korea Museum.
Lee believes that hanbok is an integral part of Korean heritage and culture. Hanbok was worn in Korea for more than 5,000 years, and when walking around Korea, it’s still common to see the elderly wearing it. It’s also worn at special occasions, such as national holidays, a child’s first birthday, and weddings. Hanbok is characterized by its simple lines, harmonized colors, and volume. For women, it consists of a wrap-around skirt (chima) and a jacket resembling a bolero (jeogori). Men wear a short jacket and pants that are loose and tied at the ankles (baji), and often a longer overcoat (po). Traditionally the hanbok‘s color and material designated social rank, with the upperclasses wearing finer materials and brighter colors. Thankfully, now everyone can wear patterns and brights!
Years ago, Marja modeled in one of Lee Young Hee’s fashion shows, and upon their reunion, they reminisced about past memories and even shared some pictures. Marja tried on one beautiful hanbok after another–from the most traditional, to more contemporary takes on the garment. She was very impressed by the assortment of luxurious fabrics and rainbow of colors used in Lee’s carefully constructed minimalist designs. Lee’s ability to meld Korea’s past and present truly keeps Korea’s heritage alive.
Watch Marja’s visit to Lee Young Hee’s atelier on Episode 8 – The Seoul Food Chronicles.