Nowadays, as people consider fashion as a way of self-public relations, fashion has become a good means for people to express themselves. Even though people commonly think of foreign brands when thinking of fashion, there is a Korean designer who stands in the middle of the global fashion industry. Woo Young-mi is a female designer who graduated from the department of fashion design at SKKU. On May 24th, she visited SKKU to share her experiences. The Sungkyun times (SKT) met the designer and listened to her story.
Please introduce yourself.
Hello, I am a fashion designer and your senior, who strode down the Humanities and Social Science Campus in 1978. Currently, I am managing two brands: SOLID HOMME and WOOYOUNGMI. SOLID HOMME, launched in 1988, will be 30 years old next year, and WOOYOUNGMI was launched in 2002 as a collection. Additionally, I have participated in the Paris Collection twice a year for 15 years, registered as a member of the French Fashion Association, and operated numerous shops all over the world, such as Seoul, Paris and London.
What should university students do to become a great designer?
I think emotional training is the most important thing for university students. If I could go back to university again, I would still stick to what I did. The first one is to master the basic skills for making clothes which is the most necessary skill for fashion designers. The second one is to step up the toughness of work given to oneself. Everyone has their own identity. The important thing is to develop that identity by continually watching a variety of fashions or exhibitions. In this process, the competitions that I participated in during my university years helped me a lot. I think that to keep watching and feeling something and thinking about fashion is most important.
What efforts did you make to become an outstanding designer after graduating from SKKU?
Fortunately, I was hired by a famous fashion company in Korea through open recruitment. While I was working there for a while, I quit the job because a designer who works for a company was very different from the image of the designer that I had dreamed of being. In particular, the company gave me a mission to design a silk dress that did not interest me. Therefore, I made a brand by myself to make my own clothes so that I could reach self-realization. Having faith in myself, i worked independently from famous companies. Though the first 10 years were pretty tough, that experience has made me solidify my position in the Korean market, and become the base of my success in the global market.
What is the greatest strength of your brand that has succeed in Paris, a most developed city of fashion?
Many foreign reporters that I have met pointed out that my clothes are for men, particularly Western men, made by an Asian woman. Actually, I think I can make men’s clothes better because I am a woman. Clothes cannot be separated from people wearing them, because they are dressed according to their body, hair, and color of skin. However, because I do not wear the clothes I design, I always think of an ideal man while designing the clothes. In addition, many reporters say that from the perspective of Westerners, my clothes have an Asian delicacy. Another strength of my brands is that they were built on a great base, Korean men. Many designers, including me, think Korean men are very fashionable. Since my brands started from making clothes for these trendy men, they also became fashionable, too.
What is the reason that you named the brand after your own name?
At first, I did not have any special purpose for it. When I was considering the title of my Collection, one friend told me just to name the collection with my real name. I thought the name could be a good way to show people who I really was, and my name was not that hard for non-Korean speakers to pronounce. Now, I also realize that the brand with my name gives me more sense of responsibility and gives an impetus to work harder for my brand and myself as a designer.
When is the most fruitful moment as a fashion designer?
I often feel pleasure when I come across people wearing my clothes on the street. Especially, when I encounter people wearing my clothes in Paris, I feel proud of myself in a city of fashion. I also feel delighted when I think that I did something good for the Korean fashion market. Not long ago, the CEO of the luxury brand Cartier visited Korea with my clothes on. While doing an interview, he said that he enjoys wearing the clothes that I designed. Moreover, he said that these clothes fit well with his delicate senses, and made him curious about Korea and Korean fashion. It was a great pleasure to hear such a comment.
What is your final goal as designer Woo Young-mi?
As mentioned before, I have two brands: SOLID HOMME and WOOYOUNGMI, which are both so valuable to me, just like my own children. My goal is to raise them into global luxury brands of Korea that people all around the world will adore. At present, Koreans think of foreign brands when they think of luxury goods, but I think that now is the time for Korean brands to take their positions.
Any last words for Kingos?
When I first went to Paris, it was such a tough time for me. I was not famous, could not speak any French, and had no one to ask for help. Additionally, since I was the first Korean designer who challenged the Paris fashion market, there was no precedent to follow. Therefore, I just did my best. I asked for help from the French Fashion Association and let many reporters introduce me to other designers. If I fail, I will come back, look back at myself and work again, the same as before.
The reason I could bear all those difficulties was because I had passion in my work, and had a goal to make a global brand. Many people said that my dream was unrealistic, but I tried and achieved my goal. Therefore, I want to tell Kingos to find what you really want to do and try it no matter what others say. With passion, endeavor, and a fixed purpose, everyone can accomplish their goals.
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