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ARTIST ROOM | KIM YOUNG JIN

Desinger Kim Young Jin

Korean

Difference made by Tchai
Designer Kim Young Jin

While I was preparing for the interview with hanbok (Korean traditional clothing) designer Young Jin Kim, I came across an article. ‘Dark Brown Jeogori (Korean traditional upper garment) and Black Beoseon (Korean traditional socks)… Black-Korean Girl Looks Lovely in Hanbok’. The article is about hanbok designer Young Jin Kim and stylist Young Hee Seo’s new 2018 collection. The beautiful girl wearing the hanbok is Black-Korean model Yujin Bae. Her appearance may be deceiving, she is not a foreigner. She grew up eating Korean food and studying in Korean like any other Korean child. Young Jin Kim dressed Yujin with a dark blue jeogogri, a full bustle skirt and a patterned long hood. To give it a more dramatic effect, her skin was darkened. French lace, Italian fabric and the Indian saree – the combination of exotic materials that make up the hanbok formed a contrasting landscape. Is this the really hanbok? Does that dress carry the traditional elements of hanbok? I was puzzled, however the image was mesmerizing. Designer Young Jin Kim says, “My love for hanbok started with the curiosity of asking myself, ‘what is the ‘standard tradition’ in a traditional hanbok?’ Is it Shin Yook Bok’s bold hanbok on the painting Miindo from the 18th century, or the long jeogori from the 16th century or the daily hanbok from the 1960’s? When I was studying, I realized that hanbok is fashion and concluded that it was up to the designer to decide.”

Tchai Young Jin Kim and Tchai Kim hanbok made by Young Jin Kim are flexible and progressive brands. Like the brand name implies, ‘Tchai’ (it is a play on words, Tchai sounds like ‘chai’ which means difference in Korean), her hanbok is opposite from conventional. We acknowledged that from the very beginning of her career. Young Jin Kim has experience in theater and she was even the supervisor of Louis Vuitton’s menswear. While she was a full time housewife, she gained interest in fabric. She learned quilting and sewing from needleworker Sun Young Park. That was the turning point that opened her eyes to hanbok. The lack of a degree in fashion was an advantage; she had no boundaries when it came to designing hanbok. She recreates and reconceptualizes cheolic (long outer garments worn by officers) dresses, dapho (long vests worn by officers during the Joseon dynasty), upper garments, jeogori worn by Yeonan Kims, jeogori worn by Soocheon Kims and even newborn jeogori. She also utilizes a large scale of diverse fabrics such as French lace, English liberty fabric, Indian saree and more. ‘Tchai Kim Young Jin’ makes haute couture hanbok and hanbok wedding dresses and ’Tchai Kim’ makes ready-to-wear clothes inspired by nomadic group Namsadang (a troupe of Korean acrobats, singers and performers). She had once mentioned that stylist Young Hee Seo, was the person who gave her wings to limitless imagination to her two brands. Young Hee Seo was there by her side to support designer Kim to convince the public of this unusual, unique style of hanbok. Her decision to take the road less travelled was not applauded by everyone. For those who expect tradition to persist the same way as it did in the past or those from the traditional hanbok industry might perceive Young Jin Kim as ‘wrong’ and not ‘different’. However, designer Young Jin Kim did not respond to those negative reactions. As a person who believes fashion is a revolution, she demonstrated her thoughts with unimaginable results. “My rival is my own self,” said designer Young Jin. She tries to bring out the difference in every collection. “I create global and contemporary hanbok with Korean elements. By being different, I am not simply declaring ‘I am different from you’. The meaning of ‘difference’ is much deeper. Difference means the difference in outcome by being meticulous and detailed. Difference means tolerance to accept discrepancies and acknowledging diversity.”

 

 

 

 

Just a little while ago, the Yeonhee store re-launched as Tchai Kim. Stylist Young Hee Seo and interior designer Kyungwook Shin contributed towards the reopening of the store. During the launching party, designer Kim said that she wishes that there are more students wearing hanbok and more young ladies getting married in hanbok dresses. In her heart she longs that hanbok will not be a temporary fad and that people will take it deep into their daily lives. She wishes that people will think outside of traditional hanbok and seek ‘difference’. She has been delivering this message for years but that day she was passionate more than ever. I met with designer Kim again a couple days after at the Hannamdong atelier, a two story house where she formerly used to live in. The garden is filled with bamboo trees, radish tops and dried radish leaves. On top of a stone there were quince drying in the sunlight. Classic music was playing through vacuum speakers made by her husband. She was busily moving back and forth, getting ready for her 2018 collection. She led us to the second floor, her studio. There were fabric from all over the world, various objects from different countries and a bag full of books for inspiration. She sat down and said, “Is it ok if I work while I do the interview? My mind is filled with things to do and goals I would like to accomplish in 2018. I haven’t had time to breathe.”

 

 

 

Clothes that do not exist anywhere else


“I am always contemplating on how I can create something different from what I did in the past or
how I can organize a distinctive fashion show compared to other designers.
It seems like I have done a lot. In reality I haven’t done much.”

I imagine you are so busy because there is something you really want to achieve this year. What is the most important goal for 2018?

During January and February of every year I am busy thinking of the things I want to do. There are so many things I would like to accomplish. Especially for fashion shows, I have to put in a lot of time and resources. I am not sure if all the conditions will be met. I would also like to publish a book. Even if I publish the book next year I would like to make a concrete plans this year. Now that I think of it the book was planned for next year. Haha

I assume your fashion show this year will also be ‘different’. How do you envision the fashion show?

Treating hanbok as fashion is a new concept in itself. This concept is gradually becoming more customary among young people. “What is a stylish way of enjoying hanbok?” You can wear a hanbok skirt and match it with a leather jacket and walkers. You can wear a jeogori with jeans. I would like to conduct a unique fashion show like that. Isn’t fashion an ‘act of betraying’ the past? I am always contemplating on how I can create something different from what I did in the past or how I can organize a distinctive fashion show compared to other designers. It seems like I have done a lot. In reality I haven’t done much. Am I really doing something different? A new design that was not made by anyone else, a different show that was never done by anyone else? Every time I have these thoughts I am dumbfounded. I feel like I will never accomplish anything at all.

Being “different” from everyone else. That ”difference”, what exactly is it?

Challenging myself to create things that do not exist. Boldly pushing myself to execute things I haven’t done before. Moving away from what I know and jumping into an area that I am not familiar with. That courage, journey, challenge and confidence. They might seem trivial but through the outcome you can feel the ‘difference’.

What are some challenges you took with that kind of mindset?

The Tchai Kim cheolic (long drapes worn by officers) dress is a good example. The dress is very naturalistic at the same time represents freedom. Those were the elements I was looking for while creating the dress. Now I have to design something more unique than this. That is the hard part. I want to draw a circle but when considering different factors surrounding me (costs, sales, material, etc) I end up drawing a triangle. This year I would really like to draw a circle!

What kind of place is Hannamdong Tchai Atelier?

The Tchai Kim store in Yeonhuidong that recently reopened was actually the very first Tchai store. But back then it was a gallery that exhibited art and sculpture. Then in 2005, the store was moved to Hannamdong. Here, I managed a gallery along with a hanbok studio. Depending on the circumstances I would use the space differently and now the first floor is the showroom and reception and the second floor is my workroom. One side of the wall of the first floor was demolished and changed into a large window. It receives good sunlight. With the speakers in the reception area, you can hear a beautiful sound as the music bounces off the bamboo tress in the garden. I was obsessed with jagaejang (Korean cabinets inlaid with pearls). I got most of them at Hwanghakdong. There some that I have purchased from galleries as well. My job entails collaborating with many artists which has naturally led me to buy art pieces. I have purchased many objects from other artists but I especially love Kyungshim Jeong’s work. I also like sculpture. The moon pot in the entrance is made by Daesup Kwon. I also like Japanese artist Sumi Ryoko, Jeongok Kim and Seokjin Seong. Among those artists Sumi Ryoko is very dear to me. I had met her through an acquaintance. She is truly only into pottery. Every time I meet her she catches my attention and I am infatuated with her work. I heard she is not feeling so well. I really miss her.

 

 

Creation and Discovery

Where do you get your inspiration to create new things? From seeing the objects in this room I see pieces from both Eastern and Western hemispheres.

Everyday life is an inspiration to me. I do not plan trips purposely to seek ideas. I only travel abroad for work. When spring comes I travel south to enjoy flowers. I like visiting markets in the outskirts. Recently, I travelled to India and Morocco in search for new fabric for the 2018 collection. In Morocco Marrakesh, I visited Yves Saint Laurent museum completed by Yves Saint Laurent’s partner Pierre Berge. It was impressive. I loved the architecture. The bricks made of concrete and terracotta created a contrast and the curve looked like a three dimensional sculpture. I also purchased a book about him. Every time I travel abroad I buy lots of books.

I see you own many books. You own many pictures and diverse objects as well. Could you introduce some of them?

The books on the second floor are material on global and local fashion, designer art books or material on hanbok artifacts. I’ve collected these for years. For pictures there are more on the first floor than the second floor. I had once used the first floor as a gallery/hanbok atelier so there are artworks of many artists on the first floor. Once I was crazy about collecting paintings and sculptures. Now I only have pieces that I cherish and the other ones I gave them away. Most of the art objects were gifts. My favorite objects are the notepad from Taeok Jin and the pig figurines from my husband. They are pigs because I was born on the year of the pig and there is a saying that pigs bring good luck.

 

Do you have a special standard when collecting items?

First and foremost it is important that it is an item that moves my heart. However, I love the object more when the artist has a similar philosophy to mine. Artist Heesup Park utilizes nacre, a traditional material to create modern art pieces and artist Kyungshim Jeong tells today’s story through oriental painting. The fact that they recreate traditional art with their own colors is something they have in common with me. Therefore I purchase a lot of items from artists who pursue a similar goal.

Is there an artist that you have discovered recently?

These days I haven’t had the time to visit galleries. In 2005, I used to see many exhibitions. These days since I have been focusing on my own work therefore I have not been moved by works of others. Like I said, I am concentrating more on my life and work which has led me to meet more people in other areas of expertise outside the art business.

Do you seek inspiration in those encounters?

Rather than meeting people, I am inspired by watching movies or documentaries on my own. A little while ago I watched a documentary on Amy Winehouse. I was in England when she was at the peak of her career. While watching the documentary, I had a moment to admire her talent.

People say she was a genius musician.

I do not think she was a genius. Rather, she was individual with a unique talent. For me, a genius is someone like Picasso. I have respect for people like Pina Bausch, someone who embellishes people to become more outstanding. She rejected the regular standard performance and crossed boundaries of the standard definition of dance, theater, music. She had broken walls of fine art and popular art and changed the dance industry of the 20th century. Like that, she influenced her surroundings.

 

 

Combination of original and transformational hanbok


Shin Yook Bok’s Miindo has the most beautiful hanbok proportion and bustle line. Tchai Kim Young Jin uses this as a motif not because it is feminine
but because its shape best reflects the traditional fit. Even if the material is different it’s the line of the hanbok that expresses the Korean beauty.

Why were you attracted to hanbok?

I was always attracted to beautiful things but never had a passion for fashion. I had engaged in hanbok making as a hobby but slowly and naturally it became a part of my life. For me, every step of the way was a natural process. I wasn’t aiming for a specific goal. I was pursuing what I like and what I want to do. And here I am. I aspire to make contemporary hanbok. Outrageous is not the only element used to create contemporary hanbok. As I was trying to reinterpret danryoung (long open sleeve cloak worn in the Joseon dynasty) the clothes worn by vassals in the palace, I had to research on the actual product itself. There is a difference in the danryoung we see on TV and movies compared to the ones in museums and books. The color was pink. If you dye it with safflower it is difficult to create the redish color therefore it ended up being pink. In this way, I have to recreate the real, actual version in order to create a tailored version with different ratio, material and shape.

 

One of the challenges for reinterpreting tradition must be finding ways to make it classy and modern.

Of course, it is very difficult. Just because you reverse the piece it will not become modernized and merely adding futuristic elements will make the dress look awkward. First you have to know the past in order to utilize it. Look at this fabric dyed in bright colors. You might think that this colorful fabric will make an extraordinary hanbok but in reality it can look strange. You have to consider the adequate shape for this material. There are many components that should be considered when modernizing traditional objects. May seem easy but it is not easy at all.

The image of you wearing your own collection is very memorable. The silky patterned cheolic dress you wore at the party had a sexy touch. Is there a way to make hanbok look lovelier?

It is true that people act differently depending on the clothes they wear. Especially for women, hanbok makes them more feminine. The way you walk is crucial when wearing hanbok. You look lovelier when you have your hands together with a straight shoulder line.

You also make lifestyle products such as bedding.

You can find them at the Yeonhuidong Tchai Kim store. I wanted to showcase more cross-stitch products but the production is very difficult. There are so many things I want to do but there are cost, time and productivity issues.

Is there a designer you admire?

Taeok Jin, Mihwa Hong, Heja Han, Bina Ru, Yoonhyung Seol. I admire a lot of the earlier generation designers. There are so many talented Korean designers that display the originality and identity of Korea in their work. If you think about it, it is surprising that they pursued those patterns at the time. Wouldn’t it be great to publish a book with images of them working along with the products they have created?

You love fabric; lace, see-through fabric, jacquard silk, print, pure cotton, fur just to name a few. And of course you are famous for creating hanbok out of non hanbok fabric.

Fabric is an important part of hanbok. Just by changing the fabric you can transform the complete look. There is no rule that you have to make hanbok with traditional fabric. I use British liberty fabric and French lace on the surface and Korean traditional material in the inner lining. I use natural material for those parts that touches the body. I am allergic to synthetic fiber and regenerated fiber. I use natural fabric such as linen, organic cotton, and silk because I believe the clothes I cannot wear cannot be worn by others. I often travel to look for new fabric and this time I bought saree fabric. They are going to be used in the 2018 collection. The line of the hanbok is as important as the fabric. Shin Yook Bok’s Miindo has the most beautiful hanbok proportion and bustle line. Tchai Kim young Jin uses this as a motif not because it is feminine but because its shape best reflects the traditional fit. Even if the material is different it’s the line of the hanbok that expresses the Korean beauty.

 

“I will try my best till the day I die. It is easy to launch one great item. The challenge is to persist.
If a great person cannot maintain that position, that person should have the audacity to quit. You have to overcome your own obstacles.”

You mentioned earlier that your goal is to exceed your own self.

Yes. As time passes by I react more sensitively towards the comment of others. “Who are you to say that?” I would like to ostracize others in that way but in order to become a human being that is always growing; I have to break away from my stubbornness. I believe that the most flexible being that adapts to change will survive. For example, someone like Picasso. He had the power to let himself go freely. I am far away from reaching that point. I would like to work freely however it is easier said than done. There are times when I do not want to work but I force myself and eventually end up regretting. It is a form of guilt. These mixed feelings always get me. I have to surpass these feelings in order to let myself go and discover a newer version of me.

Artists always have to go beyond the ideal, even if it is chasing a mirage.

At all times artists should be full of emotions. But in the real world that is a challenge. When I was young, my pure heart absorbed everything like a sponge. Nowadays, even if I want to be true to my feelings cannot jump right into them. I am the designer of this place but I am also the boss. I want to live like an artist but my responsibility as the owner has become more and more heavy. Communication with staff has been more difficult. It disappoints me that at times life dries out your emotions. Other people are experiencing the same. It has been challenging to find the right people to work with. Oh, I sound like an old lady talking like this. Haha. As time passes by it is getting worse. Every time I have thoughts like, “Why am I like this? Why can’t I enjoy my work,” I feel stuck.

I believe those who are in the same position will have the same thoughts. ‘What do I have to do in order to regain your artistic sense?’ The launch of Yeonhuidong Tchai Kim store means that you still have that fervor.

Yes. The Yeonhuidong store is very meaningful to me. I feel as if I was pursuing something unreachable and I had clashed and landed on my two feet, stepping into reality. At times I wonder for whom am I ringing the bell? I feel foolish but as time passes I believe it will get better. Sometimes I participate in artistic performances like the opera in order to experience both the real and ideal world. It helps gain balance.

 

Hanbok Designer Young Jin Kim’s Favorites

Who is your favorite artist?

Georgia O’Keeffe. I like her life more than her work. She was a true feminist. Can we ever become as honest as she was?

What is your biggest concern these days?

As I get older, my image. Sometimes I think about how I am going to meet my death.

What objects you need in your atelier? Name three.

A lamp, table and music

What is your favorite music?

Classic. When I was young, I liked jazz. But as I got older I am attracted more towards classic. I also like Sohee Kim’s Arirang.

If you were to leave this moment where would you go?

Namhae. I would be strolling around.

What is your travel style?

I love quiet landscapes where mountains and tree come together. I usually don’t go to touristy areas.

What is your favorite restaurant?

I like Hannamdong ‘Danbi’, ‘Hadongkwan’ the restaurant famous for their beef bone soup. When I want to eat meat I go to Itaewon ‘Jeongyukjeom’, when I want noodles I go to ‘Chunmoo Kalguksoo’. I like the pork place ‘Samgaksan’ and for Chinese I like ‘Hwangjae’, a restaurant in Bangbae run by Chinese people

 

Hanbok Designer Kim Young Jin’s White Kimchi Salad (4 portions)

I love to cook. As you can see, I am sun drying quince and radish top in the garden. The office staff and I cook together for lunch therefore we eat large amounts of kimchi.

My favorite is white kimchi (non spicy kimchi). Since it is fresh I like to eat it as a salad. It pairs well with pinot noir and white wine.

Ingredients

2 napa cabbages picked in salt, 3~4 large pieces of kelp, 1/2 turnip, 3 mustard leaves, 15 garlic cloves, 3 ginger, 2 green onions (only the white part),
3 tablespoons chili pepper seeds, 5 cups of salt, saeu-jeot (salted shrimps), myeolchi aeokjot (salted anchovy liquid seasoning), plum liquid, red chilli pepper flakes


1. Pour water in large pot as much as needed to cover the napa cabbage. Put kelp and let it sit overnight

2. Boil the water that was sitting overnight, throw away the kelp and let the liquid cool.

3. Slice turnip into 3cm wide and 2.5cm long and about 0.3 thick. Cut mustard leave and green onion into size of 3 cm.

4. Squeeze garlic and ginger and save the liquid.

5. Mix turnip, scallion, mustard leave, and garlic, ginger juice and chilli pepper flakes to use as seasoning

6. When the kelp water had cooled down (liquid from number 2) add salt, saeu-jeot, myeolchi aeokjot and plum liquid for taste

7. Add seasoning mixture (number 5) in between leaves of the napa cabbage

8. Tightly put the cabbage in a kimchi jar and pour in the salted liquid (liquid from number 6)

ABOUT ARTIST ROOM

JINJUSIKDANG is ready to explore through observing life Style of selected artist such as what he or she wears, eats, and where to live in.

Creative Director | Kang JinJu
Writer | Gye Anna

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