Text by Jessica Ye | Photography by Felly Loi
LIE SANG BONG, a name that is undoubtedly synonymous for pioneering South Korean fashion to the next level.
He has dressed his country’s first lady, collaborated with some of the top Korean companies, including LG and Samsung, and has since crafted an iconic style that is easily identifiable to him as a designer; architectural-driven with a feminine demure.
They aren’t overboard in design, always delving in a down-to-earth, relatable voice, albeit with a defining inch of innovation in his choice of materials and silhouettes. In essence, sublime with a well-controlled sense of creative flair.
Likewise in his own repertoire, he is dressed in a stark black suit with hints of silver chains and a white shirt with folded up collar. At first glance, he may cut as an intimidating figure, like most top designers of his standard. But it wasn’t long before you observe him in conversation with others; always laughing with jokes abound and thoroughly passionate in retelling his story of how he has grown as a designer and as a brand.
His warm personality and optimistic vibe drew us nearer to him, and it indeed never falters, even as we probe for more scoops on his impending fashion show for the next day (our interview with him was done on the day before his fashion show at FIDé Fashion Weeks 2013).
He was in fact very eager to unveil his splendid universe to us, even as we touch on serious issues such as his take on couture and his reaction to the inauguration of the Asian Couture Federation (ACF), of which he is part of. Such affirmable stance can only belong to a man like him – a true innovator. And we are more than thrilled to present this interview with the man himself:
You have always been dubbed as ‘The Korean McQueen’ as well as the ‘Alexander McQueen of Seoul’ due to your strong inclination to avant garde, as well as a very innovative and outstanding style that somehow still find its way back to your Korean roots. What are your views on this nickname?
LIE SANGBONG: This nickname was actually given to me by an editor in my interview with The British Telegraph. At first, I found this nickname very odd, but ever since Alexander McQueen has passed on, this nickname reminds me of him and serve as a tribute of some sort.
How relevant is this nickname then, to relate to both you and the late McQueen, in terms of works?
LIE SANGBONG: As a designer, I go through my different phases and styles, it was at this particular time when I was working on a more architectural style with stronger cuts, and I guess that is when people saw the similarity between my works and the late McQueen’s.
In fact, there was this one time many years back in Korea, even before I started doing any shows in Paris. I designed a hat with a bird in it and showed it in my show in Korea. Two months later, it happens that Alexander McQueen came up with a very similar design. It was more of a coincidence, because Alexander McQueen has never seen my show before. So it was then, a Korean writer also gave me this nickname.
In essence, what is the fashion to you?
LIE SANGBONG: Fashion to me is a destiny and where my passion is. It can be deemed as another part of me, even if sometimes, it does become a baggage for me. But I love fashion nonetheless.
How would you describe Haute Couture and its relation to the fashion industry?
LIE SANGBONG: I think that Haute Couture and Pret-a-porter is pretty much the same thing. They are both components that will last forever. So to me, I see the same value in either pieces from Haute Couture and Pret-A-Porter.
The main things that set them apart is Haute Couture is highly valued in terms of creativity while the mass-produced Pret-A-Porter equates to commercial revenues.
Where would be your first point of inspiration to look at when conceiving ideas for a collection?
LIE SANGBONG: Every senses and whatever that comes to my mind as well as whatever that I see, hear, touch and feel can become inspirations for my collection.
Which fabrics and shapes best express the essence of your style?
I use a huge variety of fabrics and textiles for my collection. My favourites would be wool and cotton.
Tell us more about your latest collection.
LIE SANGBONG: I will be utilizing the Korean traditional flower, Mugunghwa, which is the Rose of Sharon. The flower is interpreted in a modern way for my collection so as to reach out to the younger generation. All the pieces that you will be seeing on the runway are my Couture pieces because Couture is something very important for me. So from all of them, about 10 would be long dresses, while the other half of the collection are focused on more daily pieces.
As a fashion designer in this new age, where the world as well as technology is moving at such a rapid rate, almost like lightning, the myriad of fabric materials available in accessible form, is one of the many things that raise new possibilities and breakthroughs for your designs, and inherently, also amplify competition amongst fellow designers. How do you think that has affected you so far, and what opinions do you have on this?
LIE SANGBONG: These new mediums are usually very inspirational for me and I think with modern technology, I can create more styles… basically more possibilities with fabrics.
How do you feel towards the inauguration of the Asian Couture Federation, and why is it significant to you as an Asian Designer?
LIE SANGBONG: In the past, the market in Europe was a lot bigger. But now with the boom of the Asian market, the fashion market in Asia particularly has been expanding tremendously. So as an Asian designer, I see loads of potential in the Asian Couture Federation.
Considering that you have dressed and designed for so many celebrities, like Lady Gaga, being the most prominable one. Others include Zhang Ziyi, Beth Ditto, Rihanna and the list goes on. How do you feel when you see your creations on them? What are your first thoughts?
LIE SANGBONG: When I see these celebrities wearing my clothes, it becomes a whole, new creation altogether. The way they style it with their own individual flair, as well as the way they carry themselves in the clothes, are eye openers. And I think that is super refreshing.
What would a rest day be like for you?
Whenever I can take a break from work, I would basically travel or just do some simple sports to unwind.
More from LIE SANG BONG can be found at www.liesangbong.com/