Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
The Korean fashion designer Lie Sang Bong showed his first collection in New York just one year ago, after over a decade of collection debuts in Paris. The move from the City of Lights to the City That Never Sleeps was propelled by the opening of his first flagship store, in the Meatpacking District—a store that showcases both his ready-to-wear collection and the Blank Space gallery. The designer has long found inspiration in the arts and collaborated with artists. Most recently, his fall/winter 2015 show was set against a backdrop and runway designed by artist Sun K. Kwak. He told Whitewall about a new gallery space he’s building in Korea, as well as why he sees a fashion show as “a total composite art.”
WHITEWALL: You’ve been designing couture and ready-to-wear for years, but we always like to hear from designers what initially drew them to the world of fashion. So what made you want to be a designer? What role did fashion play in your life early on?
LIE SANG BONG: Long before establishing a career in fashion design, fashion was, for me, a subject of great interest and amusement. I’ve always been drawn to the arts, in all their forms. As a child, I dreamed of being a successful writer, and later, when I was in college, I thought I would explore acting. While studying acting, however, I discovered I had many reservations when it came to my dramatic abilities. I also discovered the power of expression through fashion and costume. I suppose it was at that time that my attention was redirected and I decided to reroute my career.
WW: What did it feel like the first time you saw someone wearing your designs on the street? Do you remember?
LSB: I could never forget that moment! I had so many mixed feelings at that point. It’s difficult to explain. I remember I followed the woman for a little while, just to see what sort of lifestyle she might lead, how she talks, and what she looks at, and things like that. I was just so curious! Of course, that was so long ago, I no longer recall exactly what it was she was wearing.
WW: You’ve said, “I am more than happy to see anyone wearing any of my pieces because that means that I fulfilled someone’s need.” What sort of needs are you looking to fulfill when designing each collection?
LSB: I think the Lie Sangbong customer is looking for beautiful fashions that are unique, but also wearable and adaptable. There is a need for clothing that will successfully translate from one situation to the next. Fashion is also such a fast-paced industry. Trends constantly fluctuate and designs must evolve. I seek to design in a way that speaks to women and the ever-changing ways in which they express themselves through fashion.
WW: Your work is architectural and often incorporates new techniques and daring fabrics. What have you been experimenting with or interested in doing, technique-wise, lately in the studio?
LSB: I do enjoy the challenge of working with and developing tech fabrics. I’m endlessly seeking to create and work with new fabrics, patterns, and structures. Right now, I’m playing with innovative techniques that allow for printing over multilayered fabrics and embellishments.
WW: How do you see your designs as an evolution of the connection between human body and art?
LSB: I seek to design garments that experiment with architectural structures and silhouettes yet complement the naturally beautiful human form. There’s a touch of the avant-garde and fanatical attention to detail, but functionality and beauty are never compromised. The human body really is the most incredible canvas, so I desire to make garments that are visually arresting on a hanger, but really come completely to life when worn.
WW: You’ve cited Korean poetry, film noir, calligraphy, Bauhaus, and Cubism as influences for previous collections. What kind of art or architecture has been inspiring you as of late?
LSB: I’ve always been greatly inspired by art and architecture. Recently, however, I’ve been finding inspiration in current affairs, the events that shape our daily lives and routines. Last spring, for example, the “Dream Road” collection for Spring/Summer 2015 sought to evoke optimism and hopefulness in the wake of a maritime disaster in which many young lives were cut tragically short. I was so crushed and heartbroken by the news. I think the whole nation of South Korea was. I wanted to express hope and celebrate life in a time of great sadness.
WW: For your Fall/Winter 2015 collection, you collaborated with the artist Sun K. Kwak. How did this collaboration come about? What do you think of collaborating with visual artists for fashion shows?
LSB: “Emptiness” was the theme for that collection. I tried to remove all of my concerns and worries out of my head and empty my mind. At the time, I was introduced to Sun K. Kwak, an artist who creates incredible linear installations or three-dimensional “space drawings” constructed entirely of black masking tape. I found her work to be incredibly moving and serene, so I asked her to create a drawing installation that would run across the show venue walls and down the runway. It was spectacular. I’ve done many collaborations over the years and find that you can really communicate a new energy by joining with someone who has completely different ideas than you. I find collaboration necessary for me to fully develop my thoughts and emotions. A fashion show is not just a runway; it’s a total composite art.
WW: After 12 years of showing in Paris you’ve started to show your collections in New York. Why the transition? And how does showing in Paris compare to showing in New York?
LSB: We opened our flagship store in New York’s Meatpacking District last year and that’s one of the main reasons we moved from Paris to New York. I will always desire the creativity of Paris’s couture. Paris’s fashion shows are more traditional and full of creativity, while the New York shows have a tangible energy and power. New York Fashion Week is really an institution and incredibly influential, so I decided it was time for a new adventure in New York.
WW: Your store in New York was your first internationally. The architecture and concept is quite unique, and includes a contemporary art gallery. Why was that important for you?
LSB: I would like to be a designer who fully fulfills people’s lifestyles, not just through fashion. I think lifestyle, art, and fashion go hand in hand and should be in one space and mix well together.
WW: Are there any particular artists that you follow?
LSB: I have been collecting for a while. I’m always looking for fresh, young talents, and we feature a rotation of great new artists at our Blank Space gallery in the Gansevoort Street store. I try to go to exhibitions and art fairs as often as possible. There’s always something new to discover.
WW: Seeing that art and architecture play such a large role in your design process, we wonder what kind of home and work space you create for yourself. Do you surround yourself at home and your studio with interesting architectural and design elements, or art?
LSB: I’m currently planning to build a gallery in Korea that includes the concept of nature, architecture, and space, and I want to work in that gallery. I dream of a workroom that is like a gallery and a gallery that is like a workroom.
This article is published in Whitewall‘s fall 2015 Fashion Issue, out now.