fashion designer-press conference

By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, March 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korean fashion designer Lie Sang-bong on Monday stressed the importance of fashion, saying it is not merely a clothes-making industry, but "culture that exists everywhere in human life."

"I think the value of fashion is underestimated in this country," Lie said during a news conference here to promote his first essay book, "Fashion is Passion."

The book contains Lie's story of life and work as an established fashion designer with more than 30 years in the business.

During the press conference, Lie said he was surprised to see how highly respected fashion designers are in France during a trip to the country in 1999.

"I visited an Yves Saint Laurent shop in Paris and saw commemorative coins issued in honor of the great French fashion designer as part of events to greet the new millennium."

In Korea, unfortunately, people tend to count only the industry value of fashion, locked in the perspective that fashion is only about manufacturing clothes, he said.

"In my opinion, fashion is culture and we cannot live without it," he said, specifying that accessories, cosmetics, clothes, home appliances and even cars as areas where design is needed are all fashion.

Debuting in 1980, Lie launched his own brand "Lie Sang Bong Boutique" five years later and earned broad media attention at home for integrating modern tastes with traditional Korean aesthetics. He has been taking part in the Seoul Fashion Week collection since 1994 and the Pret-A-Porter collection in Paris since 2002.

In 2006, he earned international fame with his collection themed on Korea's own writing system Hangeul at the 2006 Pret-A-Porter collection.

But when the designer first started working on his Hanguel-inspired line he was not so sure that it would be a success, he said.

"I had done a show in Paris with the theme Korean shamanism, before. I then wanted to do a show based on Korean culture again and found Hangeul. At first, I only used Hangeul designs on collars or linings because I was not as courageous as I am today in using the designs."

To his surprise, the collection enjoyed a favorable response from buyers who came to the show. "I realized that Hangeul can be beautiful," he said.

After that show he returned to Seoul and enthusiastically worked for about a month to create refined clothes by boldly using Hangeul designs. He later became known for creating works inspired by Hangeul; Dancheong, Korea's traditional multicolored paintwork on a wooden building; Hanbok, traditional Korean house; and embroidery to increase the world's awareness of Korea and its culture.

About criticism that he doesn't have any signature style in his works, Lie said he doesn't have any standard for what type of clothes to make.

"I'm a fashion designer who always wants to be faithful to what I was impressed with each time and to evolve," he said.

The 63-year-old said he will continue to challenge himself with new things in the remaining years of his life.

He said he will present new clothes themed on a latticed door pattern in the upcoming 2013 F/W Seoul collection this week and jump into the perfume business as a long-term plan.

"I stopped counting my age when I was 37 because I don't want to become older than this as a designer," he said. "I make friends with anyone whom I like regardless of their age. They are my biggest assets," he added, laughing.

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