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Western fashion designers’ take on Hanbok



You can see the use of hanbok over 1600 years ago, but there has been a change in style. With passing time and change in people’s tastes, fashion has taken the front seat. But that doesn’t mean that the traditional framework of hanbok is nowhere to be seen. There have been changes in colors, designs, and even embellishments, but the basic framework remains the same. The hanbok is not restricted to Korean people anymore, but it has taken an international stage. With its growing popularity among westerners, you can see some new take on hanbok by western fashion designers.

A little bit on its history:

As most of you know, Hanbok is a traditional Korean dress. The term means Korean clothing. But, hanbok these days will refer to something associated with the Joseon period’s clothing. It is worn as formal or semi-formal wear these days. You can see the major use of this dress during celebrations and traditional festivals, as well.

Can foreigners wear them?

Now, there remains controversy with foreigners flaunting a hanbok. With changing time and modern tastes, everyone is allowed to wear one. You can even see some famous Western celebrities flaunting their hanbok with style. If you ever get to Korea, you will gladly come across many foreigners wearing hanbok, and that’s not big of a deal. In a broader sense, it is just fine to wear a hanbok, no matter where you come from.

Hanbok is currently influencing biggest fashion names:

Compared to the Chinese or traditional Japanese dress, the one from Korea is still under international fashion statement. In the year 1993, when South Korea’s famous designer Lee Young Hee showed her designs in Paris, most of the fashion press at that time stated her silhouettes as kimono. But that was a big mistake.

In all honesty, Hanbok has gained proper and widespread attention with some of the top foreign designers, who are actually looking for hanbok to get some fashion inspiration. You can check out the 2011 Spring Collections of Carolina Herrera and Dior, which had a great influence from Hanbok.

Some other bigger names which are big fans of hanbok will be Prada and Armani. Prada was even in the audience seat when Lee Young Hee came with her collection to get some design and fabric inspirations for her next set of work.

Western designer’s take on hanbok:

Right now, it isn’t that easy to focus on exact western touches on traditional hanbok. The framework remains the same with all of the hanboks, but the changes are with the colors, embellishments, and lines. Western designers are taking note of the fabric materials and the motifs of hanbok to be placed on their western outfits. You can even see them using the perfectly straight lines and angles as inspired by hanbok and its beauty of harmony.

The straight cut edge of the angles with the flowing lines form the major harmony in traditional hanboks. Western designers are taking up that opportunity to focus on the mix and match of lines and adding them in their dress materials. They even make it a point to visit the Korean Hanbok Store for some inspirations on designs and colors, and later implement the same on their new collection.

It is true that color, style, and even motifs on hanbok will differ based on seasons and festivities. Western designers are well-aware of this point and will keep that in check while creating their new set of clothing lines.

Some designers are going a bit too far and using the basic framework of hanbok and adding new designs and color combinations on top. Some Koreans might appreciate this change in style, but the ones with traditional mentalities may not approve such changes.

Fashion at its best:

It is true that a lot can happen in the fashion industry. Designers get inspiration from daily lives for their next set of collections. Hanbok, even to this date, has a special hold on western designers, and you can see that in their collections.