The grandeur of Palais de Chaillot was awash with an ethereal tranquillity as South Korean designer Woo Young Mi unveiled the WOOYOUNGMI Spring/Summer 2024 collection, plunging her audience into the abyss of the ocean and the lore of Korea’s Jeju Island. The saga of the island’s historic female Haenyeo divers served as the guiding lighthouse in the stormy sea of fashion innovation.
The tranquil color palette, featuring the hues of the deep blue sea, was an intriguing contrast against the traditional sharp tailoring that we associate with the designer. Woo effortlessly integrated elements of the ocean, generating a sense of calm through a seamless blend of contemporary fashion and traditional folklore. The fashion maven spun her craft, using drawstring pulls to induce gentle ruching, a subtle but poignant homage to the 17th-century sailors who washed ashore on Jeju Island, later spreading the tale of Korea to the West.
Reflecting on the meteoric rise of K-culture in the global context, Woo commented, “The worldwide fascination with my country is thrilling to me. As a South Korean designer, I was always interested in cultures and history different from my own. Now, I want to portray my own culture to the rest of the world from a South Korean perspective.” And portray she did, using the expansive canvas of her collection to paint a vivid picture of her culture’s narrative.
To lend an authentic voice to her vision, Woo took on the perspective of an expatriate, amalgamating the insider’s knowledge with an outsider’s fresh perspective. Traditional tailoring was given a modern reinterpretation with materials such as neoprene, channeling the utilitarian charm of wetsuits. Transparency was embraced with overcoats revealing watercolor renderings of vibrantly-hued jellyfish, adding an extra layer of intrigue to the garments.
Incorporating elements from the thriving tech culture in Korea, Woo introduced trainers created in collaboration with Italian shoemaker Rai7000 Studio. This unique blend of AI-designed footwear resembled diving shoes, adding an audacious sturdiness to the sleek suits.
The accessories were a celebration of sea-life, from earrings that replicated coral to oversized handbags that called to mind the roundness of pearls. These elements were not mere adornments but an integral part of the narrative that Woo sought to tell.
© Photos: WOOYOUNGMI
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