Since the brand’s Parisian debut in 2002, Wooyoungmi has cemented itself as a major global menswear contender. Despite being Korean, they found the French capital would fit better their aesthetic and growing ambitions. After years of continuous success, Madame Woo and her daughter – and co-creative director, Katie Chung – talk about the Wooyoungmi man, scuba diving, and striking a good balance.
Wooyoungmi is the first menswear brand in Korea to be headed by female creative directors. Does this mean anything special to the both of you? What has the journey been like for you?
Being female designers creating menswear definitely gives us a unique perspective. The clothes actually say a lot about who we are, because we’re never limited by the vision of an ideal man that we want to be or dress like. When we think of a Wooyoungmi man he is ageless, constantly in tune with life and sensitive to his surroundings. We feel we’ve learnt to strike a good balance between designing pieces that real men anywhere want to wear, and creating a collection that feels like a genuine representation of ourselves.
As you are a mother and daughter creative duo, how is the dynamic between the both of you during the creative process? How does your relationship translate within your work?
We are very different in character and we come from two very different generations, but we share the same taste. Working with a family member can be challenging at times, but we tend to empower each other. Sometimes we struggle to understand each other’s vision or thought process, but it’s usually a rewarding journey that strengthens our relationship. As we are constantly challenging and trying to understand each other, we always manage to get there in the end and fill in the gaps, and the result tends to be new concepts and ideas. Since Katie joined Wooyoungmi the brand has definitely been immersed with a younger and fresh vibe. 
Wooyoungmi debuted in 2002 at Paris Menswear Fashion week. Where did the decision come from to make Paris the brand’s home?
At the time Solid Homme, which is part of the same group as Wooyoungmi, was already a huge success in Korea. The idea was to create a new brand that was luxurious, that focused on innovation and being design lead. We wanted to reach a larger global market, and Europe would give us the right platform to do so. We came to the natural conclusion that Paris was the ideal place: credibility from day one was crucial to us, and we realized that the environment in Paris would really help shaping the delicate and artistic aesthetic we had in mind for Wooyoungmi.
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Are there any differences between the Wooyoungmi customer in Korea, and those in the West?
Korean men nowadays look at fashion very differently to back when Wooyoungmi started. They tend to engage with all different types of brands and trends, from luxury and high street brands to minimalist and more experimental aesthetics. In general, there is much more variety in how Korean men dress compared to men in the West; Korean men aren’t as afraid as the latter to try new and bold styles.
What was the inspiration behind the Spring/Summer 2017 collection? Does any of this inspiration carry through to Autumn/Winter 2017?
The Spring/Summer collection is about ‘Organised Chaos’. Solomon Sol Lewitt’s mathematical precision in his art was our key reference when creating the collection. His approach to creating minimalistic art, with all these chaotic geometric shapes put together to form a cohesive order, inspired us to work with a variety of prints: checks, stripes and waving lines. All different kinds of patterns were mixed and matched to build a look that felt very organized and calm. The romanticism in this collection carries through into Autumn/Winter. It really emanates from the silhouettes: the volume from wide leg trousers gives a soft feel to an oversized coat or patterned shirt.
Does Wooyoungmi have a muse?
We don’t tend to design with a certain person in mind. The Wooyoungmi muse lives completely freely in our imagination, so a specific vision of an ideal man never really manages to take shape. The only constant elements are a profound love for art and a romantic mood.
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What is your favourite song right now?
At the moment we are listening to Greg Haines’ song The Spin. It’s a beautiful song with no lyrics, just mainly a piano playing. It feels like a very dramatic mise-en-scène.
Is there an artist that particularly inspires you? Who would you love to collaborate with?
The Korean sculptor Do-ho Suh. He is based in Korea and we have been admirers of his work for a long time. He is such an innovative and talented artist.
What do you do to relax or re-centre yourself?
Madame Woo: I start my day with meditation early in the morning. It helps me clearing my mind and focus my thinking.
Katie: Scuba diving. I once took a plane alone and headed straight to the Maldives just to go scuba diving. I am constantly impressed by the magnificent power of nature. The deep ocean has the ability to bring me into the most serene state.
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