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Exhibition 'Hanbok, Revisited' offers modern tastes on traditional Korean clothing

By Hwang Joo-young

Published : Sept. 28, 2023 - 17:20

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A special exhibition titled "Blurring Boundaries: Hanbok, Revisited" is underway at Areumjigi in Tongui-dong, Jongno-gu, in central Seoul, featuring traditional Korean clothes, or hanbok, with a modern touch.

The nonprofit private foundation Areumjigi, dedicated to preserving South Korea's cultural heritage, is holding the hanbok exhibition through Nov. 15.

The highlight of the exhibition are nine sets of hanbok by designer Christina Kim, who presents modern interpretations of the clothing while maintaining its original qualities.

Christina Kim's Mica (left) and My Korean Birthday Cake (Hwang Joo-young/The Korea Herald) Christina Kim's Mica (left) and My Korean Birthday Cake (Hwang Joo-young/The Korea Herald)

Kim, 66, has endeavored to modernize hanbok and make it a fashionable choice for everyday wear. Her approach was to focus on the original essence and style of hanbok while seeking to give it a more modern feel.

Kim was inspired by the hanbok designs of the 1910s to the 1950s, a period when Western culture was introduced to Korea. Kim believes the hanbok forms from this period have comfortable designs that still resonate with contemporary fashion trends today.

Kim's exploration of hanbok extends to the way they are worn. Throughout the nine exhibits comprising a total of 30 pieces, primarily designed for women, Kim has reimagined underwear as outerwear, transformed men's pants into women's skirts and made variations on the necklines.

Christina Kim's Jeju Wave (Hwang Joo-young/The Korea Herald) Christina Kim's Jeju Wave (Hwang Joo-young/The Korea Herald)

Kim's designs are deeply connected to her childhood memories.

For instance, the jade-toned hanbok dubbed "Jeju Wave" reflects her experiences on Jeju Island, a place she used to visit on occasion with her parents before moving to the US at the age of 15. The vibrant jade-colored coat and emerald inner layers symbolize the island's algae and tides along its shores.

Kim is also in tune with global fashion trends, emphasizing sustainability and ethical production through the use of recycled materials. She incorporated these principles into her works, crafting each garment at the exhibition with leftover fabrics from previous projects.

The "Blurring Boundaries: Hanbok, Revisited" exhibition runs through Nov. 15 with an entrance fee of 10,000 won. Online reservations are available via Naver.

Poster for Poster for "Blurring Boundaries: Hanbok, Revisited" (Arumjigi)