How did growing up in Korea influence your designs?
Growing up in Korea means growing up under the influence of Buddhism, and Confucianism. Self-restraint or moral cultivation is one of the virtues they value the most. Maybe that is the reason why I think beauty is about concealing rather than revealing, and I think of design as a way of harmonising. The clothes are not to alienate the wearers, but to help them harmonise and balance with their surroundings.
It is somewhat strange for a woman designer to be fond of designing menswear! Would you like to tell us a little bit more about it?
I think one of the greatest limits for a fashion designer is him — or herself, because it is not that easy to exclude oneself completely in the design process. To a certain degree, designers tend to see oneself wearing their own creations. For me, however, since I’m not the wearer myself, my body is not the limit for my designs. This makes it possible for me to go beyond myself.
Do you design with a specific man in mind or is it something that changes with the season?
I always have a picture of an ideal man in my head. This imaginary guy may not exist in real life, but he lives in my head. He might adjust his silhouette as time changes, but he still is the one that I used to see all along.
What are the virtues that one man must possess?
The meaning of male virtues has drastically changed over time. Modern males do not get praised for their daring and courage like old times. In my opinion, modern males should be warm-hearted and considerate. After all, this is what we need the most from them.
What are the differences between Eastern and Western men when it comes to style?
The way I see it is the matter of priority between being trendy and being classic. Asian men pay a great deal of attention to the latest trends. They keep up with what is current, but they are often weak with the classic styling. Compared to that, Western men usually have their roots in classic styling, but they are not as strong as Asians when it comes to the latest trends.
Do you have any fashion tips to share?
The most frequent mistake of men is overstatement, especially among those who are interested in fashion. When someone is too obsessed with showing himself to others, this mistake gets even worse. A tip from me is be yourself, and enjoy fashion as a culture, not to show yourself off.
London, Paris, Milan, or Seoul for fashion and ideas? Why?
In terms of design ideas, I do not limit myself to one city. I get inspiration from any city, anywhere; it does not even have to be so-called fashion centrals. But I get inspiration from men, their bodies, and how the silhouette changes when they move around. What fascinates me is that they are all different individuals, and the way they style themselves, their builds are so unique. It never fails to catch my attention.
You have been called a 'seductress'. How do you respond to that?
I find it quite strange. No one has ever called me that, and I don’t see myself as a 'seductress'. But I guess, if they say Wooyoungmi is a 'seductress', they are not talking about me, but talking about my brand Wooyoungmi. And if that’s the case, I take that as a compliment, because it means my design seduces and lures men, and they cannot help but love it.
Do you have certain fabrics that you enjoy using? And how experimental are you with them?
My all-time favourite is felt. It carries two conflicting images: hard but warm, at the same time. And this is exactly what I expect from an ideal man. In my opinion, it is the perfect material for presenting the chicness of the male body. The way I experiment with felt is by creating a new silhouette using it. It’s commonly known as an old fabric, but by adapting to a new silhouette, this old fabric can have a thousand different faces.
Who is the Wooyoungmi man?
He is someone who is gentle and delicate but sometimes hard. Just like felt.
When you design do you put yourself in men's shoes? Or do you prefer to envision a man that you would like to see walking in the world?
As I mentioned earlier, I always have this image of an ideal man in my head. They tell me that my design makes the wearer looks elegant, and delicate. This is because that is the image I have in my head. An ideal man from a woman’s point of view.