Lie Sang Bong is one of the most interesting and avant-garde fashion designers of our time. His shows are flights of fancy, the couture designs are dreamy. Born in Korea, he's been taking the world by storm since his first debut collection in Seoul in 1993. Lie Sang Bong's collections have been showcased in museums around the world and he's dressed some of the most beautiful women of our time including Beyonce, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Juliette Binoche, to name a few. I had the pleasure of photographing some of his Fall 2012 collection and caught up with Lie to talk life, architecture, and the art of fashion.
C: Tell us about your recent collection, what was most exciting about creating it?
LSB: My Spring/Summer 2013 collection is inspired by butterflies, which represent transformation. The inspiration came along with the nostalgia from 60s fashion and my childhood memories. This collection is the transformation of the retro elements into a very modern collection emphasizing shapes and volumes. The silhouettes also reflect the shapes of butterflies, translated into architectural and structural forms. It was a lot of fun to look at old pictures and play with volumes and draping.
C: Was there a piece from your current collection that you’re most proud of? If so, why and what does it mean to you?
LSB: It's always hard to just pick one as every piece of the collection means a lot to me. Since only a piece does not represent my fashion, I usually go by a collection rather than a piece. I like how a jacket or a skirt can be transformed into an amazing look and creates a statement.
C: What is one piece from your collection that everyone should own and why?
LSB: I’m greedy so I hope that everyone would own all of my collections! However, I am more than happy to see anyone wearing any of my pieces because that means that I fulfilled someone’s need. Many people have their own style and that my collection fits into all of those different styles is a compliment.
C: What is your favorite part when you are designing a piece?
LSB: Storytelling is what I have most fun with. I feel like I’m telling a story when I decide on how to present a new season like a movie. How to create various motifs in a modern and futuristic way, and how would the design affect society. All of my pieces are filled with my passion and it is most pleasant to see when each design is finally produced.
C: Draping isn’t easy how did you hone your craft?
LSB: I have always liked working with the body and studying how to make beautiful lines with it. It’s a process of constructing clothes with two-dimensional (flat) fabrics. I like to say I "build" clothes and draping plays a big role in that part. I just keep trying until things look right to me. Also, trying new techniques always fascinates me.
C: Each piece from your collections has so much intricate detailing, do you try and incorporate this idea into all your collections?
LSB: Yes, I think each of those details puts a special breath into a collection. Even if it looks like a simple dress from far away, it usually has multiple panels and cuts.
C: I love your freedom of expression in your fashion shows. What inspires you?
LSB: I think a fashion show is not only about a runway of models. It’s a total package of the clothes, model, stage, music and more. Everything has to work together and create an experience that I want my audience to see and feel. I often like to incorporate performances into my runway and that has become a part of my show. Also, I enjoy collaborating with various artists such as sculptors, musicians, and dancers depending on the collection. I think it’s because I have a diverse interest in culture.
C: What matters to you most as a clothing designer?
LSB: The most important matter to me is never stopping where I am. Always challenging myself to create new things and be better.
C: What is your philosophy about the ART of fashion?
LSB: Designers are people who always lead evolution. To create something new, you need new adventures. As I was studying the connection between the human body and art, I started to be more interested in how to show them as a form of art.
I have done many exhibitions with my collection. Fashion, art, and culture are all part of our lifestyles. Each has its own characteristics and meanings but it falls under the category of what we enjoy in our lives. I believe that fashion can be a form of art. It is something that I can express through my sensibilities in different languages aside from the general ready-to-wear.
C: How did you get your start in designing and what have you learned over the course of being a fashion designer?
LSB: A coincidental opportunity triggered the start of my design career. I once dreamed of becoming an actor and used to practice until the late hours of night. One night, before a stage production, I ran away, feeling burdened by the concerns of my future. This made me think about my interest towards becoming a fashion designer. I had no choice but to be passionate about fashion because, ironically, it was the path I had chosen after my decision to discontinue to follow my dreams of becoming an actor. The thought that "I cannot fail again" was the catalyst that drove me forward.
C: Do you prefer sketching designs or actually constructing the clothing?
LSB: It mostly depends. Sometimes I’ll design for the fabric, and other times I’ll match the fabric for the design which means some design will be starting with a swatch of a fabric and some are with a quick sketch on a paper.
C: Who do you design your clothing for?
LSB: I do not have a set muse. I always get inspired by new things and so, every season my muse changes. It could be a specific person, or a desirable existence.
C: What do you believe makes a quality piece of clothing?
LSB: I believe that if you design with passion and love of fashion, that automatically becomes a quality piece. Indeed, you also need the technical skills.
C: What materials — fabrics and trims do you use? Is it different depending on your collections in different countries?
LSB: It changes depending on the collection. It could be the same reason why I want to create something new and something unique for my collections. Using divergent fabrics could be another experiment that might lead me into different shapes and textures of the clothes. Also, it could be the way of a designer’s expression or creative additions to the designs. I personally like to experiment with many fabrics and find the right one that can add value to my design.
C: Do you use sustainable or eco-conscious materials in your designs?
LSB: I try my best way to use more sustainable materials. In developing my collections, for example, I know the dyeing process has a direct and measurable negative impact on the environment so I try to use eco-friendly digital prints instead of traditional dyeing.
C: How long does it usually take you to conceptualize a piece of clothing? What do you love most about designing clothing?
LSB: For me, it’s all about the process. I love how a concept or an idea become actual clothes and have people wearing them. Every piece that I make, I throw all of my energy and passion into it. After all, my collection is all about expressing what I feel, see, and how I communicate with the public through my fashion. It’s a visual communication of how you share with other people.
C: What is the most challenging part about being a fashion designer?
LSB: As a designer, it is most challenging when I am physically/mentally exhausted and stressed. However, sooner or later, the passion and the energy that surrounds me — whether it is people or inspirations — it brings me up.
C: Does your work reflect your personal fashion taste?
LSB: Yes, it reflects my taste a lot. I stay open to my feelings and inspirations when I am designing. It is just another way to express myself other than talking or writing.