We don’t know for sure how many designers actually end up working in menswear but we’re sure it’s not even close to half of everyone who works in fashion design. So when we happen upon something extraordinary for men, we like to take a closer look.
Hanchul Lee’s work has fascinated us since 2013 when he won the ITS with his Savage Grace collection. Hanchul was fascinated by the intelligence of the character Hannibal Lector from Silence of the Lambs and by the beauty of his cruelty as well as by the Japanese gangsters known as Yakuza. His most striking pieces were made using the process of scarification, marking the leather scars by making cuts that are later sewn together.
As part of the award for Best Collection award at ITS 2013, Hanchul presented The Body there this year. The clothes consisted of black and red suits this time, inspired by the movement of the muscles in our bodies.
We like a lot of things about Hanchul Lee, his clothes show both masculinity and elegance, his technique is perfect in its execution and his definition of fashion makes one think about its social and anthropological importance.
So Catchy! Where Fashion Begins talked with him recently to find out more about his designs and plans for the future.
SO CATCHY!: Why did you decide to work in fashion?
HANCHUL LEE: First, I love fashion. Second, I was confident I could do it well. Third, I had nothing else that I wanted to do at the time.
SC!: The world of fashion is dominated by womenswear if only because its easier to innovate, play with forms and textures, etc.., so why did you decide to focus your career towards menswear?
HL: I wanted to experience the world I created, the world of my brand. I want to wear what I design.
SC!: Let’s talk about the work that won you the ITS Best Collection award, Savage Grace. You said that you were inspired by Hannibal from Silence of the Lambs and the Yakuza, Japanese Gangsters. What do you find so inspiring about them?
HL: Hannibal is really attractive for me. He is highly intelligent, elegant and extremely brutal at the same time. Sometimes his passion for art motivates his brutal murders. I think Hannibal represents humanity’s true nature. Knowledge and refined social manners just cover the inner savageness of human beings. The savageness has never gone away. The moment the brutal savageness comes out from underneath the elegant skin, that attracts me. The moment that the imperfection and weakness of human beings are revealed and mixed with elegant manners creates a great energy and a distorted beauty. I think it is Savage Grace.
SC!: What brought you to scarification as theme in your work?
HL: It is scary, but beautiful at the same time, which interests me. The process of creating the crocodile and scarification texture for the Savage grace collection is almost the same as the processes of torture and the real scarification process. I did tear, cut, and squeeze plain leather and put it in water. In the same way that cured wounds turn into scars, for the scarification, the process of making holes and sewing them leaves a distorted texture. This texture created by brutal torture creates the distorted beauty, the Savage Grace.
SC!: You won ITS 2013 and this year you presented your collection “The Body”. How does it feel?
HL: When I came to the UK for the RCA, there were two things that I wanted to achieve. One was to graduate, and another was to participate in ITS. And in the end, I won the contest. It felt good, of course.
SC!: How have you benefited from ITS?
HL: I have met amazing people from the fashion industry all over the world, and got great support from the ITS team. It has made me more confident to start my own label.
SC!: What are you doing now? Are you working on anything new?
HL: I am preparing 15 F/W pieces for a collection for this spring season, which are based on the 2014 ITS collection “The Body”. I plan to have the collection this spring in Seoul, and think about ways of showing my work outside of Seoul.
SC!: Tell us about “The Body”.
HL: This project started from the idea that classic tailoring techniques have the ability to imitate not only the shape of the human body, but also the movement of the body. I wanted to expand this though; to “imitate” the structure of the human body, which controls the shape and the movement of a body. I wanted to suggest the new structure and the style of clothes, and also the new concept of clothes: that of another body.
The muscles of the human body control all movement. I tried to apply this structure to men’s tailored jackets with the “Jacket of Muscles” made of elastic bands, strings and stretch fabrics. These muscles are mostly applied to the back of tailored jackets, which need a mechanism for movement. The muscles, which are designed according to the structure and shape of the human body, can stretch to provide a suitable fit. Some pieces reveal this structure, which allows people to see the movement of the structure directly. Even though some of the other structures are covered with stretch jersey fabrics over them, you can see the movement of them under the jersey in the same way a human’s muscles can be seen under the skin.
Not only the “Jacket of Muscles“, but also other design elements such as cutting, the position of darts, etc. are from the shape and structure of the body, which changes the property of clothes from concealing a body to revealing it, and the conception of clothes from materials to that of another human body.
SC!: Define your style in a few words.
HL: Tailoring, construction, sportswear and masculinity.
SC!: What kind of man wears your clothes?
HL: Someone who believes that beauty comes from being himself.
SC!: Define fashion.
HL: An attempt to bring together who you think you are and who people think you are.
SC!: Your favorite designer is.
HL: Someone who designs the Levi’s engineered denim.
SC!: A place to live…
SC!: You’ve worked with many materials in your last two collections, which ones do you like most?
HL: Wool. In my opinion, it is the most suitable and beautiful material for clothes.
SC!: Your inspiration comes from…
HL: Anything ordinary. Newspapers, magazines, TV and technical inspiration sometimes comes from sports gear.
SC!: The future of fashion is…
Preview image courtesy of Wonseok Jung
Muscle Jacket courtesy of the ITS website
All other images:
Photographer – Raf Stahelin
Art Director – Ye Young Kim
Producer – Mary Fix
Stylist – Ye Young Kim
Stylist Assistant – Kellyn Lappinga
Model – Taejahn Taylor @ Re:Quest Model Management
Hair Stylist – Jawara Wauchope @ Melbourne Artists
Makeup Artist – Cynthia Sobek @ Art Department
Photo Assistant – Paolo Stagnaro
Photo Retoucher – Sebastian Reuter
Layout and Translation by Michael Padilla