‘Korea’s Armani’ turns talent to updating an old standby

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‘Korea’s Armani’ turns talent to updating an old standby

What happens when a 75-year-old German sportswear brand joins forces with cutting-edge fashion designers?
On runways, the optimism of a light, casual and colorful sports look prevails. In stores, sales of classic three-striped trainers with the designer’s funky touch skyrocket. That was the case when the Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto redesigned some Adidas shoes two years ago.
After signing contracts with Stella McCartney of the United Kingdom and Jeremy Scott of the United States, Adidas Korea collaborated with a local fashion designer, Chang Kwang-hyo.
In Korea, Mr. Chang has been a pioneer of men’s fashion since he first showed a men’s collection on runways in the late ’80s. His brand, Caruso, has dressed generations of stylish celebrities, earning him the nickname “Korea’s Giorgio Armani.”
As an avid collector of minhwa or ancient folk paintings, Mr. Chang used to own a great number of antique artworks, but lost most of them to a fire a few years ago. But he continued to collect Korean minhwa, this time by modern artists.
When the offer from Adidas Korea came, he immediately knew what to do with Adidas items. He thought the strikingly bold and bright colors of Adidas’ recent collection were similar to those of the simple objects featured in traditional Korean paintings. For the 2003 Spring Summer Seoul Collection Week last April, he applied appliques of red peony blossoms onto Adidas training suits, bags and trainers, and he cut off the sleeves ― leaving behind only the trademark stripes. The result was the retro feel of Adidas updated glamorously with plush Oriental motifs.
Now a new, more elaborate collection of his works, a total of 20, are on display in Adidas’ flag store and his boutique Caruso in Apgujeong-dong.
“I’ve used delicate, romantic details of Korean minhwa. That way, instead of a formal jacket, my Adidas design can be worn on very elegant occasions,” he explains.
Asked about the design’s possible future success, he remains modest. “Yohji Yamamoto took three years to work it out with Adidas. I just started six months ago; I’ve got a lot of work to do.”


by Ines Cho

The exhibition runs until the end of July. For more information, contact Office h at 02-545-3394.
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