Delineating a designer’s 40-year career

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Delineating a designer’s 40-year career

To Jinteok, the pioneer of Korean fashion, celebrating a 40-year career is another form of art. For decades, her elegantly minimal clothing, inspired by Korean heritage and philosophy, have made Jinteok a household name in Korean design.
As the inaugural president of the Seoul Fashion Artist Association (SFAA), she has been the leader of a major local fashion collection that will mark its 30th anniversary in April.
The designer is currently working on a new jeans line for Studio Blue, a concept shop in Lotte Department Store, and the 2005 fall and winter line for Seoul Collection in April.
But, if there is one particular aspect of her career that has made her happy, it is to have her work shown side-by-side with the likes of Elsa Schiaparelli, Vivienne Westwood and Rei Kawakubo. For “The Fashion Book” (Phaidon, 1998), she was selected as the only Korean among the world’s 500 most inventive designers of the 20th century.
“I knew then and for years afterward that I wanted to have my own book some day, but I felt that I didn’t have enough to show,” she says.
Since she started her own brand, Francoise, in 1965 and participated in fashion collections locally and internationally, however, the designer has assembled more than 1,500 of her creations. “Now I feel that it’s about time to put all that Jinteok means together.”
She initially contacted France’s top art professionals to work on the book, but then changed her mind, deciding that she wanted to have all Korean elements in the work. So instead, she asked Korea’s top nine photographers, including Ku Bon-chang, Cho Nam-ryung and Lee Gun-ho, to define and capture the essence of her work through their lenses.
To maintain thematic and stylistic consistency, only one stylist and one art director were chosen. Sue Young-hee, a well-known fashion stylist, worked in nine different locations, and the art director, Shur Ki-heun, headed the overall production.
The result of months of conceptual discussion and artistic collaboration is a 390-page tome containing photographs of the designer’s work in both color and black and white.
The art book, titled “Beyond Nature,” will be unveiled to the public tomorrow at Tehome, a furniture and household goods store owned by her family in Apgujeong-dong, southern Seoul. There will be an exhibition of 50 outfits, and the images will be projected on a screen. (The book is being sold for 100,000 won, or $100.)
Publishing an art book in Korea was not easy. “Even if they may buy imported art books, Korean readers don’t care about Korean art books very much, and publishers don’t think art books can be profitable,” she says. “No companies in Korea were interested in publishing my book, so I published it myself.”
Jinteok says all the artists involved were given nine conceptual keywords, which were elements that represented her philosophy in fashion: white, line, emptiness, earth, calmness, human, wind, faith, and pause.
The photographers include those like Kim Yong-ho and Kim Jung-man, whom she has known and collaborated with for years, and younger photographers, such as Lee Jeon-ho and Cho Jung-whan, whom she hoped would bring new interpretations to the material. They were given a large collection of clothing, which was divided into different themes and color groups, and each photographer worked with his own creative approach.
The resulting images vary in color, tone and format, from objets d’art to landscapes and portraits, yet each frame embodies the spirit, inspiration and passion in Jinteok fashion.
Kim Jung-man and his entourage traveled to South Africa for his location shoot. There, he took stunning pictures of African natives, not professional models, amid scenes of nature, dressed in Jinteok’s clothes.
Byun Sun-chul and Kim Hyun-sung, who are considered up-and-coming photographers in Korean fashion, focused on ethereal, innocent yet graphic details in her designs.
Cho Jung-whan’s breathtakingly beautiful images look more architectural than fashion-oriented, which seems to suggest the beginning of another era in Jinteok’s career.

by Ines Cho

The exhibition “Beyond Nature” runs until Saturday. Tehome is open from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. daily and is located south of the Galleria Department Store in Apgujeong-dong, southern Seoul. For more information, call 02-511-0022.
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