[Journalism Internship] Traditional Korean clothes meet the metaverseHanbok, traditional Korean clothing, is getting a more modern look through the use of various contemporary designs. Representative modern hanbok brand Leesle, represented by designer Hwang Yi-seul, who has 17 years of experience making hanbok, has been worn by various famous celebrities, including worldclass boy band BTS, comedian Yu JaeSeok and dancer Aiki.
Leesle attempted to globalize hanbok by introducing hanbok-style pajamas in collaboration with the brand SPAO and hanbok made of recycled plastic in collaboration with upcycling material company Hyosung.
During a recent interview, Hwang expressed her intention to introduce clothing that can make anyone a “cultural evangelist” just by giving them as gifts. She said, “[Leesle] is a brand that conveys the charm of hanbok, which is not just worn on a special day, but makes any day a special day when wearing it, and is inspired by tradition. It has been reborn as a friendly fashion, solidifying its mission as a brand selected as an excellent cultural product for the seventh consecutive year.”
Furthermore, Leesle has been promoting hanbok by collaborating with MetaJoseon, known by its virtual character Somi, in the NFT business. NFT stands for non-fungible token, which is a digital file on blockchain that has a specific asset uniqueness.
MetaJoseon is a company that introduces fashion that combines modernity and tradition in the metaverse through the company’s virtual influencer Somi. Somi was “born” in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) but came to the present modern times through a time warp. Hwang expressed her ambition to make hanbok a part of global content by expanding her brand’s project to integrate hanbok into both the metaverse and blockchain technology by through this collaboration.
“NFT is a trending issue all over the world these days. So, we think if the manufacturing-based hanbok industry is converted into a blockchain-based digital industry, it will be a good leap to secure future competitiveness,” Hwang said.
Leesle said that controversy surrounding the opening ceremony of the 2022 Beijing Olympics led to the design of one of their hanbok based on traditional Korean culture.
At the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, there was controversy over cultural appropriation in which China regarded Korea’s traditional culture as the culture of one of China’s minorities.
“Our hanbok was designed to focus on ‘Korean culture’ rather than Leesle,” Hwang said. adding that nine of Somi’s profile-type NFTs were expected to soon be revealed.
“Our goal is to first try, and make mistakes, and then find ways to share our experiences with people who dream of the same challenge, and experience the same with a little less failure,” Hwang stressed.
In addition to the NFT-related projects with MetaJoseon, Leesle is taking part in various efforts to globalize hanbok. Since 2016, for instance, the company has been leading a campaign that encourages people to wear hanbok when traveling abroad.
“It is a movement aimed at wearing hanbok at travel destinations, and the product orders from foreign customers have increased considerably during the campaign,” Hwang said.
“Clothes are made to wear, and if people hang them in a museum, those will become relics, not clothes. So, we want people to wear them, not just see hanbok as relics,” the designer chief continued.
In her constant attempts to popularize hanbok, Hwang also said that her company hopes people do not just criticize modern hanbok for undermining the special features of traditional hanbok, but rather bring attention to it.
“We think wearing hanbok is more important than determining if modern hanbok is traditional or not.”
BY CHOI MIN-JOO, EOM SE-BIN AND YUN HA-YEON [email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com]