UL:KIN by Lee Seongdong

UL:KIN’s Lee Seongdong delves into philosophy and is a fascinating storyteller with an endless stream of messages to convey. He also has the drive.

Lee’s career in fashion took a professional turn early when he won the Doota Venture Designer Conference in 2010 while he was studying fashion and apparel at Hanyang University. He then served in the army, where as an officer in a mechanized unit had to make decisions while driving a tank. This was an experience which he professes to have helped acquiring the aptitude for the business. After fulfilling his duty, he had a brief stint at a designer label ‘Studio K’ before striking out on his own in February 2014.

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UL:KIN debuted on the runway in 2016 through Generation Next, Seoul Fashion Week’s platform for aspiring designers. He has been well appreciated for his genderless casual wear and is fast expanding the brand as demonstrated by fastidious categories; ‘Collection Label’ shown at Seoul Fashion Week, ‘Upcycling Label’ for limited-edition bags, ‘Gallery Label’ for collaborations with artists, and ‘Campaign Label’ for more commercial range.

What makes UL:KIN the hottest label is the bags from Upcycling Label. He collects paintings by rookie artists to which he adds his unique touch. This only allows 100 bags a month and all are one of a kind with strong artistic character, making it popular among men looking for style choices more diverse than the ordinarily offered by clothes. Lee is building up a narrative of his own with “talents cycling project,” offering young artists canvasses and sometimes even spaces for to exhibit.

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Do you remember the day of your first runway show?
March 15, 2016.
Why did you choose designer as a job?
I have been interested in aesthetical works since I was very young. I have never been distracted from my dream to become a designer.
What would you be if not a designer?
I have not even had an aspiration other than a designer. But if I had to assume, I would have set up a start-up company and would be taking up on a challenge.
What joy do you get from being a designer?
Doing what I love with people I care about in a cherished space. And having the joy of raising two cats.
What experience had a major influence on you?
I served as an ROTC officer in a mechanized unit where I had to make decisions on the seat of the pants hurtling in a tank. This became a part of me and even after coming back to a life of my own, I tend to pull through forcefully rather than staying in a place.
 What do you think is fashion?
It is an organic business that has been cultivating in line with culture, thoughts and technology since the beginning of history. UL:KIN is researching to grow at the pace of contemporary trends, for example, developing a fabric that contains the texture of brushstrokes using a 3D printer.
What are well-designed clothes?
A piece that contains the story a designer wants to tell such as his philosophy and sensitivity.
How are the clients of UL:KIN special?
Those who are interested in art or work in the field. And those who contribute to the progress of culture and art. They are calling themselves devotees of UL:KIN.
What is your signature item?
Bags made of paintings.
What would you like to say about fabrics?
I gather throwaway paintings. I consider it as a ‘leather created by human’ and make them into bags. I put in a lot of time and effort making the bags and they are of high value.
What inspires you the most when you work on your design?
Myself communicating with the society. Like a poet expressing his thoughts through a poem, designers put their stories in the collections. Usually it starts with an urge to create, and to “tell certain story.”
What is on your mind when you design?
“If I expressed it this way, maybe people could sympathize.” Sympathy can be philosophical or aesthetical.
What is your definition of beauty?
Aesthetical empathy.
What is your life motto?
When I was a student it was “save time and do your best.” Now it is “just do it. At least you will gain an experience.”
How would you like to be remembered?
Designer of an era.
Describe designer Lee Seongdong’s world of fashion in a single word.
Fusion, or Convergence.

WRITTEN BY : MYUNG SUJIN (FREELANCE FASHION WRITER)

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