Born in 1977 in Seoul, South Korea, Hanchul Lee is no ordinary fashion designer. Had he not decided to go for fashion - a terrible loss for this field - he would have probably been a lawyer, hopefully a writer. And when we asked where would he see himself in ten years time, the answer was “at Royal College of Art as a visiting professor.”
The first time we met Hanchul was at RCA in London. It was March 2013 and he was working on his “Savage Grace” graduation collection. It was inspired by the movie “Hannibal” - mainly the mix of brutality, elegance and intelligence of its main character - as much as by Japanese Yakuza members with their bodies covered in tattoos, while wearing suits over them.
One thing that caught our attention right from the start was his technical ability: toiles so perfectly executed they appeared to be the final clothes, mind blowing details in leather for a one-of-a-kind sartorial collection which - just as winner Ichiro Suzuki the year before - aimed at re-defining menswear tailoring. We just had to wait for the end of April: it was out of question that the fashion jury would have selected him to be in the Finals.
At ITS 2013 it soon became clear for the jurors that Hanchul would have been their pick for the Fashion Collection of the Year. The perfect balance of materials, the exquisite execution of the pieces, the excellent translation of such a concept into his clothes...
Being last year’s winner of the above prize, Hanchul granted himself the invitation to be part of the ITS 2014 fashion jury as well as the possibility of presenting a new collection with a fashion show organised by ITS. Entitled “The Body”, it started from the idea that the classic tailoring techniques strive to imitate not only the human body shape, but also its movements. Hanchul broadened this concept by imitating the human body structure which controls the shape and the movement of the body itself, suggesting a new tailoring by creating “muscles” on jackets and spinal cords on the back of coats.
Once again, he left the audience speechless contemplating the beauty of his work. Unbelievable elegance & uttermost quality in execution. A signature style impossible to forget.
We’ve been in touch with Hanchul recently and asked him three simple questions. Not very prone to long speeches, these were his concise yet clear answers:
What’s the major difference between the ITS Hanchul Lee of 2013 and today’s Hanchul Lee?
I basically see just one difference, and it’s when I fill in my landing card on flights: in 2013 the field I wrote “student” in the “occupation” field. This year I wrote “designer”.
What has fashion gained? What has fashion lost?
Fashion has gained skinny bodies and it has lost mature bodies.
Someone you would love to dress, and why, but still did not have the opportunity to?
I would love to see Kanye West or Bigbang singer Taeyang wearing my work during their concerts. I long the strong masculine energy of their performances.
For Hanchul’s 2014 fashion show video click here and remember this name, from now on…