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[Eye Interview] Working to turn Lie Sang-bong, LIE into global family brands
Lee Chung-chung has eyes set on building the LIE brand, rather than becoming No. 1 designerBy Jie Ye-eun
Published : March 26, 2022 - 16:01
Lee Chung-chung, chief executive officer and creative director of LIE, and son of veteran fashion designer Lie Sang-bong, the founder of Korean fashion house Lie Sangbong, aims to grow both his brand and his father’s brand into globally known labels.
“One of my dreams is to keep Lie Sangbong a global fashion brand like Gucci and Prada. By highlighting the couture’s artistic value, I’d like to make it into a brand that represents Korea,” Lee said during an interview with The Korea Herald at a LIE showroom in southern Seoul.
Lee is also the executive vice president at Lie Sangbong.
The 43-year-old designer started working under his father after his return to Korea at the end of 2010, confident of his talents and skills that were already recognized in the UK, he said.
After attending Central Saint Martins twice – first to study art and design and then to study fashion design specialized in menswear -- Lee launched A.Hallucination, a menswear brand, in London in 2010. He also won multiple awards, including the Vauxhall Fashion Scout award, which he won for two consecutive years, and Fashion’s Finest Awards.
While he appreciated his privileged environment, Lee said that having the “Lie Sang-bong’s son” tag following him around has been a lot of pressure.
Because of people’s prejudices, Lee never thought about becoming a fashion designer as a child. Growing up with busy working parents, he wanted to have an ordinary lifestyle with a nine-to-six job. Lee even majored in history education, intent on becoming a teacher.
Lee began the second chapter of his fashion career with his debut as a womenswear designer at the “Who’s Next Paris 2012.” Influenced by his father, who is a renowned couturier, he longed to launch a womenswear brand and launched LIE in 2012.
“There is no specific muse for LIE. We are rather inspired by the spirit of women who had the guts to take up challenges,” he said. He cited Amelia Earhart, who was the first woman to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic, and Lis Hartel, a Paralympic equestrian who was the first woman to win a medal against men in direct competition as examples of inspirational women who took on challenges.
LIE is sold at specialty shops and department stores in more than 60 countries, including Korea, Japan, China, Singapore, Turkey, Middle East, the US, Canada and countries in Europe.
“The concept of the 2022 fall-winter collection started with an interesting idea -- a ski trip to the Alps with your pet plants. Since the concept of being ‘friends’ with pet animals and pet plants has recently become important, the collection suggested a blissful trip in majestic nature, enjoying an apres-ski with favorite pet plants far away from stifling city life,” the designer said.
“Enjoying and conserving the environment are important. So the collection was designed using recycled materials,” he said. He said his bags were designed with an upcycling concept, collaborating with artist Yeon Nu-ri to give people a chance to think about “the value of coexistence with the environment, rather than noticing the beauty or consuming it.”
Lee, who began overseas sales of Lie Sangbong and LIE in the early 2000s and 2013, respectively, said Korean fashion’s position in the global market has changed a lot.
He recalled how Lie Sangbong’s country of origin was once marked as North Korea at an overseas exhibition hall.
“Foreign buyers couldn’t tell the difference between the two Koreas back then. They thought Korea was a country on the periphery of fashion. But now they welcome Korean brands, ask many questions about the product quality and trust us.”
More keen attention from local distributors and consumers, coupled with fashion labels’ active promotions can further enhance the position of Korea’s fashion globally, Lee said. Sales of Korean fashion products in the country are far less compared to other Korean content, despite its high potential, Lee pointed out.
Fashion is no longer a product, but a culture, according to Lee. One of the brand expansion strategies for LIE is launching collaboration products in partnership with companies in various fields, including high-end liquor makers, hotels, museums and automakers.
While his goal as a fashion designer is to create new values by mixing and matching elements that everyone can enjoy and showing them through LIE products, Lee prefers to create a beloved brand rather than becoming a No. 1 designer. The ambitious designer aims to promote the idea that “Lie Sang-bong is to LIE as Prada is to Miu Miu.”
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