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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 designer

Lee Chung-chung, CEO and creative director of LIE, poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at a LIE showroom in southern Seoul, last week. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Lee Chung-chung, CEO and creative director of LIE, poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at a LIE showroom in southern Seoul, last week. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
A growing number of Korea’s fashion brands and designers are expanding their presence in the global market, showcasing their collections at major fashion weeks and launching flagship stores overseas. 

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. 

Lee Chung-chung, CEO and creative director of LIE, poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at a LIE showroom in southern Seoul, last week. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Lee Chung-chung, CEO and creative director of LIE, poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at a LIE showroom in southern Seoul, last week. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
“Without the experience of achieving things on my own, including showcasing collections in London, I wouldn’t be able to brace myself for working here,” he said.

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. 

LIE’s fall-winter collection at the 2022 fall-winter Paris Fashion Week, which was showcased during Seoul Fashion Week Tranoi show earlier this month. (Seoul Fashion Week)
LIE’s fall-winter collection at the 2022 fall-winter Paris Fashion Week, which was showcased during Seoul Fashion Week Tranoi show earlier this month. (Seoul Fashion Week)
LIE, which stands for “Life is an Expression,” is a women’s brand that helps women express their uniqueness, beauty and characteristics, the designer explained. Its slogan “Perfectly Imperfect” is often used in his collections, which seeks to express the diversity and uniqueness of individuals.



“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.

LIE’s fall-winter collection at the 2022 fall-winter Paris Fashion Week, which was showcased during Seoul Fashion Week Tranoi show earlier this month. (Seoul Fashion Week)
LIE’s fall-winter collection at the 2022 fall-winter Paris Fashion Week, which was showcased during Seoul Fashion Week Tranoi show earlier this month. (Seoul Fashion Week)
LIE was one of the four local designer brands sponsored by Seoul Fashion Week to stage shows at the 2022 fall-winter Paris Fashion Week earlier this month. This was LIE’s second catwalk show in Paris, following a showcase of the 2019 spring-summer collection. It also marked LIE’s first in-person runway show since the spread of COVID-19.

“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.”

Lee Chung-chung, CEO and creative director of LIE, at the 2022 fall-winter Paris Fashion Week (LIE)
Lee Chung-chung, CEO and creative director of LIE, at the 2022 fall-winter Paris Fashion Week (LIE)
Lee painted a rosy outlook for Korea’s fashion industry. It will likely mark a milestone globally, thanks to the popularity of K-pop, Korean movies and Korean food. Thanks to active promotions by talented Korean fashion designers, Korea is a big topic in the global fashion industry, he said.

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.”

By Jie Ye-eun (yeeun@heraldcorp.com)
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