Korean menswear brand, WOOYOUNGMI is no stranger to Paris Fashion Week. Long before the explosion of Korean style and entertainment, Madame Woo — as the brand’s founder is affectionately known — was already betting on menswear and envisioning a wardrobe for the “ideal man.” WOOYOUNGMI’s latest proposal for the Fall 2023 season was not any different. Leaning on its Korean heritage, the brand introduced pieces imbued with modernity, poise, and a dash of Korean history.
Founder Woo Youngmi launched her eponymous label in 2002 when Korean brands were largely absent from elite fashion spaces. Since then, the Paris-based label has built a robust menswear empire and elevated the brand to the upper echelons of fashion. The daughter of an architect, Woo Youngmi designs with the same precision as her father may have approached buildings. Aptly dubbed, “The Mother of South Korean Men’s Wear,” the designer now continues to strengthen WOOYOUNGMI’s international presence, alongside her daughter and co-creative director, Katie Chung.
Drawing inspiration from the Hwarang, a selected group of knights from the Silla Dynasty, Woo Youngmi crafted a collection that channeled what she described as “the Korean Belle Époque.” The first few looks featured quintessential WOOYOUNGMI suits, constructed in muted greens and neutrals. If someone had a Dune-themed wedding, these suits would be the thing to wear. The next swath of looks had models in large blazers and finely-cut trousers, leaving the tailoring this time to oversized belts in vibrant hues of blue, green, and orange. Finally, a few last looks ended the collection – not with a bang but an explosion. A volcanic one to be more specific. Motifs of explosions, fire, and smoke curled around any surface you can think of: smooth bomber jackets, mesh shirts, draped skirts, and the like.
Ambient music filled the halls of Palais de Tokyo as a projection lit the dark room. In the video, brush strokes elegantly built to a black mountainscape in a style reminiscent of the traditional Korean technique known as “soomukhwa,” or ink wash painting. In another ostensible homage to the designer’s home country, the music was a blend of traditional Korean instruments. The set not only served to set the mood but also showcased Woo Youngmi’s Korean heritage, unfaltering from the label’s first days when she refused to accommodate her designs for overseas clients.
WOOYOUNGMI celebrated its 20th anniversary this past December. In two short decades, the label has contributed to elevating Korean fashion to the global stage without giving up its roots. After all, you don’t get to be the most successful Korean independent menswear designer brand by playing by other people’s rules.
Want more coverage from Paris Fashion Week? Check out our coverage of AMI’s show here.