Last October Lee Young Hee received the Geumgwan(Golden Crown) Order of Culture Merit. As the key person of Maison de Lee Young Hee and daughter, it must have been a dramatic moment.
It was the nation’s first Golden Crown to award the fashion field so it had a huge meaning. Until then Prof. Seok Ju-Seon’s Eungwan(Silver Crown) Order of Cultural Merit was the sole achievement in fashion. I think our field is yet to receive more respect compared to literature or art in that matter. Unlike artists, designers are more likely to be treated more casually. But you see, there are many fashion designers that are at the same time artists considering their outstanding creativity, like Alexander McQueen. And I think my mother was worthy to be such person as well. Aside from being her daughter, I think she was the one and only person in this world who ever reinterpreted a traditional costume with so much creativity and variation.
After her passing, you decided to close the boutique and donate the major works to the National Museum. What triggered you to do so? You could have continued the brand as the successor.
It’s not too much to say that the past 43 years of Maison de Lee Young Hee represent the history of Korean traditional costume, because it carries the essence of all the features of hanbok. Being the one who best comprehends my mother’s works, I figured that the ultimate role for me was to organize and collect everything and find a way to preserve the most valuable pieces. My original plan was to switch the boutique that dwelled the long years of the brand into a memorial museum but I was standing before an enormous amount of hanboks and accessories that filled every drawers and boxes throughout the whole 5 levels. They were piles after piles that added up after all those years preparing countless shows, presenting new collections every season. It was utterly impossible for a single person to manage. I figured the most suitable place to store them long-term was the national museum. And among the many, the Daegu National Museum was perfect since it was specified in costumes. I’m currently working on categorizing the works under era, purpose, material, color and design so the exhibition can last 100, 200 years. It will explain the reason behind every styling, which will help the future curation. What surprised me was that as I go through all this categorization, I could remember the history of every single piece, like when and how they were made. Being the only one fit for this job, I’m putting my bestest effort into this.