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The Directory: Sisters behind Wooyoungmi

The South Korean designers speak about their philosophy and rise to fashion heights

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Caption: L-R Woo Jang Hee and Woo Young MiPortrait Madame Woo and Miss WooCredit:

When South Korean designer sisters Woo Young Mi and Woo Jang Hee launched their menswear label in 1988, they started by creating clothes that their ideal man would wear. And despite fashion’s ever changing norms, their ethos and visions of their ideal man have remained the same. Masculine yet sensitive in their aesthetic, the Wooyoungmi label’s futuristic edge has wowed fans around the world — and recently were made available on men’s lifestyle website

The designers spoke to the Directory about their philosophy, influences for this season and talents beyond fashion.

Q: Is there a specific design philosophy you follow?

Young Mi: We always design with our ideal man in mind. He is our main focus. We dream of the Wooyoungmi man as artistic and cultured. We approach our design with a female perspective on this man and create a wardrobe for him that is elegant and delicate, but always functional enough to suit his lifestyle.

Q: Most designers have a particular facet to their clothes identifiable as unique to that brand — what is yours?

Jang Hee: We are women designing only for men, which is still quite rare in the industry. So there’s a certain sensuality and sensitivity inherent in our clothes which comes from this female perspective.

Q: What are the influences for autumn-winter 2012?

Young Mi: The starting point for autumn-winter 2012 was the painting ‘Nighthawks’ by Edward Hopper. We felt an overwhelming sense of sadness from the painting and we started to think about this elegant man in the city, surrounded by people, yet alone. The colour palette of ochre, rust, navy and forest green reflects this sombre mood. As well as this, we were strongly influenced by the use of traditional gentleman’s elements mixed with a modern aesthetic. We used Harris Tweed on coats, shirting, and even shoes. The shoes themselves were handmade in England. We also referenced the military as a sort of protection or armour for this city guy.

Q: Many successful fashion brands have other facets to them (ACNE has a magazine, Missoni homeware and so on) — are there other areas you think that you may branch into?

Young Mi: We have just launched our first concept store in Seoul named ‘ManMade Wooyoungmi’ where we are trying to create a total experience for men, to support their interests, and encourage them to enjoy fashion and shopping for themselves. We will host regular events, from art exhibitions to games tournaments and we have also gathered together a selection of specialist brands to collaborate with or simply stock. This ranges from accessories to tools, and bar ware to stationary so we can offer the Wooyoungmi man a total lifestyle package. We will be bringing a version of this store to Paris next year.

Q: What are the challenges when designing for men?

Jang Hee: The conventions of menswear can be a difficult factor but thankfully as women, we can think outside of the box. We find designing for men more of a freedom than a challenge. We are not weighed down by thoughts of ourselves, our own personal tastes or style, our own age or lifestyle. We can focus completely on the man we want to design for.

Q: Do you have any other hidden talents?

Jang Hee: I can do the yoga headstand pose.

Young Mi: I can sleep without moving an inch. Perhaps less of a hidden talent and more of an advantage for power napping during show weeks.

Q: Do you shop online? If so, what do you buy?

Young Mi: I’m not a technaphobe. I see the benefit of what we can do without leaving our desk, especially with a website like Mr Porter offering men an alternative shopping experience . But I personally feel better not spending time texting, emailing or online in general.

Jang Hee: I’m not someone that likes to spend time online. I still don’t really use email.

*Wooyoungmi is now available on