Gu_de things: 24 hours with Seoul's cult handbag designer, Ji Hye Koo
In the bag
Have you heard the Gu_de news? Gu_de (based on an archaic pronunciation of the word 'good'), for the few who've yet to hear of it, is the Korean-designed, Net-a-Porter-endorsed handbag label that's getting all the love in the fashion world; founder Ji Hye Koo has an apparent knack for retro-inspired pieces which hit just the right balance between clean and quirky, desirable and attainable. Benefiting from the Net's Vanguard mentorship program for emerging labels, Gu_de's speedy ascent to insider-favourite status has us excited for the brand's next stage. We quizzed Koo about the average day in the life of a designer (about which she shared in the photo diary above), being an organised creative, and the career-shaping capacities of Barbie dolls.
What are your earliest memories of fashion?
I liked Barbie dolls very much as a child.. I used to make clothes and bags for my dolls using old scarves, socks or clothing, and later began customising ready-made clothes, too.
How did you find your way into fashion design? Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I majored in textile design at university, and at the same time was making shoes and bags as a hobby. That was the beginning of my accessories career. The support and mentorship I’ve received from Net-a-Porter’s Vanguard program has brought me much further than I could have ever imagined; I’m so pleased by the sight of so many people carrying gu_de bags at fashion week, and by all the press coverage we’ve received. I am hoping for gu_de to develop into a global brand in the future.
What handbag do you carry in your day-to-day life?
I enjoy styling my everyday outfits with the Milky and Demilune bags.
What are the key qualities of a good handbag?
The way something is manufactured is as important as using good materials. That’s why we restrict our manufacturing to Korea to maintain quality control, despite importing our leathers from abroad.
Faux crocodile skin is a prominent feature in your designs. Real or synthetic, why do you think fashion is so drawn to animal textures?
I think embossed croc leather evokes the mood of the ‘70s. I also try to create colour variants that are a little more modern and youthful.
Your designs have been described as ‘classic’. Is that an important value to you as a designer, especially in an industry that is all about quick and flashy street style trends?
My goal is to make timeless, valuable pieces. Trends really don’t interest me.
Are you a messy or organised creative person?
How do you keep creatively inspired?
I travel and visit vintage markets, bookstores and museums all the time.
What’s one Korean film everyone should watch in their lifetime?
The Beauty Inside, the 2015 film version.
What’s one Korean song everyone should listen to in their lifetime?
Home, Sweet Home by Car, the Garden
What’s one Korean work of art everyone should experience in their lifetime?
Anything by Do-ho Suh.
What’s one Korean museum or gallery everyone should visit in their lifetime?
D Museum in Hannam-dong, Seoul.
What cool places should visitors to Seoul head to, that travel guides don’t talk about?
Piknic, which is a cultural space/complex.
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