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A Centuries-Old Korean Style Gets an Update

  • October 20, 2020

When Ms. Hwang began thinking about creating hanboks for everyday wear, she turned to the internet. A majority of traditional hanbok shops were, and still are, reluctant to stray from the expensive, ’70s-style tailored-to-fit designs, but online communities devoted to hanbok subcultures were already discussing what changes they wanted in the garment as early as the mid 2000s.

Taking their feedback into account, Ms. Hwang founded Leesle in 2014, selling easy-to-wash hanboks. Her clothes are available in extra small to large, unlike many companies that offer only one size. “I don’t want to be exclusive,” Ms. Hwang said. “Bigger people. Older people. Slender people.” Her garments are also more modestly priced than their silk forebears, at under $200 apiece.

“It’s still uncommon to see people in modern hanbok,” Ms. Hwang said. “And while it doesn’t need to be worn all the time, it can become a basic item like a white T-shirt or black pants.”

Kim Danha said she hopes those who encounter her brand come to appreciate Danha’s environmental ethos. The label has a focus on sustainability; 30 to 50 percent of its fabrics are recycled polyester or organic cotton.

“Sustainability and traditional Korean design go well together because compared to Western shapes, original hanbok designs produce less scraps,” she said. The hanbok’s straight lines, she said, waste less fabric than, for instance, the rounded collar of a T-shirt.

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