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Korean fabric gets spotlight on Chanel runway
Publication Date : 30-12-2013
The partially gold-gilded ecru pants appeared at Chanel’s Western-themed 2014 pre-fall collection
Featured on the runway during the global luxury fashion house Chanel’s fashion show held in Dallas, Texas, earlier this month was a pair of pants made with hanji fabric from Korea.
The partially gold-gilded ecru pants, part of Chanel’s Western-themed 2014 pre-fall collection, are among the several styles using hanji fabric created by TROA, Korea’s high-end fashion brand, expected to be available at Chanel shops around the world starting May.
The hanji fabric, part of the Metiers d’Art show, holds special significance for Han Song, creative director of TROA. The show was a tribute to Chanel’s suppliers, many of whom are owned by Chanel, including the legendary couture embroiderers Maison Lesage, in an effort to ensure that the venerable fashion house has access to the highest quality craftsmanship,
“It was a recognition of the quality of our hanji fabric and the fact that it came from Chanel meant a lot,” said Song in a phone interview from the office of TROA New York, a company established in New York to handle overseas marketing for TROA Jeans.
While Chanel is the first major global fashion brand to take up the hanji fabric, the TROA Jeans brand featuring naturally dyed hanji fabric made with hanjisa, or mulberry paper yarn, was launched internationally earlier this year in August.
In a remarkable coup of sorts, TROA Jeans launched simultaneously in three fashion capitals of the world - New York, Tokyo and Paris. TROA Jeans are sold at Barneys New York stores in New York, Beverly Hills and San Francisco as well as at Barneys New York stores in Ginza and Shinjuku in Japan. In Paris, TROA Jeans are available at the top French select shop Colette.
It took more than nine years of research and development to arrive at a hanji fabric that could be sold at the international level. TROA’s Song embarked on a project to find an alternative to cotton denim after hearing about the product’s potentially harmful impact on the environment. Several different yarns, including Korea’s mosi, or ramie, were tried but it was hanji yarn that he ultimately chose for his alternative denim. “Hanji fabric feels light, breathes well and takes the natural dye well,” Song explained. In fact, Korea’s highly labor-intensive natural dyeing method creates those singular, luxurious colours that give TROA Jeans its unique character.
Song has married two age-old Korean traditions - hanji and natural dyeing - re-interpreting them into something that is thoroughly contemporary and Western: jeans.
Reception overseas has been enthusiastic. “(Store) buyers overseas appreciate things that are new, different,” said Song. “I am also realising more and more that being eco-friendly is a very important factor,” he added. In recent years, much attention has been paid to the large quantities of pesticides and water required in the cultivation of cotton and the heavy use of chemicals in dyeing denim, raising concerns among eco-conscious consumers and, increasingly, the general public as well.
However, Song, who started his career as a couturier, emphasises that it is the design that ultimately matters. “Hanji fabric and natural dye are important but our focus is on design. Our collections are aimed at top international stores,” said Song.
Collaborating with Chanel has been a big confidence boost and an encouragement for Song. “It marks Korea’s entry into luxury fashion on a global scale. To compete in that world, at that level, you need to work hard to create something that is your own, something original.”
“Korea needs to really focus on this high-end image in the fashion market,” Song emphasized.
Offering high-end Italian fashion houses Loro Piana and Etro as examples, Song said, “I am following in the Italian tradition of building a brand and creating unique fabrics.”