It certainly feels refreshing in a time of such craziness to see a designer whose work is inspired by such a quest. As I enter the studio, Chung’s trademark bags surround me. Using the materials of wartime tents, that have been upcycled and sourced from the U.S, each with their own different stories, some dating back to the WWII era whilst others have been used in wartime preparations, Chung is trying to turn something that was once associated with brutality into something beautiful.
Each bag has a truly unique look and feel. Using irregular and yet disciplined surfaces of military tent fabric, Chung has introduced an extremely durable bag that possesses a natural look that cannot be imitated artificially. The foundation of Chung’s inspiration of such a unique collection stems from not only his drive to see a more peaceful and beautiful world, but his own international background.
Born in Japan but having grown up in Korea and received his bachelor’s business degree in the U.S from Illinois University, Chung tells me, “I really liked business but I actually always wanted to be a philosopher. I like to read books, so I also wanted to be a writer, and maybe a designer. When I went into design, I decided to not go to college for art as I felt I couldn’t learn much there.”
After dabbling with this, Chung soon transitioned to becoming a fully fledged designer, accepting a position to work with Colombo (owned by Samsung), “That company was becoming really big and Luisa Colombo (the founder) asked me if I wanted to work together, so that was how I started. She was my mum’s friend. It was then that I started designing bags for them.” After a time with Colombo, Chung teamed up with Faye Lee, creative director of 21 Dafaye and began designing his now infamous bags.
Chung’s unique style quickly stood out and he and Lee soon hit a lucky break, with the president of one of the biggest boutiques in Korea visiting his shared office building whist she was on another meeting. Stumbling across Chung’s collection, Chung says, “She looked at our stuff, and really liked it and wanted to sell our collection. She did a launch party at her boutique. We were the only domestic brand to be sold in her store.”
It's not surprising to see why. Chung’s goal has always been a clear one, with a quote on his website that reads:
Chung already has somewhat of a celebrity following in Korea, with several famous K-Pop stars wearing his bags. However, whilst other companies are putting the emphasis of their marketing on celebrity endorsements, Chung has the opposite reaction. “I don’t actually like the celebrity marketing that much, but I have some friends who are pop stars who like it.” Whilst others might indulge in this privileged position of having famous friends, Chung says, “I want to prove myself with my product and not by who is wearing it.”
Chung is certainly a true artist in the sense of not indulging in a celebrity following, and telling me he doesn’t even really consider whom his target market is when designing, “I never really think about that. People do say I should think about who they are, but I never do! I always think about what I like. I like to start by sketching. Case by case I get my inspiration for my designs, sometimes it will be looking at landmark views or sometimes it will be reading a book. Being in the U.S also inspired me. It’s always good to experience as much as possible; it’s all inspiration.” And with peace as the central point of his entire collection, you couldn't ask for a better source of inspiration.
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