The towering hanbok designer Lee Young-hee passed away at the age of 82. Lee, known a designer who creates “clothes of wind,” made a big mark in promoting the beauty of traditional Korean attire in the global fashion arena thorough out her entire life.
She died of complications from pneumonia early Thursday morning, according to her family.
“My mother was hospitalized for pneumonia symptoms a month ago and due to her old age her condition worsened,” said Lee Jung-woo, Lee’s daughter who is also a designer. “One time she got well and doctors said she could be discharged.
But her condition became aggravated again.”
The fashion guru, born in the southeastern city of Daegu in 1936, entered the fashion business belatedly at age 40, opening a hanbok shop in western Seoul.
Without formal education, she made clothes during the day and studied fashion sketches by night.
Meeting renowned hanbok scholar the late Seok Ju-seon inspired Lee to work more on designing hanbok and continue her studies in traditional fashion and dyeing.
Her debut fashion show took place in October 1980, an event celebrating the launch of the Korea Fashion Association. In January 1981, Lee held her first solo fashion show at the Shilla Hotel.
Since then, she has gained much international acclaim and media attention by creating many sensational, rule-breaking yet elegantly styled hanbok clothing.
One of her most radical designs was the “topless” hanbok that removed the traditional blouse. She presented it in 1993 during the pret-a-porter collections in Paris. She was the first hanbok designer to showcase at the pret-a-porter shows.
Lee also held a fashion show in New York’s Carnegie Hall in 2000 and the Lee Young Hee Museum of Korean Culture opened in New York in 2004. She held a special exhibition in 2015 marking her four decades as a hanbok designer.
She is survived by her husband and three children. Popular actress Jun Ji-hyun married her grandson Choi Jun-hyuk, a financier, in 2012.
Her funeral service is taking place at Samsung Medical Center in Seoul.