Cover Gu_de creative director and founder, Ji Hye Koo talks to Tatler about her fashion journey, who she wants to work in and her future goals (Photo: Courtesy of Gu_de)

Get to know the brains behind the cult handbag brand, Gu_de

South Korean designer Ji Hye Koo founded her contemporary accessories brand Gu_de (pronounced “good”) in 2016, and is slowly but surely racking up an impressive fanbase. Known for its minimal shapes that have a whiff of Seventies charm, the bags speak to a growing number of consumers looking for classic styles that will serve them well into the future. Koo is preparing to launch ready-to-wear next season, so fans will soon be able to wear the label head to toe. Find it on Net-A-Porter, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges.

How did you first realise you wanted to work in fashion?

I loved Barbie dolls as a little girl. I used to make my own doll clothes and bags using old scarves, socks and clothes. I’ve dreamt of becoming a fashion designer since then. I majored in textile design, but realised I preferred bags and shoes, so I completed a bags and shoes design course before graduating.

What was the first roadblock you had to overcome?

There was a specific shape and certain quality that I wanted to achieve through Gu_de, so I had to have many difficult conversations with our manufacturers in order to select the right raw materials in the development stage, then make the samples and ensure the quality is maintained afterwards.

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What was your first job?

I designed various accessories such as bags, shoes, jewellery, watches and socks at So Basic, a brand that was part of a famous fashion company called NIX. I think designing various items at that time formed the foundation of my current career.

When did you first realise your brand was getting a lot of buzz?

Gu_de was very lucky. As soon as it was launched in 2016, there were requests to launch online and offline at famous boutiques in South Korea. Even when the brand was not yet well known, I remembered receiving inquiries from various influencers through Instagram. But I really felt its popularity when I attended a London Fashion Week showroom in 2018 and received requests from buyers from leading department stores and boutiques that I had always wanted to launch in.

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Which celebrity would you love to work with?

I have been a fan of Chloë Sevigny for a long time. It would be great if I could work with her.

Where is the first place you look for inspiration?

When I go abroad on a business trip for work or when I’m just travelling on my own, I always visit a vintage market. Actually, I decided to launch the brand for the first time when I saw bags with unique shapes and decorations in a vintage market in England. Even now, whenever I go to vintage markets, I get a lot of ideas, and it’s interesting to think about how to use them in a fun way with a modern twist.

What is your next goal?

I am hoping to launch ready-to-wear for the fall-winter 2021 season. Whenever I shoot our look books for the bags, I always find it hard to find outfits that would showcase the season’s concept effectively and that would go well with the bags. So I thought the best way would be to develop the whole collection: bags, clothes, shoes and accessories. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.

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