Cover South Korean designer and co-founder of LIE, Chung Chung Lee (Photo: Courtesy of Chung Chung Lee)

Chung Chung Lee, the co-founder and designer behind fashion brand, LIE is headlining Seoul Fashion Week. He tells Tatler about his growing success in South Korea and abroad

Korean culture is taking the world by storm—K-pop, K-drama, Korean movies, K-beauty. Following in tow is Korean fashion and one of the designers leading this meteoric rise is Chung Chung Lee, the talent behind the fashion brand, LIE which he’s steering with his sister, Nana Lee. Lee was born to renowned designer parents who founded the legendary Korean fashion house, LIE Sangbong. Since the age of six, Lee’s world has been surrounded by runways and fashion weeks.

Fashion runs in the family as the sibling duo decided to branch out of their parents’ fashion house and became fashion designers in their own right. But the two noticed the growing desire for more affordable luxury fashion not just in South Korea but also in the world, so they joined forces to start their own brand, LIE, which stands for life is expression. Since its inception in 2011, LIE has grown into one of the most notable fashion brands in the industry, having multiple pop-up shops throughout Asia.

Fresh off LIE’s presentation at the London Fashion Week, the fashion brand is headlining the Seoul Fashion Week Spring-Spring 2022 collection, which runs from October 7–15. Tatler caught up with Lee to talk about his team up with his sister for LIE, being one of the main highlights of Seoul Fashion Week and where the brand is headed next.

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You and your sister are the sibling-duo behind LIE. Can you tell us more about working with your sister for the brand?

My sister and I have been working together for more than 20 years, including the times that we were working for LIE Sangbong during our college years, and she has been my best partner. It feels great to have someone you can fully trust and someone you're not afraid of honestly discussing problems with. Of course, there are times that we face disagreements, but the relationship has been healthy I guess, as we are still talking to each other quite often!

I take care of the whole creative process and my sister oversees the marketing and sales. She is in New York so we will speak over email and phone call and see each other in different cities usually for LIE shows and showcases, except for the last year and a half. I am so happy to work with her.

Fashion seems to run in the family since your parents are behind the fashion house, LIE Sangbong. Did you always want to be a designer?

Not really. My parents never pushed me to become a fashion designer or study art, so I never thought of becoming one until I went to college. Unlike myself, my sister went to art school throughout her life since she was 12 years old, so everyone thought she would be a designer when she graduated from Central Saint Martins (CSM). However, as it turns out that, I was the one who wanted to be a fashion designer after graduating from arts and design at CSM. My sister decided to move away from design and go into management. After realising my love for fashion, I re-enrolled myself to major in fashion design for menswear at CSM.

What was your childhood like? Growing up, you must’ve been surrounded by runway shows and fashion weeks.

I was very lucky to grow up in such a unique environment. I watched my father’s fashion shows since I was 11 years old. I was always fascinated with the runway and live performances, which my father was well known for, as well as the artistic stages as a whole experience of fashion. It was fantastic! They were very busy and worked even on weekends, so their studio was my playground. All the experiences from my special childhood have given me a lot of inspiration until now.

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Did you receive any advice from your parents when you finally stepped into the fashion industry?

Oh, yes. I am still learning from them. It varies from personal to professional advice. It's great to have parents who understand what you do. It’s good and bad!

Why did you and your sister decide to launch LIE?

While we were working for LIE Sangbong, a lot of buyers were asking for a more affordable luxury—a moderately priced collection line. We thought that this is a market that we could tap into. We wanted to develop a lifestyle collection that’s unique and high quality but still accessible. It was an exciting challenge for us.

Why did you choose to focus on affordable luxury fashion?

There are many designer labels out there and not everyone can afford that. It’s important for us to offer competitive price points while delivering beautifully well-made clothes.

In what ways is LIE different from your parents’ label while still echoing the same elegance and details?

I would say the lifestyles of our customers is slightly different. It’s softer, more romantic and casual. LIE Sangbong would be your go-to place if you need a power woman board meeting outfit or a special gala dress, whereas LIE would offer you everything from weekday unique casual outfits to stylish weekend ensembles.

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Was there pressure in launching the brand coming from a legendary fashion family?

For sure. Not only in South Korea but also internationally. We introduced our first collection at the Paris market and many buyers from all over the world who knows about LIE Sangbong wanted to check out the collection. It took a couple of seasons for people to understand that it's a different line, not a diffusion line. It’s a good pressure to have though.

What best describes LIE as a fashion brand?

That’s always the hardest question to answer. I feel like we are always evolving so the way how I describe LIE needs to be constantly updated, but the core belief is that it’s a sentimental expression of passion and emotion.

Can you tell me more about the theme for your collection at Seoul Fashion Week SS2022?

LIE’s Spring Summer 2022 collection begins with the hope and belief that the Covid-19 pandemic will be over and will go back to our normal life—beautiful times in French, Belle Époque. The collection was inspired by the era of Belle Époque from the late 19th to the early 20th century, translating the traditional elements into modern beauty and elegance.

“Perfectly Imperfect” is LIE’s signature statement, this refers to the beauty of not being perfect and perfection of the imperfection is expressed throughout the collection. It’s okay to be different and confidence is what makes you beautiful.

We incorporated dynamic cuttings with voluminous silhouettes to highlight our sophisticated tailoring and asymmetrical lines to create unique patterns. We also introduced different shades of blue throughout the collection to add energetic movement combined with LIE’s playful mix-and-match approach.

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What are some of the highlight pieces from the collection?

Smocking details on jackets and blouses are the signature structure of the collection. Coat and jacket that are using classic yet feminine lines with voluminous sleeves. You can see a mix and match of fabrics in dresses and denim details in several of the outerwear.

How is your collection playing into the theme of this year’s SFW of “Past, Present and Future” and “Tradition Meets Modernity”?

Past brings present, and future will be what present is made of. Dongdaemun is where the past meets the future which combines historical palaces and one of the most futuristic venues, DDP (Dongdaemun Design Plaza) in Seoul.

It was a perfect place to relate my designs which was also inspired by the Belle Époque era, from the late 19th to the early 20th century, translating traditional elements into a modern collection that our customers would love to wear in the coming season. There are also some futuristic details that are fusing old and new. That's my imagination of future Seoul which will be similar to New York, Singapore, Paris, London…in a way.

You participated in various other fashion shows such as London Fashion Week. How different is it from presenting at Seoul Fashion Week?

The vibe can be different, but the process is pretty much the same. I have shown my collection in many cities including Paris, New York, Vietnam, and Guangzhou and the way how I would present in terms of the styling, would not be changed from a city to another. 

I think we are living in one world now so there’s no such thing as it will work only for certain places. However, I love travelling to different places to show the collection because it’s so much fun to experience the culture that each city brings.

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K-pop, K-drama, Korean food and more are so popular these days. Do you think the same will be for Korean fashion?

Yes, I believe so. Culture is interconnected and music, drama and food are at the centre of lifestyle as well as fashion. What they have in common is what makes it so attractive. It’s the cultural background in modern form but still being trendy and unique. K-fashion is the same way. The way how people dress, eat and play are all part of life. I would say it’s already on the rise and it will only get more popular.

One of the things you try to keep is the brand’s roots. In the coming years, how will you balance paying homage to tradition while aiming for the future?

Our main idea is to mix and match in almost every possible way. It could be an idea to an image or a time frame. I think keeping the respect for individuality is important to us. That will bring openness, creativity and transformation for us and a driver to create and present the newness. That's how we will be keeping our roots.

What are some of the other things we should look forward to from you?

The new collection is what I am most excited about. You will see more pieces in genderless forms and style going forward. We are planning to introduce new items and lines as well. Please keep your eye out for us.

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