Korean Designer Modernizes Hanbok Into Casual Outfits


With its vibrant colors and unique silhouette, hanbok, or traditional Korean attire, has often been regarded as one of the most iconic aspects of Korean culture. Up until a century ago, Koreans wore hanbok as everyday clothes to work, school and public outings. The tradition of wearing the elaborate, multi-layered dress eventually faded as Koreans opted for the convenience of Western-style clothing.

4-a145fDew Hwang wearing her designs. (Photo via Sonjjang Design Hanbok)

Korean designer Hwang Yi-seul, also known as Dew Hwang, is pushing for hanbok to make a comeback with her clothing line Leesle, which specializes in creating casual hanbok that can easily be worn on a daily basis.

Her designs incorporate the empire and A-line silhouettes of traditional hanbok, but are created from quality fabrics, such as cotton, denim and linen, to achieve a clean and modern look. These modernized hanbok dresses are sold in a variety of colors, from soft pastels to bolder tones, and trendy patterns. Buttons, zippers, pockets and elastic waistbands are sewn into the dresses to make it easy and comfortable to wear.

Hwang’s casual hanbok dresses retail anywhere from $100 to $150.

hanbok 1

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Checks and stripes hanbok

Untitled-2Leesle hanbok dresses (Photo via Sonjjang Design Hanbok)

In 2007, Hwang designed and wore a fusion hanbok inspired by the popular Korean comic book Goong to a costume parade at Chonbuk National University. After many people praised her for her craft, Hwang decided to sell hanbok online. She sold her first creation in five days and her second in a week.

Three months later, Hwang opened her online store, Sonjjang Design Hanbok, using a meager investment of 45,000 won (about $43) to register the business. She made the first few hanbok from leftover fabrics from her parents’ bedding store, according to Chosun Ilbo.

Since launching her store, Hwang has branched out her business to include fusion hanbok cocktail dresses, wedding dresses, casual wear and children’s clothing. Her monthly sales now reach around 25 million won ($21,466).

tricolor skirt 2 cutHwang’s fusion hanbok gown (Photo via Sonjjang Design Hanbok)

Group photo of hanboks in JeonjuHwang (far left) poses with models wearing her designs (Photo via Sonjjang Design Hanbok)

If you fell in love with these beautiful designs and want to change up your wardrobe game, you can order your own Leesle hanbok on Hwang’s online store.


KoreAm writer Reera Yoo contributed to this article.

*Correction: This article previously stated that sonjjang-hanbok.com was the official website for Leesle hanbok. We have updated the article to list leesle.kr as the correct website. KoreAm regrets the error.

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