Traditional knots in Korea called maedeup date back to the Three Kingdoms era of Baekje, Silla and Goguryeo. After undergoing centuries of change, today's maedeup have reasserted the Korean identity at home and abroad thanks to skilled designers.
Kim Jeong-sun is a traditional knot designer and the founder of Sundaum, a Hanbok brand featuring traditional knots. Launched in 2017, the brand gained a bit of fame after its designs were worn by K-pop groups such as BTOB and Golden Child.
Kim began her fashion career relatively late at age 40, and spent a year mastering the basics of traditional knotting and another year to name her brand. She went on to study fashion design at a college in Seoul.
Previously working in dentistry, traditional medicine and nail art, Kim, a married mother of two children, said she grew interested in traditional knots after seeing a norigae (tassel) at a museum.
The following are excerpts from an interview with Kim.
How did you start designing traditional knots?
I learned from Choi Min-jung, an expert on traditional knot crafts. And when I saw how many designs can come out depending on the person who designs them, I thought of creating my own.
How is the process of designing a maedeup accessory?
Without deviating much from the basic pattern, I design maedeup by mainly changing the design of the braid or using supplementary materials to harmonize the colors. I think about who will wear the piece before making the design. If you think about who'll use it and for what purpose, you can decide on a design and color that suits the wearer better. It's also important to choose a thread that matches the specified color or design since the feel can greatly vary lot depending on the type of string used.
How do you get inspired for your designs?
I enjoy traveling and what I see and feel during my trips helps me think of designs and color. I also find inspiration from everyday activities such as watching a movie, listening to music, going on walks, having good thoughts and interacting with people. But in the end, I think it all comes from my heart.
Why do you think traditional knots are even more special today compared to the past?
Even if the design is completed with subsidiary materials and colors, traditional Korean knots have an unchanging basic design. The neatness of the design also makes the knots more special and unique than those in other countries. With Generation Z preferring to wear more casual Hanbok, I think that traditional knots are getting more popular.
Describe the maedeup you designed for BTOB for its "Kingdom: Legendary War" performance?
The costumes the group wore for the performance were designed with a colorful pattern that emphasized the beauty of Korean tradition with a modern design. To have traditional knots match each member's personality, we mainly used the butterfly wing knot, which represents honor and wealth.
The courage of each BTOB member was also expressed by the knot design and where the knot was worn, while a white tone unified the overall atmosphere to show the members as one brave team.
As a designer of Hanbok and traditional knots, how do you think the two complement each other today?
It's too daunting to do only one of the two, but if you only do one, you can lean on one side. If you do both, you can make a Hanbok and coordinate accessories that directly match the colors and design elements that resonate. This is more complementary.
In the past, traditional knot accessories were worn to commemorate special days. I wanted my knots to be worn not just on a special day but make that day special when worn. That's another reason I wanted to design comfortable outfits and accessories that blend well with daily life.
This article is written by a Korea.net Honorary Reporter. The group of Honorary Reporters comes from all around the world, and they share with Korea.net their love and passion for all things Korean.