Prior to launching RIU&VIU, a fashion brand that reinterprets traditional Korean costumes with a contemporary twist, Kim Ye-ji learned the basics of fashion and consolidated her knowledge at Ewha. After double majoring in the Department of Korean Music and Fashion Industry, she studied the history of Korean costume at Ewha Traditional Costume Laboratory as a graduate.
“As my student life came to an end, I wanted to expand my own field in clothing and was also thirsty for something I could do uniquely,” Kim said. “I believe traditional garments are not meant to be used by people solely on special days like Seollal or Chuseok but rather should be enjoyed on a daily basis. That is how I chose to pursue to design everyday clothes that make the most of Korea’s beautiful tradition and present them through RIU&VIU.”
From the brand name RIU & VIU, ‘RIU’ takes its meaning from the Chinese character 流, which Kim intended to represent the natural changes in the flow of time. This indicates the brand’s philosophy on tradition and how it can adapt to changing times. As Kim said, the appearance of hanbok from the Goryeo dynasty to the Korean Empire period is so different that they cannot be seen as the same clothing. Given that changes in tradition are inevitable, Kim believes the clothes that we call hanbok, which is the Korean traditional clothing, now should be worn and changed in our hands.
As for ‘VIU,’ it implies the English word ‘view,’ which simultaneously has the meaning of the verb ‘look’ and the nouns ‘perspective’ and ‘interpretation.’ This polysemy shows RIU&VIU’s interpretation of a concise and modern look. According to Kim, the intention of making a brand name that can be read in Korean syllables, English, and Chinese characters was to express the brand’s identity of universality.
As the CEO, Kim explained that it was difficult to start from the very beginning where she had to work on her own from branding to producing. She began by extracting elements from traditional clothing that seemed to be its core meaning and function. While studying, she found that the beauty of Korean tradition includes the transparent, overlapping silhouettes, and the bold yet sensible coloration of fabric and the charm of restrained formality. Kim strived to apply these elements to her designs when producing clothing.
When asked which RIU&VIU product most effectively represents Korean tradition, Kim picked out a pair of shoes called ‘SCENE001.’
“Before I launched RIU&VIU, I was researching the fashion market and found that hanbok shoes are disappearing,” Kim said. “Immediately, I resolved to utilize the technology of hanbok shoes and develop new shoes to continue its tradition. Despite hearing discouragements from others, I went on persistently.”
SCENE001 is a type of women’s shoes that brought the design elements of hye, which are Korean traditional shoes with pointed tips that were worn by women in the Joseon Dynasty. Hye inspired Kim to come up with the idea of slightly raising the upper part of a modern style shoe.
Kim added that the bulging upper part of Korean traditional shoes makes it ineffective in holding people’s feet. That is why if they are not worn tightly, the shoes will constantly come off and people would find it uncomfortable to wear. To complement this inconvenience, Kim added wrinkles, attached straps, and completed the creation of SCENE001.
By continuing to design products like SCENE001 that embraces Korean tradition, what Kim ultimately yearns is for people even from other countries to encounter the unique beauty of Korea and use products that carry the beauty in their daily lives.
“By doing so, the beauty of Korea will melt into everyone’s lives,” Kim concluded.