Delving into fashion, there’s an intoxicating allure of exploration when a designer dares to draw inspiration from unexpected quarters. For her Spring/Summer 2024 collection, Madame Woo of Wooyoungmi takes a plunge into the depth of her own South Korean roots, surfacing with intriguing interpretations that echo both the ancient and the contemporary.
While the label has been a steady presence in the fashion industry for over two decades, this is the first time Madame Woo is truly using the runway as a canvas to paint her country’s heritage, stories, and style – turning the spotlight on South Korea’s cultural identity in her unique way.
Madame Woo’s muse this season is the community of female haenyeo divers of Jeju, an exceptional group of matriarchs known for their resilient diving lifestyle, unique scuba style, and advanced age. But, there’s more than a nod to tradition. In an era where K-pop’s global fervor is impacting creative fields across South Korea, including fashion, Wooyoungmi is eager to join this vibrant symphony of cultural exchange.
Her Paris headquarters served as the stage for a tantalizing preview of the collection. Here, Madame Woo shared her artistic ruminations on the black volcanic rock island of Jeju, the island’s party-hard reputation among the youth, and its historical significance as a site of a Dutch shipwreck in the 17th century. Drawing these disparate threads together, she masterfully wove a collection that dances on the spectrum between sporty lightness and darker sexiness, with moments of delightful surprise.
You see this in the alluringly fluid tops that make a compelling contrast to Wooyoungmi’s signature relaxed tailoring. But, when it comes to the latex pieces, they seem less about adding to the narrative and more about a stylistic statement. The collection experiments with scuba-style elements, sometimes topped with a jacket, which although might appear a little contrived, could potentially find a home on a concert stage. The use of bojagi-style wrapping on beach-ready pieces and ethereal jellyfish illustrations on gauzy day and neon night wear add a splash of enchantment amidst the monochromatic layers. The collection’s accessories, including floppy caps, connect the dots from the Dutch seamen to the Jeju divers in a manner that is poised to appeal beyond the runway.
Anchoring the collection are the futuristic sneakers, designed in collaboration with RAL7000STUDIO. They intriguingly seem as if shimmery water has been trapped and solidified into a clunky sole.
Despite the occasional feeling of disjointedness, there’s no denying the significant creative energy that Madame Woo has funneled into the collection. She has brought her South Korean culture to the global stage, wrapped it in a seductive layer of modernity, and presented it with an unapologetic boldness that marks a milestone for the Wooyoungmi label. A testament to her ability to evolve, this collection may be seen as a springboard into the future – one where she continues to explore, innovate, and define her space within the global fashion conversation.