Ballet dancer Kang Ye-na enjoyed drawing cartoons while growing up, always featuring dancers as her protagonists. But she never knew she’d be designing ballet leotards decades later.
The 39-year-old has debuted as a designer, after many years of dancing as a principal in the Universal Ballet Company (UBC). She launched her own dancewear brand “Yenaline” last month, introducing style-conscious leotards with vivid patterns and exuding a luster of colors.
“For the last 10 years, I thought about what I would do after my retirement,” said Kang in an interview with The Korea Herald. “Many told me to go into teaching, but I always thought there would be something else for me to do.”
Kang decided to design leotards, not stage costumes, mostly because she wanted to do something for the training dancers of the younger generation.
|Universal Ballet Company’s principal dancer Kang Ye-na poses for a photo in a leotard she designed. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)|
“Nice leotards can really make a difference when you are training,” Kang said. “I know this because I’ve been spending so much time practicing in dance studios. What you wear can really boost or kill your mood. Instead of being a teacher, I wanted to present them (students) with something nice to wear for their training ― so they can enjoy what they do as dancers in the big picture.”
Kang said she wanted to design dancewear that “somehow combines” conventional leotards and stage ballet costumes. One of the three leotards she designed ― named “Hopi Line”― features leopard patterns for a touch of wildness. Another product, “Han-Oke (One-shoulder) Line,” is made of a fabric with sparkles. More than half of UBC’s corps de ballet members wear Kang’s leotards during practice, Kang said.
“Many of them were surprised by the design at first,” said Kang. “But my goal is to change the trend (of dancewear) eventually. I wanted to create something that can help dancers practice in style, and something that they can also wear for photo shoots.”
Working on the project required Kang to visit Dongdaemun Market to get the right materials, learn how to use a sewing machine, and mingle with those who work in the fashion industry. But it isn’t Kang’s first time trying something new. She hosted a number of ballet-themed events in English in the past, as well as a TV show featuring arts and culture.
The dancer said she finds the life of American designer Tory Burch inspiring; Burch started off as a fashion copywriter and turned herself into the owner of one of the most successful fashion lines in the U.S.
“I think she was very brave,” Kang said. “She did not study design (in school) but somehow got herself out there and became a designer.”
Kang is preparing ahead of the upcoming run of the Tchaikovsky classic “Swan Lake,” this year’s season opener of UBC, on Friday. “I’ve been doing the show for the last 20 years,” she said. “This may be my last time playing the role of Odette. I’ve been enjoying the practice sessions for the show.”
“Swan Lake” opens this Friday. For more information on Kang’s dancewear, visit www.yenaline.com.
By Claire Lee (email@example.com