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Designer honored by French order

Designer Moon Young Hee is a rare example in the Korean fashion scene: a designer with a unique perspective who has been presenting her signature style to the global audience every season at Paris Fashion Week since 1996.

In recognition of her persistent efforts and fresh input to the Parisian fashion world, Moon received the National Order of Merit, one of the highest honors given by the French government, on Tuesday in Seoul.

“Putting on shows for 18 years has been a difficult task. It’s really hard not to miss a season. I think they are giving me credit for my hard work,” said Moon during an interview with The Korea Herald at her studio in southern Seoul last Friday.
Fashion designer Moon Young Hee poses for a photo at her studio in Bangbae-dong, Seoul, during an interview with The Korea Herald on Friday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Fashion designer Moon Young Hee poses for a photo at her studio in Bangbae-dong, Seoul, during an interview with The Korea Herald on Friday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

After moving to Paris in 1991, Moon opened her eponymous brand and has been participating in the Paris Fashion week since 1996.

“Designer Moon Young Hee is a long friend of France. She has played a bridging role in cultural exchanges between Korea and France,” said Jerome Pasquier, French Ambassador to Korea, at the award ceremony on Tuesday in Seoul.

“She presented a gala fashion show at ASEM Summit in 2000, attended as a Korean delegate when former President Roh Moo-hyun visited France in 2004 and held a fashion show marking the 120th year of diplomatic relations between two countries in 2006. She has shown the spirit of entrepreneurship France has valued and contributed in promoting Korea to the French people.”

Moon, who had always dreamed of showcasing her collections to people around the world, said she decided to move to Paris to focus on her creation process rather than making popular clothes.

“I planned on moving to Paris years before because the city is the center of culture. I like the process of creation very much. But in Korea, I couldn’t do what I had in mind because people like clothes they can wear on a daily basis. In Paris, I received a lot of response and feedback from people who like my creations,” said Moon.

Moon’s signature style is that of sophisticated deconstruction, using contrasting black and white to achieve a mood of serenity. She presented layers of white shirts, vests and overcoats that create a puffy, yet light silhouette for her 2013 fall-winter collection at Seoul Fashion Week.

“I decided to participate in Seoul Fashion Week because I felt I needed to be known to Koreans. Then the former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon invited me to be part of the fashion week here,” said Moon.

Because staging a fashion show here costs as much as it costs to hold one in Paris, Moon said Oh supported all the expenses for bringing her collections and staff from France.

“But now this year, they asked me contribute funds to the fashion show and provided me no support,” Moon said. The Seoul Metropolitan Government is under a new leadership since October 2011, which aims to gradually transform the city-run event to into a private event.

To young designers in Korea, Moon stressed they needed to be honest with themselves.

“They know their talent better than anyone. They know whether the collection was a result of their talents and efforts and will be the ones to tell whether the show was good.”

By Lee Woo-young (