It was a rainy and grey mid-February day in Greenwich Village, and everyone on East 9th Street was drenched in black. Black trench coats covered black suits under black umbrellas; commuters huddled under dripping storefront awnings, leapt over overflowing gutters, and fought the wind on their way into cabs. Yet from inside the warmly lit foyer of the Margo Feiden Gallery, it could just as well have been Spring.
A small band played oscillating, percussive music underneath large bay windows; where some of New York’s most well dressed citizens awaited Yuna Yang’s presentation of her Fall 2018 Collection. Called “Love Yourself,” the first model stepped out; stoic, confident, filling the room with a powerful electricity. One after the other, models swept through the gallery with an elegant, if liberated gate. From leather to lace, florals and solids, the spectacle produced a buzzy, rattling excitement of the shifting seasons, of something changing.
Originally from South Korea, Yuna Yang began dabbling in the fine arts by painting and playing the piano. While the doyenne would go on to earn a degree from Ewha Women’s University, her affinity for beautiful fabrics was informed in childhood. Shopping in a department store in Seoul, an organza pale pink formal presented itself as a recital dress, and the first inspiration to the high-end woman’s fashion designer she’d become.
A chance meeting with a seamstress in 2001, Yang was struck by a woman who’d worked for Valentino for over thirty years. The time honored traditions, and remarkable technique she brought to each garment produced more than a mere article of clothing. It was artistry, iconography, an intimate offering of haute couture.
Yang perused formal studies at Instituto Marangoni shortly thereafter, and with an insight into Italian craftsmanship, was able to indulge a unique eastern aesthetic. Having impressed designer Alviero Martini, she was commissioned with a rare honor to design evening dresses for Milan Fashion Week in 2002, marking a prodigious start to her professional career.
Delving further still into international influences, she packed her wardrobe yet again and moved to London, receiving a second degree, this time in Womenswear Design at Central Saint Martins. While in London she worked with designers Ann-Sofie Back and Clements Ribeiro, honing her craft with some truly great influencers in western fashion. By the time she finished her degree, she was ready to take on America.
Now based in New York City, Yuna Yang utilized her experiences in design and sewing around the world to create the YUNA YANG COLLECTION. With production based only a few blocks away from her design studio, her affinity for local fabrics and Italy’s familial tradition influence her empire. Indeed, design and manufacturing culminate in a uniquely American label inspired by Eastern perspective on Western aesthetics, and creates a distinctive platform for international narrative.
Yang drew inspiration from Fellini’s La Dolce Vita for her fantastical 2012 Collection entitled “Magic,” and used recycled fabric to call attention to climate change in the 2018 Collection called “Save the Earth.” “These shows were platforms for social movements,” said Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, “which enable fabric to transcend form and function into real fashion.”
In her evolutionary 2016 Collection called “No Borders,” Yang used deconstructed military uniforms and heavy wool to “challenge remaining divisions between people of varying religions and races,” using the show to highlight her still-divided home country. It was a radical show, one that noted the maturation of her career and the beginning of her activist fashion. “My country is divided,” she said, when asked about her inspiration for the show. “I’ve always been inspired by borders.”
In the wake and tumult of the #MeToo Movement, Yang uses her stage to comment on empowerment. A kaleidoscope of color, fabrics and cultures converge into perhaps the single most powerful presentation of inclusion at Fashion Week. “I love women in general,” Yuna Yang says, nodding to the phenomena of the #MeToo Movement. “I love the idea of a powerful woman changing the world.”