Runway Radar: Angela Jihea Cho’s South Korean-inspired Nabi Intimates seeks to empower young women

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      By Zach McAlary

      Angela Jihea Cho was born in Chung-Ju, South Korea, and raised in White Rock, B.C. She has always been a creative individual from a young age and dreamt of designing apparel from the age of four. As a young minority growing up in a Westernized society, Angela struggled with accepting her Korean heritage. She strived to be the same as everyone else, which in turn made her neglect her roots. Nabi Intimates is her way of embracing, reclaiming, and re-educating herself on her beautiful culture and giving other young women the outlet to do so as well.

      Empowerment, confidence and beauty—those are just a few of the ways that describes designer Angela Cho’s thesis collection: Nabi Intimates. Her grad thesis collection highlights the storied traditions of Korean culture while at the same time, applying a modern, western twist, in the form of luxury lingerie and loungewear.

      Nabi Intimates will be unveiled at the 2019 The Show on April 18 at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s (KPU) newly opened Wilson School of Design building in Richmond. The beautiful and innovative $36-million building houses a range of design programs including the fashion-design-and-technology program.

      Event details and tickets can be found online.

      Zach McAlary: What was the inspiration behind your line?

      Angela Jihea Cho: For my collection, I really wanted to create something that I was passionate about and could personally connect to. My Korean heritage and being raised in a western society is what drew me to create Nabi Intimates. My inspiration behind the collection comes from traditional Korean culture, while focusing on the design details of the traditional Korean dress, the hanbok.

      Korea is known to be quite modest, and subjects like sexuality are very taboo and not discussed openly. I wanted to create a beautiful fusion of western and Korean culture for Korean women like myself, who may have lost touch of their roots while being raised in North America. Nabi, which means butterfly in Korean, is a symbol used throughout my brand for self-actualization and self-growth.

      ZM: What challenges did you overcome while designing your collection?

      AJC: The challenge I faced early on was being able to fuse aspects from traditional Korean culture with something more modern like lingerie. I did not want my designs to offend the older generation of Koreans, who held on to more traditional values. While doing research, I found that everyone used to wear the hanbok, no matter their social class or occupation. Gisaengs, female entertainers that were highly skilled in music, arts, and dance, also wore the hanbok. I thought of bringing back the hanbok that Gisaengs wore, while also giving Korean women garments that resonate with them.

      ZM: What’s the most helpful thing you learned at KPU?

      AJC: The technical aspects as well as trend-forecasting. I feel like being taught about both the technical and creative aspects of fashion design allowed me to become a well-rounded individual. This allows me to be much more confident entering the fashion industry.

      ZM: Describe your education journey.

      AJC: Honestly, I’ve been saying that I want to become a fashion designer since I was four-years-old. I’ve always been a creative individual. I loved drawing and experimenting with different paints in my childhood. Once I went to high school, I finally had the opportunity to learn how to sew, and I loved everything about it. Throughout high school, I took all of the available textiles courses, and the goal of pursuing fashion became more realistic. I applied to Kwantlen’s Bachelor of Design program with no back-up plans, and I cannot believe how fast the last four years flew by.

      ZM: What word best encapsulates you as a designer?

      AJC: Empowering. This word especially applies to my thesis collection. When I design clothes and especially lingerie, I realize that there is a lot of deeper meaning in why someone would want to wear one of my designs other than just to look pretty. There is a lot of emotion and feelings behind what we choose to wear. I want people to feel confident, beautiful and strong in whatever they wear.