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Young Jin Jang ITS Sean & Seng Emma Wyman Dazed 2016
Rollneck body American Apparel, bag Young Jin Jang, YKK Award winner, ITS 2016Photography Sean & Seng, styling Emma Wyman; taken from the winter 2016 issue of Dazed

The designer inspired by Korean architecture

Young Jin Jang is the accessories designer creating hypnotic pieces inspired by the visual monotony and complicated assembly of Korean ‘Hanok’

Not only is YKK a world-renowned fastenings manufacturer, the Japanese company is also a longtime supporter of emerging designers. Over the last few years Dazed and YKK have actively collaborated to spotlight the best in international design talent, while the company has additionally established a €10,000 prize fund awarded annually at the ITS (International Talent Support) contest held in Trieste.

This year, the coveted title went to Korean accessories designer Young Jin Jang, whose architectural bags are compelling to look at and also functional. Already her work has been featured in Dazed’s winter 2016 issue, whereas next year her work will be shown in YKK’s London Showroom to a varied crowd of fashion industry tastemakers.

We caught up with the designer to discuss the importance of practicality, the influence of Korean architecture and the benefits of her hard-earned prize. 

How has winning the YKK prize impacted your career so far?

Young Jin Jang: It was a fantastic experience, many things around me have changed. Firstly, I have become more confident in myself as a designer who just took their first step forward. I worked as a handbag designer in Korea before moving to London; it was an unrealised dream of mine to have my own brand. However, my dreams have become reality since winning the YKK prize. The other effect is building good relationships with various artists in the fashion industry, good magazines and other product designers. For a young designer just starting a business, networking is extremely necessary.

What are the key characteristics of your designs?

Young Jin Jang: My collection consists of several different items; they are not just some individual products. They can be separated or combined. I’m not making fancy things that people can show off; I’m making things that are useful, meaningful and practical.

What are the core inspirations behind your designs?

Young Jin Jang: The collection was spiritually and technically inspired by the Asian architectural wood joint system. The wood joint is a technical system consisting of tenon and mortise, and it’s used to maintain the balance of buildings. When observing pillars under the eaves of Korean ‘Hanok’, I found their shape to be monotonous but the hidden principle of their assembly complicated.

“The collection was spiritually and technically inspired by the Asian architectural wood joint system” – Young Jin Jang

Carpenters must consider the size and quality of the timber they use to make tenon and mortise joints, because wood is a sensitive material whch can contract or expand depending on the local weather and environment, which is likely to cause unintended shape variation. This shows that architecture is more than just construction; it involves the creation of an artefact which reflects the spirit of the age and communicates with nature and human beings. It is also a connection between the designer or maker and the product itself.

Why do companies like YKK play such an important role for young designers?

Young Jin Jang: It is not only an honour to win the YKK prize, it’s also valuable recognition. In order to achieve your goal you sometimes need to sacrifice a lot, but you also need help. YKK has dedicated itself to encouraging young designers, and they gave me a chance to be seen by the world. They gave me help.

What’s the best industry advice you’ve received so far?

Young Jin Jang: The best advice I have received was from my previous boss, at the first company I worked for as a junior designer. She said, ‘If you like your work, that means you can also do well.’ My biggest motivation is making things I like. I love my work – designing and making bags.