Global Young Designer Spotlight: Ji Hye Koo, Creative Director and Founder of gu_de
Meet Ji Hye Koo, the Creative Director and Founder of gu_de, Seoul's cult handbag brand. Here, the designer reveals the stories behind the label and where to visit in the South Korean capital.
24 November, 2020
Pronounced "good", gu_de is the 70s-inspired label that all handbags lovers should note. Based in South Korea, the accessories brand was founded by Ji Hye Koo in 2016. It's objective: to create understated bags in timeless, minimal shapes. Providing customers with a "new classic" (at an affordable price point) gu_de does what it says on the proverbial tin - its offering is indeed very good.
Designer's name: Ji Hye Koo
Origins: South Korea
Homebase: Seoul, South Korea
Type of brand: Luxury women's handbags
Where did you grow up? How did these places shape you?
I grew up in the countryside, in Gangwon-do Province. I spent a lot of time immersed in nature; I was fascinated by the beautiful colours of the changing seasons which greatly influenced my love of colour and helped create a discerning eye for detail.
Your earliest fashion memory is…
I loved Barbie dolls as a little girl. I used to make my own doll clothes and bags using old scarves, socks and clothing. Growing up, I also enjoyed customising ready-made clothes in my own style.
How does your brand name connect with your product?
Pronounced "good", gu_de was taken from the Scottish pronunciation of the English word: "gude". It's a name that is synonymous with our brand's ongoing aim to supply accessories made with high-quality materials and composed beautifully at an affordable price for our customers. The brand name gu_de is a projection of our fundamental values.
Define gu_de's aesthetic.
gu_de pursues unaltered beauty by offering the ultimate balance between the past and present. Essentially, we create understated bags with a unique silhouette and interesting details, introducing fresh colourways each season.
Who is the gu_de customer?
Confident, independent and stylish women of all ages; those who enjoy high-quality fashion and reinterpret what is "classic" and make the styles their own, creating a "new-classic" look.
If you could see your designs worn by anyone, who would it be?
I would love to see Chloë Sevigny or Jane Birkin carry our designs.
Where is your studio and what does it look like?
Our studio is located in downtown Seoul, an area that's very popular with young people. The studio space is divided into both showroom and office areas.
What songs do you have on repeat in your studio?
I usually listen to jazz or classical music, but sometimes I also do listen to world music such as bossa nova.
Some must-dos the next time we are in Seoul…
Seoul has many wonderful places where the past and the present coexist. I recommend a visit to Euljiro and Ikseon-dong.
Is travel a source of inspiration for you?
I really enjoy travelling. When I first launched gu_de, I was inspired by the vintage markets that I visited during my trips to Europe. Aside from these markets, I also get a lot of inspiration from museums and outdoor spaces that I've been to during my travels.
Three destinations on your travel wish list…
They are Cappadocia in Turkey, the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia and Amalfi in Italy. I envisage having an introspective and dreamy experience visiting those places on my own.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Look at the bigger world. The world is much bigger than what you see now.
Shop your own line. What are three of your favourite pieces?
The Milky bag, which is a brand classic; the new design of the Love bag; and the Gabriel bag from our AW20 collection, are my favourite pieces.
What are you reading right now?
I am currently reading The Having: The Secret Art of Feeling and Growing Rich by Suh Yoon Lee.
What's next for gu_de?
Aside from bags, I would like to expand the gu_de offering by designing footwear and clothing.
And finally, what's in your SUITCASE when you travel?
In my SUITCASE, you'll usually find one or two gu_de bags, a Leica camera, some tracksuits, a Marshall portable speaker, a great dress, some flat shoes and various other essentials.