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Korea|INTERVIEW: Meet YUUL YIE Korean Cult Footwear

Apr 12, 2019.Stephanie WuTokyo, JP
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Founder and Designer, Sunyuul

Perhaps I’m late to the scene but thrifting through Instagram, I found this gem: YUUL YIE, a Korean footwear brand established in 2010 with a taste for the unusual in an eye popping style echoed through its pumps, boots, sandals and slippers that don’t sacrifice comfort. They’re the kind of footwear / accessory when and where if you needed a quick fix for an outfit, would instantly ante up a look with its classic details and subtle lines.

The brand made its way into the foreign market since 2011 with most sales generated in Tokyo when it arrived at select shop ‘Wall’ in the Laforet Department Store located in none other than the heart of the youth sub-culture streets of Harajuku, even on Japan’s EC titan,  ZOZOTOWN. After attracting a legion of followers in Asia, YUUL YIE gradually began being taken notice in the west appearing in well-known e-retailers such as Amazon, Luisaviaroma, Shopbop, Vestiaire Collective etc. Founder and designer, Sunyuul Yie discusses her brand ethos and expanding brand presence.

SVT: Has footwear always been in the back of your mind before establishing YUUL YIE and what is it that you want others to know you for?
Sunyuul: I had a hobby of collecting unique vintage shoes, jewelry such as earrings, rings, bracelets ever since my school years. Looking through my collection, I definitely acknowledged what I like and shoes were what I loved the most. There isn’t a certain way that I’d like to be perceived by others, but simply, YUUL YIE represents my values, world view, and perspective therefore how people feel or talk about YUUL YIE is how I’m being seen.

SVT: Where did you learn your craft? Can you tell me your experiences such as where you’ve interned, worked for or which schools you’ve been to.
Sunyuul:  Majored in women’s fashion design in Esmod Seoul. Graduated with honors and had plenty of work opportunities as a designer, however I decided to work in an agency where I could source and buy from foreign brands since I wanted to have experience in various countries. Thanks to this, I was able to communicate with many designers from all over, observing what they did in their ateliers.

Since then, I got a proposal of starting a shoes design from a senior who was working in the footwear industry and I accepted without hesitation. I never studied footwear design before and basically taught myself while I was learning at the factory.

SVT: Your footwear seems draw from architectural inspirations, especially the heels which reminds me of a pillar that’s supporting the body. Did you have a background in architecture?
Sunyuul: Ironically never studied architect and don’t even know much about it. However, I’m always into sculptures and I follow a number of artists through SNS for inspiration. I am more into three-dimension rather than two-dimension and I go for abstract works in place of realism.

Shoes are almost like a small scale sculpture made out of leather, nail, adhesive, hammer and solid hardware. Contrary to the garment, they need to hold the center of gravity in order to support body balance with the heels as its core or pillar. I love creating new combinations from the tip of the shoes all the way to the heels as a sculpture piece to maximize the visual effect. Shoes after all, are what we prioritize, therefore function and comfort is our principal.

SVT: Which collection have you done so far that you’d say represents YUUL YIE?
Suunyul: YUUL YIE has different themes each season, but above all, one of the latest collections called “Oyster” I’d say definitely expresses YUUL YIE most. In my opinion, the public noticed the brand’s design philosophy and identity through the “Oyster” collection.

SVT: I see that you’re stocked at a few EC. When did the brand really start to take off and how did you expand your presence?
Sunnyul: YUUL YIE has been gradually got through to the foreign market since 2011. Sales mostly happened in Tokyo, Japan. Henceforth, we can’t figure out exactly when but it was around 2016 when we had favorable responses from global buyers. It was that time since that YUUL YIE's identity presence grew more than ever and was when the signature heel design, 'Y' was created. The bold and modern design incorporates art and commerciality therefore, generated positive feedbacks from foreign markets. Additionally, another factor that impacted our expansion is that the brand itself wasn’t affected much by the trends and our approach to a bolder design.

SVT: Any collaborations coming up in the near future and plans of expansion?
Sunnyul: I do research constantly to think about items that can be present within the brand. For instance, jewelry, bags, and perfumes are the areas that I’m concretely planning. One of YUUL YIE’s most biggest characteristics is ‘colour sense’ so that I am also thinking about a cosmetic line. Starting from 2020 RS, YUUL YIE will present a jewelry and bag line that I’m extremely excited about in presenting the new objects in an alternative way.