Entering Daelim Museum from the side entrance, I followed the sound of flapping leaves mingled with the chirping of birds and insects, until I came upon the “Tong’s Atelier” pavilion for Daelim Museum x RE;CODE. Continuing as I was, treading on pebbles, the little hut of Box Atelier came into view, with a basic sewing machine and tools for needlework inside to sign visitors up for a journey of fashion transformation.
Since collaborating with RE;CODE for the curation of the Future Fashion Lab in 2019, I have only been able to look upon their lives through the window of social media. Is everyone doing well?
Genuine initiatives to promote sustainable fashion never make easy paths, one almost has to feel his way through. Beyond my own endeavours, I am always interested to know how my peers are doing too. What kind of change-inducing ideas are they working on? Seeing this charming hut, I just could not hold myself. I have found an excuse to send my greetings to my friend – Park Sunzoo, Chief Designer of RE;CODE – and learn about this intriguing project.
In collaboration with Daelin Museum in Seoul, RE;CODE presents the exhibition “TONG’s VINTAGE: The Strange Tongui General Store” to explore how sustainable development tackles issues pertaining to climate change. The name of the exhibition “TONG’s VINTAGE” literally translates as “Tongui Vintage” in Korean, as derived from “Tongui-dong”, that is, the museum’s location. The exhibition space becomes a vintage store. Through the hands of artists, old items manifest a new shine that spark visitors’ curiosity.
The exhibition consists of seven parts, each presenting one type of material, the actual presentation of which hinging upon the time needed for the material to decompose naturally. Starting from the slowest to the fastest, it begins with glass and progresses into plastic, metal, textile products, wood, paper and eco-friendly material. RE;CODE is for sure an exemplar of upcycling fashion in Korea and even in the world.
“Up-cycling, a compound word of ‘Upgrade’ and ‘Recycling’, which differs from recycling in that it adds new value and usability by changing the way it is used rather than as it. It is a concept that goes a step further than recycling, and it can be understood as the meaning of “upgrading” recycled products.”
Such is how they expound on their design vision, a model for myself as well. Besides regularly taking leftover materials from the group’s 7 fashion brands to redevelop new fashion lines, they also set up the first permanent Box Atelier in their main atelier in Nodeul Island, offering bespoke service for its customers through their Re;collection service. They redesign the old clothes with happy memories, endowing them with new meanings and value.
今次的《Tong’s Atelier》合作企劃裡，他們在綠林中築起一間Box Atelier，邀請參加者携帶滿載回憶但不會再穿的舊T恤，由RE;CODE鐵粉／設計助手，亦即是Good News in the Morning主理人Seungheon OH駐場一個月，擔任顧問，引導他們親手製作，或是讓Seungheon代勞，以預設的3款重塑設計作藍本，改造自己的的舊衣。
所有從這小盒子出產的，都是獨一無二，「Only 1 piece was made」。
For the collaboration on “Tong’s Atelier”, they constructed a Box Atelier in the woods, inviting participants to bring in old T-shirts with memories and which they no longer wear. The T-shirts underwent the treatment of Seungheon OH, who is a RE:CODE’s long-term fan/ Sunzoo’s design junior and also the founder of Good News in the Morning. He participated as the redesign artisan for a month as a consultant, to guide or help them remake. They used three default redesigns as blueprints to upcycle their old clothes.
Apart from Box Atelier, they also made use of leftover fabric samples from the company’s car seat manufacturing for Re;table DIY workshops on making fashionable coin case. They offer friendly guidance for participants to “start or continue a sustainable lifestyle with TONG’S ATELIER.”
I remember before our first meeting at the Seoul branch of RE;CODE in 2018, when I brushed shoulders with this chief designer for the first time, my immediate impression was, “Oh! How stylishly she dresses even while pregnant.” Thereafter, we were only able to greet each other virtually, and witness her little baby’s growth on a screen.
Sunzoo said, “Many brands have proposed environmental friendly methods they believe in. Having worked at RE:CODE for 9 years, I feel uncomfortable about producing new items every year; Despite that, I am still very happy, because RE;CODE uses materials leftover from others’ productions to make products with minimal carbon footprints. In my life, there are already more old things than new, even my three-year-old daughter takes things after her sisters, or even wears her mother’s altered clothes (me ^^). I am very happy now, because I believe it looks very natural, very cool, and it is an effort for the environment!”
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, some say that we have all been startled awake, yet I see that many more are still encouraging consumption in the name of environmental conservation and sustainability, not to mention making more disposable wastes. Whenever I feel demotivated, I look at these little cuties, and in my heart I tell them, “I carry on for you.”