Arts & Culture

Fragile fashion: Korean paper fashion show at Museum of Glass

Renowned Korean fashion designer Jeon Yang-Bae of Tacoma’s sister-city Gunsan in South Korea comes to direct a show of his latest hanji, or paper fabric, designs next weekend at the Museum of Glass. Already sold out at the Seattle Asian Art Museum for July 30, the Aug. 2 show at MoG features over 60 exotic paper gowns and garments in a runway model show with reception afterward.

The show is organized by Tacoma’s Asia Pacific Cultural Center, with director Patsy Surh O’Connell inviting Jeon to show his latest collection and celebrate the Tacoma-Gunsan sister-city connection at the same time. The two cities have been formally connected for 35 years.

“Gunsan wants to celebrate the Tacoma-Gunsan sister-city relationship by sending this delegations,” said O’Connell.

And before you ask – yes, these clothes are made from paper. Hanji is a paper traditionally made from stripped mulberry bark, and it’s both flexible and very tough, making it ideal for garments. Recent experimentation has, according to the show’s press release, "solved the weak points such as laundry and fastness," allowing for dyeing and expanding the possibilities of paper as a wearable fabric. Researchers are even looking at adding antibiotic and quick-drying characteristics to allow the fabric to be used for socks and underwear in the future.

Right now, though, Jeon’s work explores the hold and drape of hanji in a spectacular color spectrum, inspired by traditional Korean clothing design elements such as high collars, full skirts and close-fitting bodices.