Writer Seung-hee Goh / Photograph Hyung-in Park –
This small studio is the biggest bag that CDY (Creation club of Korean National University of Arts) – comprising of Hyuk Yoon, Dong-Hoon Yoo, and So-Hyun Kim – has in its collection. Located in Yaksu-dong, Seoul, CDY has filled its small abode with over 6 years of memories in the creation of its fashion enterprise. Starting in 2013, they began making bags as art students: “It was kind of rebellion at first. We started it to get out of the school’s rigid atmosphere. For us, a bag is a space, a room. It was the most private space we could afford and have to ourselves back then,” says Hyuk.
The curtains of their venture were drawn with the act of a pair of trousers being cut and dismantled. From this raw material, a bag was produced using a well-used sewing machine, their first product and the beginning point of CDY’s recycled art range. “It was a creation of space, where I can fit something in,” says Hyuk.
After their first solo exhibition in 2017, they came to a cross-road, whether to practice fine art or commercial design and decided upon opening a bag shop, manualizing the work and organizing a product range – studio ‘2nd CYCLE’, the shop, opened in 2018. CDY makes bags using old trousers and also produce customized bags for people who want to have their own unique bag. Whoever visits this little studio can encounter a new world of recycled fashion.
“There’s no errors, mistakes, faults in this studio. It’s like an island, off-world. Space you can just create things without rules.” says So-Hyun. All the bags they’ve made have their own stories. People who come here to order custom bags often talk about their stories – stories they have never told others before, and these stories are spliced together in the craft of creating something new. “Time flies when you talk about stories of your life and it’s those stories we stitch into your own bag,” says So-Hyun.
This playful bag-making, which creates the best combination in limited materials unlike ready-made ones, knocks down the wall between fine art and commercial design. “In school, well, we had to choose either commercial or fine art. However, I wondered…is it absolutely necessary to divide those two categories and make us fit into either one of them?” says Dong-Hoon.
After 6 years, they have come to be recognized as up-and-coming young artists. Their bags are commercial products yet artwork at the same time. “The reason why people call us ‘artists’ is probably because we make bags with our emotions. As we make them not in a factory but at our studio, we can make different things anytime, and put our emotions into it every-time we do it,” says Hyuk.
The future they draw is nothing grand. They can go on if there are any old trousers, a sewing machine, and a few colorful skeins of thread. “We don’t care what people call us. They just call us the way they understand us. We just like what we do now, and carry on. I hope I can just continue this journey with my two hands, of course in a good direction.” says So-Hyun.
“There was a time I thought I can make fortune by making bags. I know it was me daydreaming. I don’t do that anymore. I just hope to meet more people and make bags for them. I just love this place more and more with every day that passes.” says Hyuk.
So-Hyun’s artwork in 2017
Describing the work, So-Hyun says: “It is a kind of drawing to me. I named this work ‘Time’ in the beginning. I finished this bag with the end of a sewing line. Then I removed it later on in order to keep track of how much progress I made through this work.”
A bag made of Hyuk Yoon’s old trousers, stitched with Dong-Hoon’s mum’s old sewing machine. They stuck to several rules working on this bag:
⓵ Strictly trousers only (because they could not afford other materials)
⓶ No other accessories (no zippers, buttons, whatsoever)
⓷ Always make bags
They eliminated all the zippers or buttons as they saw them as a symbol of commercial ready-made products. In the end, they got the bag that consists of a pair of strings, one main pouch, and a pocket, called OBOJ (One Bag by One Jean).
Hyuk Yoon made this when he was 24. “I had several relationships back then and all failed. It is a product of my introspection during that age.”
Work from the same period as ‘Never Together’. It embodies all of the types of emotions experienced when being in a relationship.
This work represents ‘the time of despair’. As an art student, the gap between fine art and commercial art was absurd for So-Hyun. At the same time, a presidential impeachment was going on…for them, life and society appeared to be in chaos. The bunny without limbs is the record of their emotions and feelings during that period.
Their work has changed since their shop opened. They started to attach zippers for convenience and use synthetics to make the bag lighter. “We’re in sales now, not in school anymore. It’s only natural that our rules have loosened.” However, their bags are still standing out, drawing comments such as “I saw your bag on the subway.” At CDY, all bags continue to weave their own stories.
CDY is attracting more and more regulars with recycled bags to their ‘CDY 2nd Cycle” studio after its members graduated from college.