A London College of Fashion graduate, Younwon Kim launched Danse Lente in 2017. We find out more about her design process in our exclusive interview.

MONNIER Frères: How did you start? 
Youngwon Kim: It came to me quite naturally as I always thought of doing this. Fortunately, an opportunity came along when I was just waiting for the right time to start it.

M.F.: How did you come up with the french name Danse Lente ? 
Y.K.: I just brainstormed and thought of many different names for the brand. Randomly, ‘slow dance’ popped up in my head, and then I looked it up in French and discovered Danse Lente. I just liked the sound of it, as well as the meaning. Handbags are accessories that people ‘wear’ a lot in everyday life. I often use word ‘wear’, instead of hold or other verbs for some reason, because they can indeed be worn around our torso. I pictured some sort of slow-dance-like movement of people walking and wearing handbags in their everyday life. I wanted to evoke some sort of uplifting sensation through that imagery, and that’s how I decided on the brand’s name, Danse Lente.

M.F.: You said you’ve been inspired by Picasso and Brancusi. Can you tell us a bit more about this ? 
Y.K.: I do get inspiration from many different sources. The reason why I mentioned Brancusi is that the exceptional harmony of straight and curved lines is so timelessly alluring, which inspires me every time. Needless to say, Picasso boasts a large body of work and encompasses many different styles and techniques.

Out of all his inspiring pieces of art, pottery, for example, demonstrates the combination of warm colour, bold and chunky lines and his unique sense of wit. As a notable figure in the art of Cubism, even his drawings are still very radical to me. Most importantly, I just get this inexplicable feeling of warmth and calmness from Picasso’s work, especially his sculpture. I must say standing in the middle of Picasso Museum in Paris feels oddly meditative. Last but not least, I have tremendous respect for Picasso as a fine artist at his time. What’s very special is that his art is still very much accessible and not at all pretentious, which makes it even fairly commercially viable. He’s definitely true genius and my ultimate role model!

M.F.: You were trained as a shoemaker. Why choosing to go for bags instead? 
Y.K.: I would still love to design shoes and be keen to do a collection one day. I guess the reason why I took up designing bags without much hesitation was because of that relative freedom in design, compared to shoes. Not being bound to a shape, I thought there were less constraints in bags, and I was attracted to the possibility of being more courageous in shaping bags.

M.F.: Instagram helped you to gain an early access to notoriety. Do you think that social medias are now the norm for new brands ? 
Y.K.: I suppose that is the case nowadays. Small young designers’ brands have more opportunities to show their brand identity in less polished, more casual ways embracing more direct-to-customer approaches without other intermediaries. The idea is still very attractive, but has become a new survival tool, indeed.

M.F.: You are part of a new generation of designers that offers a new take on handbags with raisonnably priced good.Why did it took so long for fashion to understand that a it-bag did not have to be crazily expensive to be attractive ? 
Y.K.: At the time when I started Danse Lente, there weren’t many brands offering reasonably-priced bags. Now, I feel there’s definitely more of them. I guess the lack of designers and brands with reasonable price points meant that the industry perhaps tended to overlook that particular needs in the market. Bags are no longer mere means to carry some stuff around. There have been increasing trends to view them more as accessories, which has resulted in people buying them much more casually.

M.F.: What would be your advice for a budding accessories designer eager to launch his/her brand?
Y.K.: I’m surviving and striving every day myself! I suppose keeping the balance between what you want to design and what consumers want, without being too seriously caught up in it, is perhaps one way of making your brand more loved by people. I’m also working towards that.

M.F.: Will you ever produce shoes one day ?
Y.K.: Yes!

M.F: What’s next for Danse Lente bags? 
Y.K.: Our bags have been very geometrical in their core designs so far. This season, I hope to show a lot softer designs and maybe experiment a bit more. I would rather avoid sticking to one particular aesthetic. I would love to digest many different styles and aesthetics in our own Danse Lente way and keep on finding practical solutions to produce our bags!

M.F.: Do you remember the first accessory you possessed ? 
Y.K.: From my vague memory, it was something very cute.

M.F.: Do you remember the first accessory you created ? 
Y.K.: Footwear. I still remember its design vividly, even its silhouette, colour and last. It was the time when I first started the course at Cordwainers, which was very exciting. It still stays with me as a great memory.

M.F.: Which accessory do you wish you had created ? 
Y.K.: Jewellery design could be very fascinating. I’d love to try one day.

M.F.: The most important for a woman : Shoes or bag ? Why ?
Y.K.: It’s a very, very difficult question. Um maybe bag? It’s physically close to where your hands are, and you could say it has closer relationship with your body.