If you haven’t already heard, its high time you get yourself acquainted with Danse Lente, the handbag label that is gracing the arms of fashion darlings all over the world. Meaning “slow dance” in French, the label’s bags have been spotted making their rounds during the recent NYFW and LFW. Sleek designs notwithstanding, Danse Lente’s affordable price points have also accorded it a cult-like status since its launch in 2016.
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In this exclusive interview, we speak to designer and founder of Danse Lente, Youngwon Kim, about the challenges she faced while setting up the label and how she parlayed her background in footwear design into bags now coveted by many.
What inspired you to launch your own brand?
As a designer, I naturally came to a point where I wanted to be able to make key decisions myself with more autonomy and control in the creative process. Obviously, it doesn’t always work like that in reality. But it was important for me to be able to even determine the extent of compromise, which led to setting up my own brand.
Explain your label name “Danse Lente”and why did you choose it?
Dance Lente means ‘slow dance’ in French. I see imaginary dance-like movements of people carrying our bags. I hope the brand gives people uplifting feelings with our bags, a bit like feeling of dancing, but with elegance and simplicity.
How do you think your background in footwear has shaped your approach towards your label?
I’m very much familiar with materials, details, and basic techniques of making, because of my background in footwear design. But, it was definitely a challenge to familiarise myself with more traditional patterns of handbag making. Perhaps, because of that, I could experiment a bit more and design the bags with fun.
How different is it to work on bags?
Around the inherent curve of human feet, footwear designs in general have more room to play with extreme curved lines, which I enjoyed very much. Working on bags—those curved lines might be over the top on the body, but I still tried using various lines and shapes on the hardware and other parts instead. I think there is less limitation with bags in a sense that they don’t have to be directly attached to the human body unlike shoes or clothes. So, it’s more liberating and fascinating to design a piece that stands alone by itself as an individual product with more creative control.
What are your main influences that have inspired your design philosophies?
I’d say Marcel Duchamp for his radical thinking. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m influenced by his visual style, but I like his artistic and creative endeavours in a broad context. It’s hard to implement that sort of approach in making bags, but I try to think differently of even a small detail when I design.
How do you think the city of London, where the label is based at, has inspired your designs?
London is without doubt an inspiring city. It has a distinctive identity, both in its history and culture, yet I feel it’s very much open to new ideas and experiments, compared to other European cities. It has some inviting neutrality without being too masculine or feminine. That’s how I feel personally.
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Describe the Danse Lente consumer.
It’s similar to Londoners, people of the city I described above—open and inviting to new things with positive energy, and not too feminine.
What makes your label unique and why do you think it is so well-received?
I’d like to believe that our efforts to experiment have made our brand unique. Technically, we worked very hard to develop new hardware pieces and tried to bring some strong contrast in colour blocking. An affordable price point is also a big factor for our consumers.
Do you have a favourite piece from your collection?
They’re all my babies. It’s really hard to pick one. Umm… I really can’t. Sorry!
How do you ensure quality of your product, given the competitive price point?
I simply try to control every single detail in the process of manufacturing as much as possible. I also embrace the conditions of manufacturing early on and try to come up with more practical solutions in my design.
What were some of the challenges you faced while building up your brand?
Um…everything? Every part of setting up the brand was a huge challenge for me. In fact, I’ve literally used the word, ‘challenge’ a lot for the last couple of years!
What is the current mood of fashion and how does your voice as a designer fit in it?
I’m not quite sure how to answer this. I do think a lot about the trend in some ways but mostly try not to pay too much attention to it… Sorry!
What are your immediate plans for your label?
I’m thinking of opening a pop-up shop and I want to give my 100% on that!
What do you hope to achieve 5 years from now?
First of all, on a personal level I’d love to see Danse Lente continue to produce the designs that will satisfy me more as a designer. And then it goes without saying that hopefully people will also love our bags more, too. Then I hope the brand will grow with more establishment and stability in the long run.
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Who are your fashion heroes and why?
Raf Simons. I like everything about him. Sorry, I just love him without a reason!
Shop Danse Lente on their website now.