By Jihye You
“Through clothes, I strive to change the way women think, change the way they carry themselves and make their self-confidence shine.” – Nora Noh
Source: NORA NOH official Facebook
Nora Noh, now 86, is the first fashion designer in South Korea and still working with 64 years experiences in the fashion industry. Since 1956, she holds a fashion show every year.
In 1947, when she was 19 years old, she went to the U.S. to study fashion. After 2 years, she returned to Korea and founded the “House of Nora Noh”. Nora Noh was the first brand to establish itself in the Korean fashion industry. She was the first person to hold a fashion show in Korea in 1956 and launch designer ready-to-wear clothing for career women in 1963.
South Korea’s first fashion show at Bando Hotel in 1956
During a period where the Korean women were restricted to careers choices such as being a housewife or factory worker, she made the way for Korean women to become more liberated through fashion. Nora dressed the Korean famous singer Yoon Bok-hee in a miniskirt. It brought a national sensation in the 1960s. She also styled the duo vocal group Pearl Sisters in flared pants called Pantallong.
Yoon Bok-hee in a miniskirt designed by Nora Noh
Pearl Sisters in flared pants called Pantallong designed by Nora Noh
In 1979, she became the first Korean fashion business to have ever entered the U.S. market. The designs of Nora Noh were featured on the cover of Vogue and Bazaar. She was also the first Korean designer to have her clothing showcased by Macy’s. For a period of 15 years, Nora Noh consistently sold its collections to Macy’s, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Henry Bendel, Neiman Marcus, I. Magnin, and Bullock’s.
The cover of Vogue by Nora Noh in 1985
Last year, the documentary film about her life, Nora Noh, was released and invited to the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) and the 15th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul.
This film uses “fashion” as a medium and attempts to illustrate women’s desire and compose women’s cultural history in the 1950s and 1960s. The director contextualizes the life of Nora NOH, who cultivated an independent world, by weaving together the representation of the past, the usage of video and film images, and the process of preparing for a fashion show in the present. In this documentary, Nora NOH’s clothes are the links that unravel the memories and desires of various women who lived through that particular time period, and they also reveal how it was possible for women during the 1950s and 1960s to express themselves through fashion. (From Program note of The 15th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul)
Posters of the movie Nora Noh
In an interview with WSJ’s Scene Asia, after more than six decades as a designer, Nora calls herself a laborer and a “craftsman,” not an artist, arguing that fashion’s primary purpose is to serve people’s needs. “I always wanted women to feel confident in my clothes,” she said. “Once you are comfortable in the clothes you are in, you can move around freely. Then your thoughts are eventually liberated, too.”
Nora has always designed expressly for working women. “Through clothes, I strive to change the way women think, change the way they carry themselves and make their self-confidence shine,” she said.
Learn more about Nora Noh on Youtube, Movie Trailer and follow her updates via her Facebook page and Website.
Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.