@Yang_Cheon_Shik | Sewing Influencer
Cheon Shik (first name) Yang (last name), aka Jeff van Damme, is a Korean-American adoptee living in New York City. He’s active in the music and theater community and has a deep background in performance and behind-the-scenes work there.
As part of his exploration of his Korean heritage, Cheon Shik (@Yang_Cheon_Shik) has learned about, and continues to make, traditional Korean clothing. He now wears the luxurious, multilayered hanbok he creates almost exclusively. His outfits are paired with a gorgeous assortment of accessories including a gat, a semitransparent horsehair hat with a wide brim. For anyone who loves textiles, color, and striking silhouettes, Cheon Shik’s ensembles have immense appeal. More importantly, they remind us to embrace the role of clothing in expressing who we are.
You can learn more about making hanbok on Cheon Shik’s YouTube channel. Listen to a thoughtful and articulate discussion of his journey toward his personal wardrobe style, in “Seoul Conversations: Empowerment over Obligation.”
How did you learn to sew?
I learned really easy basics when I was little, like sewing buttons back on and how to do a running stitch. Working in theater sort of gave me quick lessons so I could help with the costume department. In terms of my own wardrobe, I’d always dye, embroider, alter pre-existing garments to fit whatever my style was at the time.
As I grew to embrace my heritage and began research into making my own hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), I’d use the traditional techniques I learned from books on chimseon (traditional Korean sewing technique), along with the historical dress community/Costube community on YouTube. Though mainly based on Western/European garments and fashion, the techniques and knowledge I’ve gained have helped me so much in the execution of my own pieces of work.
Which sewing word or term is your favorite?
I think I have a love/hate relationship with “pleats.” I love how they look and how the end product turns out, but the word does jump out at me when reading; I think it’s that I’m terrible with math, but don’t actually mind doing the pleating by hand, just the word strikes a freezing fear upon initial sight.
Which fabric do you enjoy sewing the most?
I’m almost always using some sort of silk, and I love a shantung or dupioni silk. Yes, organza and taffeta are lovely fabrics, but I love seeing the textures of the fabric and how that can bring so much more dimension to the garment individually and to the outfit as a whole.
What are you currently sewing?
Currently, I’m working on a heat-tolerant summer hanbok wardrobe. I’ve made pieces in muslin and linens previously, but now have been working more with silk organza for breathability, since I’m usually in multiple layers. I rarely have special projects in mind for the future. Mainly, I find a fabric and figure what type of hanbok garment it would work best as and go from there.
Please share what you love best about sewing.
I think what I love best about sewing is the limitless freedom to create. Since making and creating my own wardrobe, void of Western fashion; buying “fast fashion” and pre-existing garments seems such a silly thing when I can make it myself and to the exact specifications I want. If I see a color combination or textile layering that I like, I’ll find the fabrics and make it in a traditional Korean pattern. Getting not only the garment itself, but the knowledge learned from researching the history and pattern and use, only furthers the fulfillment I get from knowing more of my own heritage and culture through self-made traditional garments.
Photos: Brian Wagner and Somie Pak