Yegang Yoo’s accessories label Imago-a is at once streamlined and sensual. The Seoul-native’s collection of belts, handbags, and wallets staves off clinical minimalism with a texturally rich assortment of materials and light refracting details. After years of shaping ready-to-wear for the likes of Hussein Chalayan, Rachel Comey, Vena Cava, and Ports 1961, Yoo launched her own leather goods collection influenced by architecture and furniture design. This month, Imago-a makes its Bergdorf Goodman debut with its structured Carré top handle bag and lucite buckle bag in crisp white, rich black, and a tempting shade of red. The later style points to Yoo’s obsession with furniture design, as its buckle is riffs on the late American artist and object designer Dorothy Thorpe’s acrylic candlesticks, umbrella holders, and napkin rings.
“The initial emotion, that excitement, imprints a strong memory in my brain and that naturally comes out when I’m designing,” Yoo says referring to the process of discovering designs she loves and seeing them surface in her work. Yoo also cites the Atlanta-born interior designer Arthur Elrod and Californian architect Pierre Koenig as key influences in her work. Their mid-century modern practice is partially responsible for Yoo’s pared-back aesthetic, defined by stark lines (no slouchy carryalls here), unfussy surfaces, and the juxtaposition of natural and manmade materials. Fascinated by spaces that push form to its limits without sacrificing function, Yoo is also tapping into the world around her.
“I had a pretty serious knee surgery and had to ride in an Uber everywhere,” Yoo explains. “Constantly sitting in midtown Manhattan traffic, I started looking closely at buildings in the city that I normally wouldn’t even see if I was walking” The resolute lines of these buildings coupled with the subtle inflections in their tonality and textural gave Yoo a newfound appreciation for the area’s Art Deco structures.
No matter how far she looks to outside influences for creative energy, Yoo’s focus always returns to human hands. When the Ports 1961 accessories design studio relocated to Milan during her tenure at the label, Yoo witnessed Italian craftsmen working their magic with locally sourced and tanned skins. “That was when I really fell in love with handbags,” she gushes. In an unintentional homage to the handwork which nudged her to launch Imago-a, Yoo engages in origami-like folding early in the design process. “I sketch rough shapes and try to realize them in 3-D with paper,” she explains. “For me that, is the most exciting part of the process.”