In The Studio With IMAGO-A: On Architecture & The Art of The Handbag
Having worked with beloved designers including Rachel Comey, Hussein Chalayan, and Vena Cava, and nested in London, Milan, and New York, Yegang Yoo draws inspiration from her experiences, both past and present. In 2013, the South Korean-born, Brooklyn-based designer launched her own brand IMAGO-A, honing in on her true love—accessories. She’s been making handbag magic from within her Greenpoint studio ever since.
“I got really into the art of handbag making while at Ports 1961 when the design studio was based in Milan, working with a handful of Italian leather craftsmen in small factories,” Yoo told Milk. “My passion really is building interesting new shapes for handbags using different materials.”
“It started out with our Prism collection, which was inspired by geometry and the architecture of Luis Barragan & John Latner. Since spring ’17, the inspiration has shifted more toward the interior, and I’ve been working on shapes that are more rounded, softer, and feminine.”
That especially comes through in IMAGO-A’s Carré in Noir, which Yoo carries now. “It’s a perfect sized day-to-night bag that also has different options for how to carry it—from hand-held to shoulder bag to cross-body.” But all of Yoo’s designs are heavily influenced by art and architecture, adding a rare depth to her work, and making her handbags stand out in the grand sea of street style.
So whether you’re in London, Milan, or New York, Yoo’s your girl when it comes to daydream-fueled outing ideas. And when she’s not out exploring and collecting inspiration, you can probably find her at her studio. Fueled by good music and felines, the studio is at the center of IMAGO-A, and we’re smitten. Read our conversation with the designer below, and take a behind-the-scenes look at the brand in the gallery above.
Hi Yegang! It’s finally feeling like spring here in New York. Any fun ways you’re ringing in the season?
Finally! We’re planning to throw as many daytime backyard BBQs as possible as soon as the weather warms up. The winter in NYC feels so long, and hot summer creeps up fast, so there’s only a short window of very comfortable weather outside with the sun, and we need to make the most of it!
Also visiting Storm King Art Center upstate is a must, as well as the Botanical Garden in the Bronx in full bloom, one of these sunny weekends. Plus the warmer weather means more biking around, the best way to explore different neighborhoods and dining spots in Brooklyn, so I’m excited for that.
I feel like spring is an especially good time to show off accessories. What made you want to develop an accessories line, specifically?
I have a clothing design background and worked for a lot of different brands. But I got really into the art of handbag making while at Ports 1961 when the design studio was based in Milan, working with a handful of Italian leather craftsmen in small factories. My passion really is building interesting new shapes for handbags using different materials. Belts are a newer addition to the collection, with the lucite buckle I’ve developed for the Spring line.
My passion really is building interesting new shapes for handbags using different materials.
How do you think IMAGO-A has evolved since its start in 2013?
It started out with our Prism collection, which was inspired by geometry and the architecture of Luis Barragan & John Latner. Since Spring 17, the inspiration has shifted more toward the interior, and I’ve been working on shapes that are more rounded, softer, and feminine. The core sculptural elements are still there and each shape is built from scratch. My clothing design and draping background enables me to experiment with unique and original shapes, but I always aim to create timeless and sophisticated products that can integrate into an everyday wardrobe and last for a long time.
I love the sculptural elements in your work! Having lived in London, Milan and NY, is there a city’s architecture you’re especially inspired by?
One of my favorites in Milan is Cimitero Monumentale—lots of ornate marble tombstones and monuments, and full of elegant geometry. There’s also Museo del Novecento, which was originally the Palazzao dell’Arengario, a 1950s complex in central Milan. It’s a perfect example of beautifully juxtaposed old (exterior) and new (interior). And I’d have to include Fondazione Prada!
In London, the Barbican estate and centre stands out for me. It’s a classic example of Brutalist architecture and the product of a postwar utopian vision. Tate Modern is another beautiful building that originally was an old power station that turned into something that would make people care about modern art. The new edition of Herzog & de Meuron’s south wing looks stunning as well (especially at night when it’s lit). Also love Hayward Gallery in the South Bank, one of modernist concrete buildings in the area—endless angles and edges in a brutal geometric aesthetic.
Apart from the obvious masterpieces in New York, Spring Street Salt Shed is an interesting new one. It literally holds the salt for New York winter. Lenox Health Greenwich Village has always been one of my favorites. I also really enjoy being inside the World Trade Center transportation hub underground—the stark, white, organic, futuristic form of the whole structure is quite stunning, and love how it sounds in there as well. It feels like you are in a futuristic religious compound.
Do you have favorite museums or NY spots when you’re in need of inspiration?
This changes depending on what’s available, but the Met Museum has so many amazing things in there, you can always count on finding something that inspires you. I also love going to Dia:Beacon via train—the view on the way by Hudson river is so serene and beautiful. It’s a perfect getaway to refresh your head with art and nature. If you could squeeze in a quick hike near Beacon or Cold Spring, even better!
My clothing design and draping background enables me to experiment with unique and original shapes.
I’m sure you put in a lot of hours at your studio-what are three musts for the space?
Good music, a good sound system, and a cat!
Where can we find you when you’re not at your studio?
Daytime: Garment district, local lunch spots, visiting shops that carry IMAGO-A.
Nighttime: Our music studio downstairs, local bars, or music venues for shows and dancing!
What’s your go to bag right now, and what can we always find in it?
I’ve been carrying our classic Carré in Noir. It’s a perfect sized day-to-night bag that also has different options for how to carry it—from hand-held to shoulder bag to cross-body. Also the back slip pocket to stick in your phone is crucial for city life (I can’t imagine not having it!) and so is the easy-to-open flap with hidden magnetic closure. Very effortless and practical but also unique looking. I have my keys, a lip balm, and earphones in the inside pocket, my Forma Wallet, a notebook, a pen, sunglasses in the bag. And of course, my phone in the back slip pocket!
Stay tuned to Milk for more studio visits.