For the “Pachinko” Costume Designer, Every Garment Carries Significance


Since its much-anticipated debut in late March, “Pachinko,” based on the New York Times bestselling novel of the same name, has captivated viewers with its gripping story of one Korean family through four generations. While “Pachinko” is a work of fiction, the Apple TV+ series – like the book – effortlessly weaves historical authenticity into the lives of its fictional characters. In fact, authenticity was the “bedrock” of the show, as Soo Hugh, the creator, showrunner, writer, and executive producer, has frequently spoken about maintaining the historical accuracy of Korea throughout the 1900s. Hugh captures the era through the characters, the beautiful sets, the vivid food, and of course, the clothing.

In only five months, costume designer Kyunghwa Chae procured all of the period garments of “Pachinko,” about 80 percent of which were custom-made. Others were discovered from vintage shops in Japan and France. While Chae has been a regular on Korean film sets for the past two decades, “Pachinko” was her first US-based project, a feat she didn’t take lightly. “Since I was the only Korean amongst a primarily foreign staff team, I felt a great sense of responsibility to play my part in the authenticity [of the show],” Chae tells POPSUGAR ahead of the season one finale, which aired on April 29.

The costumer “completely fell in love” with the original novel, and after a single meeting with Hugh, she wanted in on the project. As historical truth was key for Hugh, Chae and her team consulted historians and professors and pored over books, photographs, and photo albums that belonged to people who had lived during the early 20th century.

Ahead, Chae walks POPSUGAR through what came of the tireless research, the evolution of the hanbok, navigating various time periods in three different countries, and more.

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