The Athene Garden, a wedding concept which Youngsong Martin presented at Lotte Hotel Seoul's wedding show last year / Courtesy of Lotte Hotel Seoul
By Kim Rahn
Everything in your life has a story, and your wedding should not be a mass-produced event but contain your own, says an event designer.
To Youngsong Martin, president of Wildflower Linen, what is important in a wedding is characteristics and style rather than just beautiful decorations or formality, and that's what Korean weddings lack.
"In Korea, brides and grooms are 'too polite'. They usually don't have any opinion about their wedding. Wherever they have the ceremony, it is the couple's own wedding. If somebody asks them why they chose the color of the decorations, they should have answers rather than saying: We just followed the wedding hall's concept. Come on, it is one of the most important moments in your life", she said.
Martin runs Wildflower Linen, an event design firm that has brought a new trend to the VIP party culture in the United States. She introduced unique decorations for various events from weddings and award ceremonies to home parties.
Martin's creations were featured at the post-Oscars Governor's Ball, Vanity Fair after-parties, a gala party for a DreamWorks premiere, and a banquet for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the White House. Some of her clientele include Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez and Elton John.
The 54-year-old linen designer's work goes beyond tablecloths and napkins to include chair covers, candles, flowers, centerpieces, tableware and lighting. Her company makes over $10 million in annual sales and has showrooms in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco, Phoenix and Park City.
Her fame has recently been known in Korea after she created Bella and Edward's wedding scene in the latest film in the Twilight saga, "Breaking Dawn".
Those fascinated by the movie scene can have a glimpse of Martin's beautiful, elegance and gorgeous decorations at the Lotte Hotel Seoul where she proposes wedding concepts for couples marrying there.
Every year since 2009, she has held wedding shows at the hotel, introducing new concepts _ "The Dream Wedding Experience" in 2009 expressed romance and nature in the city; "Fabulous Full Bloom in a White Garden" in 2010 showed unique flower decor; and "The Athene Garden" in 2011 featured the garden of a European palace. She is planning a fourth one for this April.
Martin presents several basic decoration concepts, and couples can have variations on them according to their tastes by consulting the hotel's wedding managers.
"I think I'm changing part of Korea's wedding culture as I changed America's event culture. I love doing this", she said.
She settled in the U.S. at the age of 21, gaining fame as a fashion designer with the women's apparel brand YS, which was sold in upper-class boutiques and department stores.
Martin closed the business; and began a "chair-covering" business by setting up Wildflower Linen in 2001 after she decorated her niece's wedding.
"Even when I was a fashion designer, I liked interior design. I liked putting things in places where they should be put. Some of my acquaintances told me to do interior design instead of fashion design. I think I was particularly good at interior design", she said.
When she started the business, the reaction was clearly divided, as event design was new even in the U.S.
"Some said, 'You are crazy'. Others said, 'Wow, that's fabulous!' I didn't listen to the former but only the latter and continued my work". And her decision was right, as she became a trendsetter in event design.
What is the most important in event design? "I'm the one who creates the mood. There's a lot of stuff ― textiles, the mix of textiles, the size of the event venue, etc. But to me, the most important thing is color. You need the right color in order for you to actually create the mood", she said.
Martin thinks being a Korean influences her design. "Western clients say my color use is a mystery. They said they never thought about matching the two colors as I did. Maybe such color matching came from the colors I saw in Korea when I was young".
She sets the design concept together with the clients. "When a client says, 'I have a feeling of this kind of theme', the client and I make the design together by choosing the most important part, dropping the less important part, and finding things which can reflect the client's personality the most. My job is to create the most beautiful thing".
It seems her success partly came from her personality, which the former instructor at the Otis-Parsons Art Institute's School of Design herself describes as "fearless".
"When I was a fashion designer, the school asked me to teach students. You know, teaching student is a very important job as it influences people's future. But I accepted the offer without thinking much. When something is given, I'm like, 'Okay, fine, let's do it'. But it doesn't mean I don't take it seriously. At Parsons, too, I tried my best to give the best teaching to them".
As a CEO and designer, Martin said she is managing both roles well. "There's no doubt about it that I'm a designer. But thinking about marketing as a CEO, I learn new things. It gives me so much more exciting energy. I love being both. I'm enjoying both and I'm sure I can do both well".
Now curious about her own home decoration? "My table is not decorated. All my furniture and carpets are white. I see so many colors outside doing my job, so my own place needs to be white. It may be selfish, but my husband understands as he is very proud of my interior design".
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