Sandra Oh's subtle Black Lives Matter tribute at the Emmys

By Heather Cichowski

The 2020 Emmy Awards saw all sorts of special fashion, despite there being no red carpet due to the coronavirus pandemic. Celebrities used the unique circumstances and "come as you are, but make an effort" dress code to channel their creativity and to bring attention to important causes with their style choices.

Sandra Oh used her 2020 Emmys outfit to highlight the Black Lives Matter movement. The star, who was nominated in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category for Killing Eve, worked with KORELIMITED and her stylist, Elizabeth Saltzman, on the bespoke look. It subtly drew attention to the equality movement while paying tribute to her Korean heritage.

"After George Floyd’s death and the protests that followed, I felt that as an Asian-American, a Korean-American person, I wanted to express my support for the Black community in a way that felt personal to my community," she told British Vogue.

A friend of hers made her aware of KORELIMITED, a Los Angeles-based streetwear brand from designer Matthew Kim that celebrates Korean culture and had already produced a line of Black Lives Matter T-shirts. Sandra, who watched the Emmys from L.A., collaborated with the brand on a bespoke bomber jacket.

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This #EMMYS2020 project with @iamsandraohinsta , her stylist @elizabethsaltzman , and their team was very exciting for us. As a streetwear brand that celebrates Korean culture, we had a lot of fun fusing traditional and modern fashion. Here are some fun facts behind our inspiration: Fun fact #1: Shown on the sleeve is the norigae, a colorful hanging accessory that is usually tied to the waistband of hanboks (traditional Korean costumes). Fun Fact #2: Inspired by the hanbok, the neck is lined with dongjeong, a white thin collar that folds above the main collar. Dongjeongs are only white and a part of all traditional hanbok tops. Fun fact #3: These bomber jackets are reversible with a special inner lining printed in hunminjeongeum, the original form of the Korean alphabet. Fun Fact #4: Hunminjeongeum was invented by a king in Korea - King Sejong the Great. The lining is printed with this message from him: (translated to modern Korean) 나라의 말이 중국과 달라 한문·한자와 서로 통하지 아니하므로 이런 까닭으로 어리석은 백성들이 말하고자 하는 바가 있어도 끝내 제 뜻을 펴지 못하는 사람이 많다. 내가 이를 불쌍히 여겨 새로 스물여덟 글자를 만드니 사람마다 하여금 쉽게 익혀 날마다 씀에 편하게 하고자 할 따름이다. (translated to English) "Our country's language is different from China's that the people can't communicate with each other through Chinese characters. For this reason, even though the naïve people have something to say, many cannot fully express their meaning. I took pity on this and created 28 new characters so that every person can easily learn and comfortably use daily."

A post shared by KORELIMITED OFFICIAL (@korelimited) on

The special piece from KORELIMITED featured many carefully considered details that fused traditional and modern fashion while honouring the Black Lives Matter movement.

Sandra told British Vogue the particular regal shade of purple was chosen because it was a very Korean colour. KORELIMITED revealed on Instagram the bomber shape was inspired by a hanbok, a traditional Korean garment often made in bright colours and worn for more formal occasions.

The neckline, sleeves and reversible lining drew further inspiration from Korean garments. The jacket was lined in a hunminjeongeum print, the original form of the Korean alphabet associated with King Sejong the Great.

Sandra's jacket also featured the message "Black lives are precious," written in Korean script. The slight change is because "the literal translation of Black Lives Matter is impossible in Korean," she said.

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Fans who are inspired by the lovely message of Sandra's jacket can also get their own. KORELIMITED is selling the reversible bombers now exclusively on its website. The bomber jackets are available in two styles: a cropped lavender version with a silver reverse (US$375) and a black style with a unisex fit and silver reverse (US$375).

The black and silver version of Sandra's bomber jacket. Photos: © KORELIMITED

Purchasing the jackets will also help benefit the Black community because a part of the proceeds from the sale will go towards Campaign Zero (which is focused on ending police brutality) and Black Girls Code, a nonprofit organization hand-selected by Sandra.

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