MCM Bag Exclusive: 8 Women Artists On Their Hand-painted Designs

Words by Jody Hume | 3.10.20

An MCM bag or backpack is an essential for many millennials and Gen Zers. With all-over logos and a modern take on functional travel accessories, an MCM bag is one of the new generation of coveted pieces that marry luxury and streetwear. But these are MCM bags like you’ve never seen them. Hand-painted by women artists of the Korea Fashion Illustration Association, they’re only available at The RealReal, and each is as unique as the artist who painted it. 

Originally founded in Munich in 1976 (MCM first stood for founder Michael Cromer’s initials and the city where it was born), the brand became known for its aspirational, over-the-top ’80s luxury aesthetic. A decline followed, but fast forward to 2005 when investor Sung Joo Kim acquired the label, and an era of reinvention and reascendance was ushered in. MCM now stands for Modern Creation München, sales have skyrocketed and the brand has tapped into the zeitgeist partnering with sustainability-minded designer Christopher Raeburn, and experimenting with forward-thinking biodynamic production techniques. Working with The RealReal on an upcycled collection was a logical next step, giving responsible, fashion-conscious consumers the chance to take part in the circular economy and express their personal style with original designs created by artists. The resulting works fuse the ethos of MCM — luxury, youthful spirit, a streetwear aesthetic — with the artists’ points of view on everything from Korean folk painting to medieval philosophy to the clean lines of geometric design.

So, will you wear your MCM bag on the street as a personal power piece, or display it in your space like the gallery-worthy collector’s item it is? We say, why not both. Read on to learn more about the artists and hear, in their own words, the inspiration behind their designs. 

Mash-Up by Kwun, Jee Hyun

Professor, College of Design, The University of Suwon, PhD in Design, Yonsei University

MCM Dessau Drawstring Bag & MCM Dessau Tote hand-painted by Kwun, Jee Hyun 

“These works seek to blend disparate elements and specifically depict how the traditional and modern, East and West harmonize with each other, using pop-art and Korean folk painting.”


Like Other Faces by Kim, Min A

Researcher, Fashion Design Research Institute, Ewha Womans University, PhD Candidate, Ewha Womans University

MCM Small Milla Tote & MCM Symbiosis Milla Tote hand-painted by Kim, Min A

“I wanted to express the timeless, linked relationship of people with different faces, different characters and fingerprints like the growth of a tree ring, with warm affection in it.”


Alice in Art Nouveau by Kim, Hye Soo

Professor, Dept. of Fashion Design, Baewha Women’s University, PhD, Dept. of Clothing & Textile, Yonsei University

MCM Milla Park Avenue Bag hand-painted by Kim, Hye Soo

“This fashion illustration was inspired by Art Nouveau’s organic and decorative style.”


Flower Sphere by Seong, Jin Hee

Adjunct Professor, Seoul Fashion Occupation Training College, PhD in Fashion, Ewha Womans University

MCM Small Patricia Shoulder Bag hand-painted by Seong, Jin Hee

“A modern, feminine re-interpretation using MCM’s energetic fantasy and color, along with the motif of the lotus and the cat of Korean folk painting.”


Renew by Ahn, Sung Joon

Design Chief, JINA BODY ART, PhD, Sejong University

MCM Essential Boston Tote & MCM Essential Boston Bag hand-painted by Agn, Sung Joon

“The design of the geometric pattern image, a good element in a simple and sophisticated bag, was intended to express a restrained, unique style.” 


MCM & Thisness II by Lee, Se Lee

Lecturer, Ewha Womans University, PhD, MFA in Fashion Design, Ewha Womans University

MCM Mini Milla Tote hand-painted by Lee, Se Lee

‘Thisness’ (from the Latin haecceitas) is a term from medieval scholastic philosophy, first coined by followers of Duns Scotus to denote a concept that he seems to have originated: the discrete qualities, properties or characteristics of a thing that make it a particular thing. This work is one of a series of works that emphasizes the process of acquiring ‘Thisness’ — the discrete qualities through the artist’s individual painting.”


I Love MCM by Li, Hong Yan

Doctor of Clothing & Fashion, Yeungnam University, HuBei University department of Animation Design 

MCM Milla Park Avenue Wallet & MCM I Love MCM Milla Bag hand-painted by Li, Hong Yan

“This work used pop art expressions in conjunction with trending 2020 fashion accessories and the harmony of natural scenery, conveying the modern and creative philosophy of the MCM brand.”


Love Song by Han, Yeon Hee

Assistant Professor, Department of Fashion Design, Soong Eui Women’s College, PhD Konkuk University

MCM Trisha Chain Shoulder Bag hand-painted by Han, Yeon Hee

“A design that uses MCM’s logo and hearts to convey love to the world.”

Honoring heritage brands and extending the lifecycle of luxury items.