’Mine’ is all about luxury, splendour and fashion
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I should have immediately guessed that Mine would not be like any other Korean drama I had watched before. The tone was different, as was the cinematography, set design and of course, the wardrobe.
Minutes into the first episode, I paused it. Was that nun carrying an Hermes Birkin bag? I pressed play. The woman she was walking with was wearing what appeared to be a designer blazer, a Salvatore Ferragamo bag and a Fendi watch.
And those were just the hors d’oeuvres. A whole decadent buffet, complete with all the trimmings and indulgent desserts, was waiting for me.
Mine is a Korean drama about two women married into a powerful family, the Hans. Their world is rocked when two new women – a tutor and a maid – come into their lives and their presence threatens their standing in the family.
The Han family are what South Koreans call a “chaebol” family – which means they own a business empire (the HyoWon Group) that has various interests across different industries. This gives them the power to not only control the company, but have influence in government and the media.
The family pride themselves on their influence and wealth, and that means they have to look the part. Their clothes are not just about wearing designer brands – they use them to make a statement, the men included. And for the two wives, Seo Hi-Soo (Lee Bo-Young) a former actress, and Jung Seo-hyun (Kim Seo-hyung), who comes from an old money family and runs the family linked art gallery, their clothing is armour.
With some shows, there’s a danger in that you may lose all sense of character, story and nuance when the costumes dominate every scene. There’s none of that on Mine.
Mine is unapologetic in how it tells the story of women who have to be strong and fight for control in a non-threatening way. Their use of fashion, is one way of doing that.
Hi-Soo is romantic, loves prints and is ultra feminine, while Seo-hyun wears avant garde power suits with a hint of femininity. They are so different, but yet also so alike in their thinking and how they approach their challenges in the family, which includes a mother-in-law and sister-in-law with terrible fits of rage, husbands who are detached and staff who are nosy. Most importantly, they get along, and it’s refreshing that the director, Lee Na Jang, has directed the show for the female gaze. The men are not considered nor are they too important – this story is about the women.
The series does not skimp on showing just how wealthy the family are. Their compound home is industrial chic and rather cavernous in the hallways. And then the living area is warmer and expensively adorned with fine art and designer ceramics and crockery, which some of the family members throw around in fits of rage.
I laughed when I realised they had their own oxygen tanks, which they would periodically use to increase the oxygen levels in their homes, meaning their breathed air that was different from the general Seoul public. While the staff are in the bunkers, barely having enough space to sleep in and store their belongings.
Their dinner parties are extravagant and it’s clear that food and communal eating is important to the family. Chef Jung goes all out preparing the finest delicacies, Eastern and Western. You don’t even have to ask if the chef has a Michelin star or not – the plating and ingredients reveal everything.
There’s a scene where the mother-in-law is asks the chef to prepare a smorgasbord of delicacies and then decides she has no appetite and retires to her chambers. The shock that registers on the chef’s face, is priceless.
The family also drive a fleet of Volvo vehicles, carry the latest Samsung devices (this includes the staff), and there is clever use of luxury product placement.
I quickly figured out the story and I was soon not watching for it, but for the set design, wardrobe and the luxury that allowed me to live vicariously through the characters.
TV producer Phathutshedzo Makwarela (The River, Legacy) once told me how important it was to consider all the optics of a TV show, especially when it’s about wealthy people.
“The money must be evident when you are watching on screen. You have to show it in the clothes, decor, houses and the food. It’s the only way to really show how wealthy the characters are.”