Little is known about Seoul Fashion Week outside of South Korea, but we have always been curious about it – you never know what to expect from the Korean designers. Let’s find answers to our buzzing questions.
When the major four fashion weeks stretched on for a month to help organize all eminent editors, local fashion events worldwide are restricted to a very short time periods and have to fight for a rare foreign visitors who manage to find the strength for another breakthrough after travelling around New York, London, Milan and Paris. But this certainly does not mean that smaller fashion weeks have nothing to show to the world.
On 21st of March at the main design platform in South Korea – the avant-garde architectural complex designed by the world-famous Zaha Hadid in downtown Seoul – welcomed fashion industry specialists from all around the world. This extremely photogenic site was first reserved by the local fashion week a few years ago, but it has already managed to grow roots there. It turned out that simple minimalist design of the building is incredibly suitable for the organization of the show. And as it usually happens, it became a great “backdrop” for street style-activists.
In 2014 the right to host a major fashion week Korea was given not to a car giant like in other places (Mercedes Benz Fashion Weeks), but a large cosmetics company HERA. The result of this sponsorship has been a sharp reduction in the budget, the gradual disappearance of brands from the official schedule and, oddly enough, the increase in the number of names familiar to all overseas representatives of the industry occupying the FROW. Head editor of Tank Magazine Caroline Issa, designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, blogger Susie Bubble, fashion editors from V Magazine and the British GQ, buyers from New York, Milan, Paris all came to see the Autumn/Winter 2016 collections.
If we talk about the distribution of power on the local fashion scene, it is worth noting that menswear shows are traditionally more popular and commercial. There is almost no such thing as womenswear fashion week – women’s collections are almost always presented alongside with the menswear. Girls-models at most shows are demonstrating endless shapeless hoodies, almost as variations on the theme of established Japanese brands. And when the Korean designers are beginning to fantasize on the topic of traditional costumes in Europe or America, it becomes clear that they are applying a more commercial take on fashion rather than most European designers. This approach, for example, ensured the success of YCH collection in which designers fantasized about the time of Elizabeth I reign in England.
Metrosity show, however, did not save even discharged from abroad top model Barbara Palvin – a mad mix from several recent collections of Versace, cowboy motifs and random parts of the Mexican costume caused confusion in the minds of industry professionals. The collection of Big Park was also a huge mix of everything – people, horses, ladies, birch trees – texture, historical eras and silhouettes were flashing in front of editor’s eyes without a specific theme. Even the legendary PushBUTTON showed something that evoked memories of Raf Simon’s Dior mixed with some Japanese motifs. Editors simply thought some collections were almost copied from previous seasons and mixed in a random order.
With this background, those looking designers who opted for traditional and minimalist elements of their native culture, had a huge advantage. Korean love for hip-hop culture and nostalgic 90s styles gained success and good reviews in the style press.
Young and the restless local designers do not get tired and manage to create versatile wardrobes for the rappers and punks, and strongly cut off all threads between Korean fashion and haute couture. Even such veterans of the Korean scene as Steve J & Yoni P are moving away from high fashion switching to their second line – SJYP. Here in Seoul, denim and classic basics are now running the show. These things can then be seen in showrooms at a price no higher than $200, and street style has definitely a greater impact of the fashion scene than any forecast agencies. Flared trousers, bold prints, oversize, natural and artificial fur confidently rule in the Dongdaemun. A collection by ROCKET X LUNCH presented probably the most successful mix of all of these trends. Designer Do Chin He mixed bright colors and cute heart details of the era of grunge and sports sweatshirts, Buddhist symbols, and the band Nirvana.
Colour for the autumn season in Korea is more of an exception rather than a rule. All regular attendees of the local fashion week would agree to that. But while on the runway models are wearing black garnments by VLADES, Byungmun Seo and D.GNAK, behind the glass doors of the building a completely different picture could be seen. In the rays of the bright Seoul sun, multi-coloured crowd of the local street-fashionistas is trying to get into the shot of street style photographers. Here there are schoolboys in short shorts, girls in colorful transparent dresses, and Chinese transgender, dressed in designer clothes nines-year-olds, dreamy Nordic blondes, people in national costumes, and even spectacular Africans.
In general, everything that is happening really makes the Seoul Fashion Week a real festival of fashion. Local students are getting connected with the world of fashion buying tickets to the latest shows, and then joyfully seek mentions about them in street fashion blogs, buyers appreciate the practicality and modesty presented by Korean designers and journalists go to after parties for extra networking. Democracy and youth in the nature of this major event are able to win anybody’s respect. While on the sites like Vogue.com, W Magazine and WWD the majority of content related to Korean fashion week is street style, we are keeping our hopes high. The best, as they say, is to come.
What do you think of Seoul Fashion Week? Let us know!
Text: Irina Gorskaia
Photographs: Seoul Fashion Week, KISS, Vogue