At The Heart and Seoul of Korean Fashion: Seoul Fashion Week 2018
Yet another Seoul Fashion Week has come and passed in a whirlwind of colors and trends (plaid, plaid, and more plaid!). In a flourish of eye-catching street style, rising talent, and the sheer interest in fashion by the average Korean, Seoul has amped its reputation up to being a leading fashion capital in Asia. However, it hasn’t stopped there; South Korea has slowly been gaining traction overseas through the likes of K-Pop and K-Beauty, which is why it’s only logical that K-Fashion has started garnering more attention. In fact, K-Pop stars hold a relatively large weight in the Korean fashion industry.
The average population isn’t as keen on high-end fashion as they are on streetwear and trending products, a lot of which is instigated by Korean celebrities and entertainment. However, it's not just through the Hallyu Wave that brands have been able to reach out internationally. Their youthful aesthetics and rhetoric make it easier for them to relate to today’s generation, as we have seen in the case of Ader Error.
The vast majority of Korean fashion, and this isn’t just limited to runway looks, don’t tend to linger too much on creating designs that are very fitting or shapes that are traditionally feminine—an aspect that definitely speaks to me on a personal level. While streetstyle has quite a heavy influence on a lot of the looks presented (which explains why the shapes are so gender-neutral), designers are also quite expressive and daring with their creations. Although this season was arguably a bit stagnant, it still presented us with quite a few gems. And with that, I present to you a curated list of a small selection of these gems.
In a flood of millennial pink and gen Z yellow, amongst others, Detroit-born Korean designer Kwon Hanhee presented her modern feminine collection through her brand KYE. A collection focused on the concentration of color, distinct fabric textures, mix of details, styling, and silhouettes, the looks are enticing. From grabbing the attention of Kourtney Kardashian and G-DRAGON to collaborations with brands like Adidas, KYE is a pretty big deal both locally and internationally. While still sticking to the idea of streetwear that is rooted in her brand, this year was definitely more about elegance. The bright colors do not take away from the intricate attention to detail at all. In a well-balanced mix of textures, fabrics, and colors, what I love about the collection is that almost any look could be taken off the runway and worn.
While South Korea is light years ahead in terms of their display of and passion for streetwear, it can get a bit monotonous after a certain point. Striking as it may be, it can feel a little hollow and almost like it lacks some substance. However, one brand that created a splash in the dull was Miss Gee. With the #MeToo movement slowly but steadily gaining traction in South Korea, the topic of sexual abuse is finally moving past being taboo and unspoken of. Fashion needs to be reflective of today’s society as opposed to taking a backseat and playing it safe. Models opened the show wearing shirts with trending hashtags on Korean social media such as #Speak, #WithYou, etc. What I absolutely loved is that while still managing to feature trends like the tweed pattern, designer Gee Choonhee weaved in a topic that is not only relevant to Korean society, but society on a global level as well.
While having a brand that follows a theme and concept is always interesting, it's quite rare that you get a designer who looks at garments objectively. One who looks at the clothes and deconstructs them to present an end result that is more of an art piece than a statement. This makes for a very interesting show, and that is exactly what BESFXXK delivered. Their name, a play on the words bespoke and f***ed up, perfectly describes their mindset towards their designs: taking bespoke, tailored garments and distorting them to create something new. The mentality that designers Kim Bona and Lim Jaehyuk hold towards making the clothes their number one priority also explains why the faces of their models are covered, almost as if the identity of the wearer is irrelevant. With smoothly executed layering, deconstructed tracksuits, and trenchcoats spliced together, it was definitely an alluring show.
Since all brands present their looks at Dongdaemun Design Plaza as opposed to different locations, it makes for one very concentrated hub of brand spotting. However, it doesn’t take long for one specific brand to stick out: thisisneverthat. Through rain or shine, it was impossible to miss the brand’s simple name printed on windbreakers or shirts or even socks. The brand has been around for a while, a cult favorite amongst idols like BTS’s Jungkook in the “Save Me” music video, Korean rappers like Giriboy and Mad Clown being associated with the brand, and the fashion crowd in general. However, this season’s designers Choi Jongkyu, Park Inwook, and Cho Nadan finally presented their first ever runway show. With a very skater boy meets normcore vibe, the brand presented looks for both men and women, distinguished only by small details. In a very effortlessly cool kind of way, the show featured logo hoodies, button-downs, and the sublime sunglasses (seriously, where can I get a pair of these). The brand also boasted their collaboration with Gore Windstopper, the newest amongst their impressive list which features the likes of Vans, Puma, etc.
Seoul Fashion Week definitely boasted why South Korea leads the game when it comes to street style, with fresh looks both on the runway and off. Although this year did feel slightly more stagnant, with a lot of brands exploring the same areas and just jumping on trends, the few brands that are coming into and revolutionizing the Korean fashion industry do seem quite promising. Relatively new to the world of fashion weeks, having only begun in 2001, Seoul Fashion Week still has a long way to go. Although going off of the impact it has already left on an international level, it’s safe to say that they’re off to a very good start.