A Star Designer Returns With a Shining New Collection

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A Star Designer Returns With a Shining New Collection

The word "Madmix" doesn't mean anything to ordinary English speakers, but young, fashion-conscious Korean women know exactly what it is. Madmix was a hugely successful fashion brand name in Korea between 1993 and 1998, famous for its extremely decorative garments. The wildly dressed mannequins in fashionable storefronts made it impossible for shoppers to pass Madmix stores without noticing the bold clothes. The colors were starkly contrasting. A heap of lace frills might be coordinated with a metal stud belt. A skimpy but very cute dress made of shimmering fabric could be matched with 3-inch platforms. And young women, mostly in their late teens and early 20s, went crazy for little items that branded their wearers a "strong character."

The creator of Madmix, Park Eun-kyung, defined that concept as "free and fun," and it was supposed to be "semi-avant-garde." The same designer has now created something entirely new, the fashion label "Trendsetter ISM." She presented her first 2001 fall and winter collection last Tuesday.

The event hall inside the beautiful Park View building in Sinsa-dong was filled with not only eager buyers and the press, but also great anticipation. To Korean fashion professionals, the designer Park Eun-kyung is something of a star. They all knew that the designer had something special in store for them: something extreme, something definitely "her."

Under the seasonal theme "Maximal Romanticism," Ms. Park presented a ready-to-wear collection specially designed for career women. Not just ordinary career women, but the new, elite class of powerful women who know how to express their femininity in a refined, modern way. Ms. Park presented three lines of clothes, each for a different price range, from expensive to more affordable; but they all undeniably displayed her strong character: extremely feminine, but without too much vulnerability. The German-educated Korean designer told the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition, "Anything extreme is sexy and strong, and the powerful energy of women is simply beautiful."

And she is in sync with what's happening around the world. Every element of her clothes is a part of the cutting-edge of today's fashion, such as the body-hugging silhouettes that make the wearer look ultra-feminine. There are also the dramatic details that must not be missed - frills, gathers, built-in zipper belts, leather floral corsages, laser-cut motifs and dolman sleeves. A-line skirts fell suavely below the knee, slim pants seductively above the ankle. The look was complete with Gucci-style ankle strap sandals. All the clothes, from suits to cocktail dresses, were cut close to the body, but they were also definitely meant for business; the style was classical, but with a touch of New Age in the mix.

Although the collection on the whole didn't delve into a complex color scheme nor did the designer successfully convey her central color theme, the designer attempted to show marketable color suggestions. From black, teal blue, wine, beige, purple, khaki, orange, brick, brown and back to pale gray, there was an entire palette of trendy yet safe color choices that were expected to work well in the coming season. Employing various materials from stretchy poplin, vinyl and tweed, to real leather and fur, she presented her interpretation of trench coats and bomber jackets that were classic-meets-retro-funky.

After the show, buyers seemed hopeful about the future of ISM. They had already known about the designer and her works, but now they had seen her fashions for themselves. The presence of more than 60 buyers from major department stores made for a significantly different atmosphere from ordinary salon shows designed for the average clients and their friends. This improved commercialism is what the designer and her business associates wanted to bring to the industry.

It looks as if the Korean fashion industry is catching up with what the rest of the world has been doing - so-called star-designer marketing, which focuses on pushing a designer as a celebrity. What buyers saw that Tuesday afternoon may have been an emerging star in the Korean fashion world.

by Inēs Cho

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