Not sew simple to explain

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Not sew simple to explain

It's no surprise that designers use the beautiful, interesting or bizarre to try to capture the public's attention. But people want designers to try to surprise them nonetheless, to be challenged and presented with something new.

So if a designer offers spectators a moment to remember, a transcendent moment of creativity that becomes forever crystallized in their memory, then people might one day come to think of that designer as a master.

When the Seoul Collection made its debut in 2000, some of the best talents in Korea, observers from both within Korea and abroad, were left only partly satisfied. The general feeling was, "There is some talent, but...." That is, the designers have potential, but the audience needs to see more to be convinced.

Two years have passed, and the same designers are back, displaying their latest creations at the COEX Convention Hall for the Seoul Fashion Week last week. Spectators knew basically what to expect from their favorite designers, but this year there were some memorable surprises.

Lava Woman's Lee Jeong-eun, who usually knows how to entertain on stage but not always how to dress a human being, presented very wearable, high-quality jackets which evinced her wild imagination. Agaci's teenage models may be frolicking in Wonder Woman shorts, but their clothes made by the designer Lee Kyung-won are serious. Sa Fille's Lee Jeong-woo showed breathtakingly beautiful pieces made with carefully hand-crafted details. If two years ago these designers were just testing their ideas, today they are in full control of their considerable talents.

These designers have taken their creativity to another level. They've grown up and now show maturity in their works. The designer Sarah Sim helped to organize a team of Korean designers, called Iida, who will participate in the Paris Collection this year.

Here's the serious talent that made up the fall/winter 2002 Seoul Collection.

Fashion elements: miniskirt, stripes, frills and ruffles, little furs, Japanese animation motifs

Inspiration: Wonder Woman, Candy, Sailor Moon, Power Puff Girl

The sound track from Korean and Japanese animation works at the beginning of the show was telling. Models dressed in bouncy miniskirts and shorts that looked familiar - like something out of popular '80s cartoons.

Young girls frolicked in their cute outfits, and the collection was a delightful combination of themes by famous fashion designers who often use childlike images: Jean Charles de Castelbajac's humor and Anna Sui's cuteness. The knit designer Lee Kyung won's talent lies in creating the ultimate girly look by employing candy colors, cartoon motifs and youthful patterns. They are full of fun, but are never silly.

Fashion elements: corset, floral brocade, lace, white stockings, gold ribbon

Inspiration: Marie Antoinette, Moulin Rouge, 18th century harlequin

Few designers know how to create a more entertaining fashion show than Lee Jeong-eun: Lee's fantasies and imagination become reality on stage. Transsexual models wearing bustiers and high heels exude eroticism. It is the ultimate in tongue-in-cheek. It's undeniably Lava Woman - a show that is wild and sheer entertainment.

The season's romantic theme was stylized through French rococo details: corsets, glittering bows and plenty of floral brocades. She chooses the hippest music straight out of the gay clubs. It was classical meets hip-hop funk, like the sound track from "Moulin Rouge." The most notable improvement was how, unlike in past years, all the clothes were totally wearable.

Fashion elements: pleats, silver satin skirt, collage of various fabrics

Inspiration: A chain-smoking

French woman in a silver gown

When the model strutted out wearing an outfit made of various bits of fabric sewn together (right), the audience gasped. After years of working and seeking her own identity, the designer Lee Jeong-woo displayed a flair that had never been seen before.

Lee is been better known as the daughter of the celebrated hanbok (Korean traditional clothes) designer Lee Young-hee. But her latest collection no longer bears the imprint of her mother's influence.

Her interpretations of fabric, silhouette and cutting have matured with richness. The result is a commercially workable yet breathtakingly beautiful array of artistic garments.

Fashion elements: frills, ruffles, lace, puffs, crochet, embroidery

Inspiration: A Lolita forever, sylvan elves

The designer Hong Mi-hwa's choice of color for this fall and winter is khaki. Her signature style remains inspired by a young, romantic northern European sensibility.

Fashion elements: Adidas shoes, soccer balls, pleats, origami-like details

Inspiration: the World Cup 2002, "We Are the Champions" by Queen

Those who attended last season's Han Song show remember that he wore a soccer uniform at the finale. This season, the audience gave the designer more than a nod when he unveiled his eye-catching sports-meets-couture theme.

Elegantly styled dresses for grown-ups were matched with Adidas socks and shoes. His signature details included soccer ball motifs made by creating intricate origami-like creases on the fabric.

Han Song's shows are also famous for their theatrics. The highlights this year included a dress that looked like a globe on a model whose entire body was painted gold, and an evening gown with a white veil made out of the netting of a soccer goal.

Fashion elements: see-through fabric, draped shirt, geometrically bold logos bearing the designer's initials "SS"

Inspiration: the designer

Formerly the chief designer at the Kolon group, Sim learned there how to create a fashion brand and market it overseas. Her research inspired her to compile a database for designers and to set up a Web site for fashion professionals in Korea.

Her clothes seem to be made from precision cuts and are never experimental. Not a single piece or strand of fabric is wasted in the creation of her outfits.

Soft and sheer fabric with subtle yet modern patterns are layered perfectly; the soft and feminine lines are not overtly sexual, but quietly sensual. The inspiration from both East and West is evident, and every piece is wearable either alone or together.

by Inēs Cho

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