Runway games

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Runway games

Jangchung Gymnasium does not exactly conjure images of glamour: Imagine a fashion show held in a steel-and-concrete indoor sports arena. The 4,500 or so spectators that have filled the gym this day are casually dressed in jeans and T-shirts or pantaloons and halter tops. They are not basketball fans, however. They have come to look at beautiful clothes in an exhibition jointly staged by Korea and Japan.

An H-shaped runway and a giant overhead screen dominate the gym, which is near Namsan, north of the Han River. A performance by the award-winning choreographer Jung Je-man has highlighted the opening act, accenting with special lighting effects. The thumping beat of techno music combined with traditional Korean drums signified the current state of Korean culture: the fusion of yesterday and tomorrow.

To celebrate the World Cup, the 2002 Korea Japan Fashion Festival is being put on by the Korea Fashion Association and Japan Fashion Association. Attended by more than 550 Japanese and foreign officials, journalists and visitors, the event was a meaningful occasion as the first joint fashion festival held by the two countries after years of limited fashion exchanges.

The organizers chose dates a week before the opening and closing games of the World Cup. The fashion festival in Japan will take place June 22. Creatively, the two countries have given each other no limits on expressing vibrant, youthful energy.

Part 1: The fashion show begins with a dizzying, color-bursting visual presentation of Japanese techno inspiration to introduce three emerging designers from Japan: Ayumi Yamada's Blondy, Yuichi Kuroda's Lad Musician and Kosuke Tsumera's Final Home.

Along the techno-meets-retro theme, funky girls in low-riding boot-cut pants and spiky heels look straight from clubs along the hip streets of Shibuya and Harajuku. Sassy ladies in slinky cocktail dresses and glittering evening pouches are ready for disco night out in Shinjuku.

But the young Japanese look is not only about bodikon (Japanese jargon of body-conscious fashion). The phenomenally popular brand Final Home carries a subtle yet strange power that gives the wearers a kind of solemn awareness: Think environment. Is that the color or the pocket? How that concept is conveyed remains a mystery. The designer used to sell vacuum-packed T-shirts printed with a fill-in-the-blank identification form. The bright orange, multizippered nylon jumpsuit reminds one of the potential threat of radioactive energy on the earth.

The deadpan-looking model takes out a teddy bear from her pocket and puts it into another model's pocket. Are they trying to save endangered bears?

Part 2: By comparison, Koreans are not so strong on visuals, which only consist of titles and loud fanfare to introduce young designers: One Ji-hae's Angel Punk, Lee Jung-eun's Lava Woman and Im Seon-oc's brand bearing her name.

One Ji-hae's Angel Punk is known for street-style fashion inspired by the underground club culture in Korea. Because Korean clubbers have emulated the Japanese club scene in past years, her collection is categorized as "Harajuku-style fashion." But fashion matured as the Korean club scene evolved, and she is able to offer what to wear on "club day" in the party streets in Seoul.

Lee Jung-eun, also fond of serious partiers in town, is famous for entertaining shows starring transsexuals dressed in lace and frills. But for this fashion festival, she has managed to express her fantasies, even without using transsexuals. Instead, an angry male model wearing a see-through shirt and fishnet stockings -- in fluorescent pink -- throws rose petals to the audience. And there is a continuous flow of vicious vixens dressed in floral brocade jackets, lace-up corsets and transparent pajamas.

The designer Im Seon-oc presents a creative mix of the ultimate East-meets-West concept. She is fluent in fashion language; she knows how to translate fabric into clothes, and her clothes speak of elegance and style. In her European-style clothes, traditional Korean motifs and materials are beautifully incorporated to become universal elements, never overstating, but marking their origins from her country.

The second "game" of the Korea Japan Fashion Festival will take place at Mukuharimesse Exhibition Center near Tokyo, featuring three top Korean designers: Rubina, Sul Yun-hyoung and Miwha Hong.

by Inēs Cho

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