What's New? Seoul Show Gives a Half AnswerA multitude of the fashion curious flocked to the 2001 Fall/Winter Seoul Collection last week to take a peek at the latest styles for the upcoming season. As to whether or not they actually found the newest designs, the answer is both yes and no.
Audiences lining up to enter fashion gala events behave much like eager fans waiting to enter a rock concert. Fashion fanatics are enthralled watching models strut the runways, hoping to be inspired by the creativity of their favorite designers. High-end fashion with its utility and glamour straddles both the mundane and metaphysical worlds and distinguishing what is to be worn and what is only a high concept becomes a tantalizing game.
Over the four-day period at Seoul's COEX center, visitors mingled under the unifying theme of "What's New in Korean Fashion." Comments came from every segment of the crowd, which included students, the press and industry professionals. Their observations were sprinkled with compliments and complaints about the 29 featured designers.
The popularity of the designers Park Ji-won and Gee Choon-hee was evident; their venues were jam-packed and the shows started late because of seating and ticketing problems. Students were admitted into the shows last － after VIPs and the press. Those who could find seats only on the floor were not allowed to stretch out their legs, because the roving cameramen were worried about feet popping up in their photographs. This problem could have been avoided by dividing the shows into those for professionals and those for the general public.
At these types of high-profile events, new designers are easy targets for both the general public and critics, who are all too hungry for something new. In their first public viewing, the works of designers Lee Ji-min and Lee Beaumi received the sobriquet "unoriginal." Their stages were venturesome but seemingly opportunistic. Danny Sekibo, buyer for the British fashion store Zobia, said, with some disappointment of Lee Beaumi, "The designer didn't seem to understand the logic of fabric."
Kang Hee-sook and Enzu Hong showed their understanding of fabric through designs from their own signature styles. Already an established name in Korea's fashion scene, Ms. Hong came up with a unique mixture of old and new by employing a recurring ethnic Central Asian theme. Hand stitches, draping and laser-cut frills all were used to create volume, and the presentation on the whole reflected her meticulous style. Famous for her clean-cut wardrobe, the designer Kang Hee-sook presented a superbly tailored collection that spoke of sedate substance and superior quality. Elegant suits and gorgeous dresses were draped beautifully over the models and stylishly complemented by a chic selection of shoes, bags and accessories.
The more dynamic designs and creative inspirations were found in presentations by the designers Lee Kyung-won, Vack Yuun-zung, Lee Jung-eun and Lee Jung-woo. Lee Kyung-won's knitwear collection seemed to have a life of its own, mesmerizing the audience with bubbly colors and powerfully creative garments. Ms. Vack's '80s gamine chic style was shown using dynamic proportions and creative textile experimentation, ranging from laminated fabric to computerized prints bearing her signature emblem. The young designer Lee Jung-eun's "pajama" collection exuded attitude with a capital A. Adorned by overly sexy models of ambiguous gender, this collection was the epitome of her uninhibited personal fantasy and unlimited energy. Lee Jung-woo's models looked as if they came straight out of a Robert Palmer video, as they strutted back and forth to the fusion dance beat of a traditional Korean drum. She manipulated leather to flow like silk, and her silk spoke with the forcefulness of leather. All of her visions were ultra-feminine, yet strong in statement.
This year's Seoul Collection offered a source of inspiration and energy strong enough to last until the next season. The fashion audience will most definitely return for a recharge. Like musicians who gave a good performance, the designers went out for a night of celebration after the show, a brief respite before they start suffering again for their faithful fans.
by Ines Cho