Seoul fashion taking on the world

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Seoul fashion taking on the world

Who would ever think that Koreans possess such a zeal for fashion? Sure, the nation's legions of textile factories pump out dark suits and bleached baggy jeans by the boatload. But the world is discovering that Korean designers have a creative spark, and are igniting new ideas across the fashion globe.

For those looking for confirmation of Korea's ascent, the 2003/2004 Fall and Winter Seoul Collection is proof. The show, which opens tomorrow at the COEX Convention Center in Seoul, is expected to attract 10,000 people over its nine-day run.

The Seoul Collection is where fashion genes are expressed as designer jeans -- as well as coats, capes and stunningly elegant evening wear. Three years after its conception, the event is a younger sibling of the established shows in Paris, New York and Milan. But like a younger brother or sister, it declines to don hand-me-downs, preferring instead to show the family its independent streak.

The collection, which featured a dozen designers when it was launched in 2000, has attracted more designers and larger audiences each season. This season's edition boasts 54 designers, nearly twice as many as last year's collection.

By placing nation's three fashion organizations -- the Seoul Fashion Artists Association, the New Wave in Seoul and the Korea Fashion Designers Association -- under one roof, the collection presents the full spectrum of Korean creativity.

The show features several generations of designers, beginning with the 1960s pioneers -- Jinteok, Sul Yun-hyoung, Bakangchi, Lie Sang Bong and Rubina -- who introduced Western glamour to Seoul's best dressed. Koreans were astounded by their innovations, which changed every year, incorporating occidental designs with the richest homegrown styling. They were Korea's answer to Christian Dior, Givenchy and Courrege, who hit the height of popularity in Japan and Hong Kong in the '70s.

And they're still powers to be reckoned with today. Capitalizing on years of maturity and expertise, they've refined their skills and philosophies to produce the spectacular productions that will be on view during the first four days of the Seoul Collection.

The second-generation and newly emerging talent will step out on Sunday, holding court until the show's finale. Among them will be Vack Yunnzung, Sa Fille by Lee Jung-woo, Han Song and Jiwon Park, the children of successful first-generation designers who are now continuing their parents' legacy.

Jiwon Park, Miwha Hong, Park Choon Moo and Sarah Sim will present their designs that graced the runways at the Paris Pret-a-Porter and New York Collection earlier this month. They are among the new generation of designers whose ambition and talent have taken them well beyond Korea's shores.

And what would a fashion show be without a little shock? Expect drag queens and club kids clad in the latest street-chic clothes -- Lava Woman by Lee Jung-eun and Anashakti by Won Ji-hae. These two designers, both in their 30s, revel in pushing the envelope. They'll join several other young designers at 11:30 a.m. on April 1 and 2. Works by newcomers Chun Ae-ju and Lee Ji-sun, which were selected for their artistry by the Seoul Fashion Artists Association, can be seen at 1 p.m. on March 28.

Fashion shows in Paris, New York and Milan are strictly for industry pros and the press, but the Seoul Collection is open to the public. The Korea Fashion Association is selling tickets online at www.koreafashion.org.

Admission is 7,000 won ($6) for a single show. Tickets are also available at www.ticketlink.co.kr, and can be arranged by calling 1588-7890.

The Seoul Collection's Web site, www.seoulcollectionweek.or.kr, lists program notes.

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It's a secret. But watch for color inspired by French art

The theme for the show? Top secret, of course. Each designer wants to make a splash when the show kicks off.

But there are such things as sneak previews, and our sense is that in the 2003/2004 Fall and Winter Seoul Collection, Korean designers are going for warm colors inspired by the landscape at its seasonal change.

Think of the gradation of rich hues used by naturalist oil painters in France, which might range from mustard, camel, khaki, wine red and violet to midnight black. The designer Kang Hee-sook says she'll throw in a lot of deep autumnal gray, black, blue, violet and mustard in soft materials, tweed, wool, cashmere and wool jersey and chiffon. Mischon Joo's feminine suits will be mostly black and brown.

There will be a prevailing sense of nostalgia and retro sensibility. Yet designers won't forget that their natural silhouettes should cater to today's urban lifestyle. Kim Haeng-ja's brand Attitude will dress its models in layered styling with various fabrics ?from fur and animal-skin prints to chiffon and lace.

Miwha Hong's usual deconstructive theme will involve liberal mixing and coordination with knit, jersey, fur and leather in wine red, camel, brown and purple. But on the whole the collection will be based on men's tailored jackets ?for the first time in the designer's career.

While European runways earlier this month unveiled a rather pronounced trend toward a New Orientalism and ethnic motifs, Korean runways are expected to exhibit European influences. The exception will be Choi Chang Ho, who regularly incorporates Chinese motifs.

But, who knows? All fashion shows have lots of surprises. That's why we love them!


by Ines Cho
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