It’s reigning menswearWhen men decide to dress up, they can dress to kill.
But how can they do it in Korea, a nation of bland suits? A handful of men’s fashion designers showed how during the Seoul Collection Week. They dressed some of the best dressers with homegrown designs.
The first men’s collection kicked off with Chang Kwang-hyo, dubbed the Giorgio Armani of Korea since he launched his Caruso brand in 1987. His latest collection, exhibited in his 25th fashion show, was an exciting mix and match of soft and tough materials ― business suits and track outfits. He created a deliberate unfinished look on his designs. Collars were trimmed with safety pins. The Addidas three-band signature was used instead sleeves on sport jacket sleeves.
“I wanted to give my collection a lighter feel in the gloomy time,” Mr. Chang said. “Casually coordinating items, pinning clothes with safety pins and matching formal suits with Addidas the way Yohji Yamamoto did are very trendy right now.”
What else? He used appliques of red poppy blossoms, inspired by minhwa or ancient Korean folk paintings, on sports bags, sneakers and jackets. The appliques were a clever way to connect the East and the West.
As Moet & Chandon champagne was poured for the front-row viewers, and the young crowd cheered for a Korean comedian who appeared onstage as a model, men paraded tropical underwear ― leaving everyone in a fine mood.
Collections by Han Seung-soo and Kim Seo-ryong respectively embraced the free spirit of Korean men. Mr. Han, best known for his Soo Han brand of avant-garde women’s wear, began with a sporty military look for men, but ended with romantic knits and slim pants that were rich in both solid and plaids of fall colors ― orange, khaki, grey and chocolate brown.
That softer side of his collection showed his ability to incorporate the sensibilities he has learned making women’s wear into men’s fashions.
Mr. Kim’s Kim Seo-ryong Homme designs in deep red, violet and khaki on black and brown were about returning to nature in a European pastoral setting and sentiment. The large flower motifs he featured on jackets, the long flowing silk scarves and loose pants were inspired by French naturalist paintings.
The Korean fashion designers’ messages were often delivered with obvious symbols. Woo Young-mi’s Solid Homme show began with a peace symbol; the entire collection was made of classic military jackets, sporty pants in black, grey and khaki. Notable was the designer’s touch of Orientalism on men’s suits: sewing mother-of-pearl in the shape of birds and lotus blossoms.
Jung Wook-jun’s Lone Costume ended with models marching in khaki capes bearing silver “Stop Wars” ―?in mock “Star Wars” prints ― on their backs. Mr. Jung also employed several military-inspired items, such as khaki pants tied at the ankle over combat boots and officer’s coats with utility zippers, all under the theme “Military Chic,” combining military and classic designs.
The designer said he was embracing peace; that’s why his military coats were made from classic materials, such as wool tweed and herringbone, with crimson linings. Red also peeked from behind coat collars and beneath shoes, creating an interesting contrast.
“It’s what I call, ‘hidden red.’ There’s a beauty in hidden things,” he said.
Mr. Jung was meticulous with every element in his collection, from the color of the soles, to the choice of travel bags, to the particular silhouette of suits for a particular season. “I do everything ― or else it isn’t a complete collection,” says Mr. Jung, a graduate of Esmod in Seoul.
Mr. Jung’s Lone Costume brand has been gaining popularity since it was launched in 1999. His themes are classic, yet dynamic, with a casual sense of humor. His suits are based on European patterns and are lean, sexy and elegant.
Asked if staging fashion shows in Korea was helpful, he said the benefits are more for individual designers than for the sales of their products. “Unlike international collections, successful fashion shows in Korea don’t necessarily affect sales,” he said. “Nevertheless, designers continue to stage expensive and exhaustive shows in orderto feel a sense of accomplishment.”
by Ines Cho