Calvin Klein and De La Guarda ― a provocative combinationThose who were invited to Calvin Klein’s 2003 fall and winter show may have had some idea of what was coming when they saw that it would be held at the special theater in downtown Seoul made for the De La Guarda performance troupe.
De La Guarda, the acrobatic and musical performance act that began in Argentina and won a cult following in New York, has been playing in Seoul for the past year.
In conservative Korea, it has received extremely polarized reviews, between those who loved the dizzying frenzy of midair circus artistry and those who hated standing throughout the show and getting cold water sprayed on them (and, perhaps, their just-met-two-hours-ago dates).
To emphasize that the brand targets the youth market, and to get the attention of been-there, seen-that industry professionals and press, casual fashion was mixed with wild acrobatic performance, and it worked beautifully.
Instead of the familiar runway gig, the show began with a blackout and shrieks, then colorful shadowplay against a white paper screen hung overhead. The audience screamed when, here and there, male figures hanging upside-down on ropes burst through the paper. The screams became louder when one of them grabbed a woman from the audience. Then the paper screen broke open, revealing a high ceiling and a flurry of confetti, “cK” logos, styrofoam balls and balloons coming down like a tornado. The acrobats went even wilder, flying in midair and screaming like monkeys. One would jump right into your face, only to fly back up again. Others crisscrossed the air, Tarzan-style, dressed in suits. Young women in miniskirts sprinted sideways, along the wall.
The menacingly fast, exuberant performance left the crowd awed and shocked, not knowing where to look for the next stunt ― even if some of them had seen De La Guarda’s act before.
Bliss Yoo, the public relations manager of cK Jeanswear Korea, said the show marked De La Guarda’s first connection to fashion, and vice versa. The response from the runway-weary fashion press was immediate and positive, so expect enthusiastic coverage in upcoming issues of Korean fashion magazines.
Between performances, the runway show featured a series of five-pocket, low-rise jeans for men and women. They came in basic fit, straight leg and boot cut in varying washes, from vintage to dark extreme.
Dominating colors in men’s basic jeans were grey, olive and brown-based fall colors. Pants were matched with tops of various textures, such as ribbed and cable knits, white shirts and officer-inspired jackets.
While men’s pants were straight and loose-fitting, women’s jeans were cut close to the body, making them very sexy and a bit more formal. Low-rise pants were made to look aged, and were arranged with tops in neutral colors ― dusty rose, beige, grey, taupe brown ― with soft details, such as cable knits, pleated shirts and blousons.
Urban military chic in black made a strong fashion statement. City slickers who like to dress up could try leather pants, black cotton twill jackets and dresses featuring slim zippers.
New from Calvin Klein Underwear were the box brief and sheer bra for women. Yoga outfits, consisting of cotton midriffs and loose pants, were also items of the moment.
Oh, let’s not forget the peek-a-boo underwear. The color of the famous Calvin Klein underwear conspicuously showing above low-rise jeans will be red, instead of white, from now on.
Mary-Jane Hayes, the Asia-Pacific regional visual merchandising and advertising manager of Calvin Klein Jeans and Underwear, is based in Hong Kong and has visited Korea twice each season during the past three years. Ms. Hayes, a native of Melbourne, Australia, is excited about fusing culture with the brand in Korea.
The IHT-JoongAng Daily caught up with Ms. Hayes after the fashion show.
How did the show take place?
The Korean representative first suggested that idea to me. Three months ago I came here to see the show, and within five minutes I decided right away ― this was it!
The edginess of the performances, the tremendous energy that burst through their clothes... I thought it was perfect for Calvin Klein Jeans that target the youth market.
We tried to place underwear and shirts here and there on the performers, but they had very strict limitations in their clothes because they had to wear harnesses. The performers were tiny, but had not one ounce of fat in their bodies!
Is this new in your company?
The attempt to link culture to the brand has taken place, but with De La Guarda, yes, this is the first time.
In New York City earlier this year, we dressed dancers in Calvin Klein clothes in a modern ballet, a tribute to George Harrison, which was extremely well-received.
We’ve had a design competition among art university students to design ideas using Calvin Klein jeans in Europe and the Middle East. I’m trying to see if I can do that in Hong Kong first and maybe try that in Korea as well later.
Is cK Jeans a wholesaler or a retailer?
Both. In Korea, there had been two local distributors before we took control in 1999.
In the Asia-Pacific region, we do the retails in Korea, Hong Kong and Australia; Japan has a distributor, who mostly controls the brand. I think, with a few exceptions in which the distributor himself really loves the brand, owners can better take care of the brand’s original concept, as most distributors tend to focus on sales only.
The situation is different in every country. Here, except for Korean Calvin Klein Underwear, which we directly distribute, all the rest in the world are sold through distributors, and we’d like to have more controls in the future.
What’s big in Korea now?
The entire line of Calvin Klein Underwear, including nightgowns, lingerie and yoga suits, was introduced to Korea 18 months ago, and we couldn’t sell more in our 27 locations in Korea.
Young people want something simple, sexy, young and affordable, and they are particular with their favorites, but I see that there aren’t many choices. The underwear market is still underdeveloped here.
by Ines Cho