Summer 2006 shows warm winter runwayLate November in Korea is the season for woolly sweaters and scarves. But for 11 days, the runways of the 2006 Spring and Summer Seoul Collection have blown with the balmy breeze of summer resorts.
Deeply tanned, lean models sported loose-fitting tunics, dresses and gowns splashed in tropical fruit colors ― orange, grape and papaya green ― to fit the warm and bright season.
The 46 fashion shows staged by 49 Korean fashion designers ended November 25 at the Seoul Trade and Exhibition Center in southern Seoul. The event attracted a number of veteran designers such as Hong Eun-ju (of Enzuvan based in Paris) and Lee Young Hee. Their typically Asian-themed designs mixed the delicious hues of the new season while dressing the classic Oriental figure in modern resort wear.
Ms. Lee, who is best known for hanbok-style evening dresses, brought forward hanbok’s basic components ― pin-pleats and straps ― making her collection trendy and youthful. She introduced casual but pretty pastel tank tops matched with pin-pleated sarong skirts that fashion-conscious young women would fight over. A young model with short spiky hair brought an air of urban cool onto the stage.
Best yet were the subtleties that the cameras could not capture: Iridescent shades in the voluminous chiffon skirts and dresses that seemed to mutate as the fabric moved. When models walked, their frocks billowed like luscious waves in the ocean.
Along with Ms. Lee, who had taken time off last year, Park Choon-moo, a popular Korean designer behind the commercial label Demoo, returned to the runway after a two-year hiatus. Ms. Park, reputed for her feminine yet coolheaded avant-garde collection, started off dark and edgy with ordinary items like chunky thigh-high black boots, a royal blue tunic top and a minimalist hemp shirt and shorts. However, the last stage featured shipwrecked Victorian princesses in gold gowns, proving the designer’s wish to adhere to her deconstructive world of creativity.
The ultimate in luxury reached a climax in the work of Sul Yun-hyoung. The designer shied away from her usual collection of elaborate Asian embroideries to show a distinctive European influence while the boldly colorful stage, inspired by ancient landscape paintings, remained Korean.
Piles of lace flowers and delicately knitted crochets, predominantly in black and white ensembles, were an impressive series of serious couture that could work for three generations of women ― a pretty grandmother, a youthful mother and an elegant daughter ― in a highly feminine style.
Also, a new talent has joined the Korean fashion world ― Song Ja-in, the daughter of established designer Kim Dong-soon. Her entire collection, titled “Champagne and Caviar,” was a lovely mix and match of things luxurious and sensual, suggested by strings of pearls and delicate peek-a-boo lingerie and dresses done in the shades of champagne beige and caviar brown. Models appeared like a parade of sweet Lolitas with peach cheeks and long wavy hair. They wore billowing silk skirts matched with breezy velvet and batwing-sleeved blouses over cute ankle boots, spectator pumps and high-heeled loafers, all of which are de riguer at the moment.
If women were going easy in the bedroom and at the resorts, their dates seemed to have spent more time in front of the mirror.
A lot of men stripped virtually naked on the runway. Their well-toned bodies strutted out wearing pastel-toned clothes in pink, lavender, cream and sage in the Song Zio Homme show. The hottest tickets, which made both straight women and gay men happy, were done in ultra-light shades of pink, such as a salmon-pink tuxedo-inspired shirt over pale pink pants or a skimpy bikini brief in pastel pink.
A big trend for metrosexuals in the coming season: the tuxedo look is in. A casual day or night out is as easy as wearing a pleated bib as a decorative front or a bow-tie worn loosely.
Almost every designer’s collection for men included items inspired by tuxedos. The best of its kind, according to senior designers, was the brand “M” by Son Sung-keun, who presented a sleek but fun variation of the classic morning coat in basic black and white.
The theme of classic-chic was also spun off ― the latest cool is the “geek” circa 1950s. BON, the first national brand to be showcased in Seoul Collection, was a parade of “geeky” metrosexuals in whimsical polka-dot shirts and pants, complete with dark horn-rimmed glasses and “Grease”-inspired sculpted hair.
Retro geeks at Taste Maximum by Kim Gyu-sik went Scottish by sporting sport jackets and shirts in argyle and plaid patterns made with consecutive brand logos over distressed denim.
In men’s fashion, though, no one can beat Jung Wook-jun of Lone Costume, whose man of perfection spends the longest time in front of the mirror. The fastidious mismatch of the white fedora, the long, unkempt hair, the super slim-cut jacket, a glittering T-shirt and hip-hugging pants was deliberate.
When his Gatsby man in an immaculate ensemble in the black-and-white hound’s-tooth check strode onto the runway, Korean men and women and their fashion fantasies went right along with him.
Designer hits a high note with hermits
For the past 23 years, the annual Korea Fashion Design Contest, the most prestigious competition for entry-level designers, has opened doors for Korea’s young designers. The contest ―hosted by the Korea Fashion Association and supported by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy as well as by the Korea Federation of Textile Industries ― is aimed at nurturing Korean fashion by awarding aspiring fashion designers with cash prizes and opportunities to pursue fashion abroad. This year, the Presidential Award went to Choi Ji-young, a junior at Esmod Korea, whose work is titled “L’appartement Hermetique” (“The Apartment of the Hermit”). The pieces, shown above, were two reversible tunics made with lambskin, silk and chiffon that were printed and dyed by hand and lined with diaphanous fabric draped like curtains. The IHT-JoongAng Daily spoke with Ms. Choi about her commitment to fashion.
Q. How did a cello player get into fashion?
When I first visited Esmod, it was shocking to see that there was a world like this ― people were doing what they really wanted to do. All my life had been spent trying to pass exams in areas where I had been doing pretty well, and I never had to think about other choices, because I learned music from a young age. I spent one year thinking about it and then went into fashion, which is where I’ve been for the past three years. When I had to practice music all night, it was tiring, but when I was working on clothes, I never noticed that time had passed. That’s when I knew I was doing what I really wanted to do.
What inspires you and your work?
I’ve been inspired by Ann Demeulemeester and also impressed with Viktor & Rolf’s collection in 2002. The apartment where I grew up was dismantled for the city’s zone improvement project ― I saw my childhood home crumble to dust. I wanted to have those feeling and colors reflected in my clothes. I tried to bring out the points of the all-greyish garment by adding uneven vertical leather strips in black and gold. The two reversible outfits are made up with four pieces, which can be worn in different ways. I wanted to play with volume and a versatile silhouette that can work with different body types.
Fashionistas aiming for Beijing 2008: design head
The IHT-JoongAng Daily spoke about the future of Korean fashion with Hahn Seong-hee, the new director general of the Seoul Fashion Design Center, one of the Seoul Collection organizers. Mr. Hahn, 47, graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1989 and worked in J. Mac Inc., a trading firm, and Essess Fashion of Samsung Group before his appointment in October.
Q. Seoul Collection has included a couple of national brands [commercial brands backed by large corporations].
A. The purpose of Seoul Collection, which cost 900 million won (around $860,000) this year, is not only to help build an infrastructure for the Korean design industry, but also to foster collaboration among industry professionals. Our job is to consolidate the foundation of the Korean fashion industry. In the five years since the center was founded, we’ve focused on supporting the mid-range fashion industry, such as the Dongdaemun and Namdaemun markets, so they can be more foreigner-friendly shopping malls. At the high-fashion level, we have Seoul Collection, but national brands are also an integral part of the Korean fashion industry. Brands like Chanel were national brands, which had the support of their country before they went global. For Korean national brands showcased during this year’s Seoul Collection, it’s a testing period until the full circle [of the fashion calendar] comes to an end next year. If national brands are reviewed positively, then we will not only include them in regular shows but also nurture them to become global brands.
Where does Korean fashion stand in the world?
A project shouldn’t simply end abruptly ― it should merge with other industries to create a synergy effect from which everyone can benefit. As with any other convention, fashion shows like Seoul Collection can generate revenue in related industries, such as tourism, hotels and cultural events.
This morning, I saw a minor stampede caused by sightings of Korean singers, and an excited Shanghai TV crew wanted to interview me. We plan to utilize the influence of the Korean wave over the next three years until the Beijing Olympics; the impressions of Korea and its culture are on the rise right now partly because of the popularity of Korean pop culture. So far, the image of Korea and its culture among Asian nations has been positive; we should be able to maintain that and benefit from it, at least until the Beijing Olympics, when the world will be watching Asia.
What are you working on now?
I believe that the fashion and IT industries should work together in the future. We’re planning to make a multilingual Web site portal, which can not only offer an in-depth database, but also a marketing tool for developing Korean fashion, so that buyers can do research online before coming to Korea.
What lies ahead for Seoul Collection?
In the near future, we’ll see a Seoul Collection Fashion Week from Nov. 1 to 26 that will take place all over the capital. This Fashion Week won’t just be limited to Seoul Collection in one place.
Cheongdam-dong avenue in Apgujeong-dong, which is lined with high-fashion boutiques and import stores, as well as shops in Dongdaemun, should be all part of Korea’s Fashion Week. So during the week, shoppers will be able to get special discounts and buyers will be able to see not just finished products, but also fabrics made in Korea as well ― you should be able to feel the fashion energy all over town.
by Ines Cho