Edgy psychedelic designs draw a young hip crowdIn the world of ambitious designers aiming to become the next “it” brand to reap big bucks, the fashion designer Suh Sang-young despises things mainstream.
As the venue for his 2006 autumn/winter collection on a recent Sunday afternoon, the 34-year-old designer chose a small outdoor parking lot tucked behind an Apgujeong street in southern Seoul. A pink cargo truck parked at the side provided a “backstage,” from which nine lanky male models ― whom local fashion critics described as “very edgy-looking” ― walked onto a white stage. When they did, however, they faced away from the audience, as if the show didn’t interest them. The models, whose eyes were covered in semi-transparent tape with such words as “Sleep,” “Write,” “Listen” and “Read,” came to a full stop in front of a concrete wall.
Suh’s fascination with psychedelic pop from the late ’80s seems to persist; his choice of soundtrack was a compilation of A-ha and Depeche Mode, from a critical era that linked punk with techno. When Suh first adopted the fashion inspiration for his previous collection, many viewed the reincarnation of Duran Duran’s John Taylor as “too risky and too early” and the late ’80s mode as “too recent to be retro.”
A year in the fashion calendar can seem like a millennium. The new collection of 36 outfits, reminiscent of early Helmut Lang, looked refreshingly minimalist, which has also been attempted on international runways as a new wind in fashion.
Pants above retro hi-tops revived by Nike couldn’t have been skinnier. Jackets cut close to the body only heightened the altitude of the attitude. Suh even made a glossy black parka (formerly a downtown style) look hip for urban fashionistas. Oversized winter coats in solid black and gray were cinched at the waist with thin, extra-long belts in fluorescent yellow ― a fashionably correct tribute to an acid era.
Fluorescent sticks and rings at techno parties may be passe with a capital “P,” but the maximum body coverage of a long-sleeved turtleneck top and hooded parka in solid fluorescent yellow predicted the coming of a new look in fashionable streets and clubs.
Of the show’s theme, “Seoul,” the designer, who lived and worked in Paris before moving to Seoul, said he has begun to like what he sees in his native city. The finale of solid black shirts had “Seoul” written across the back in the same black. “We’re so used to seeing Paris, New York and London on clothing everywhere, and many of us don’t consider Seoul a fashion capital. Seoul has changed a lot over the years in very positive ways,” he said after the show.
Ha Sang-baek, an audience member who writes for Korean fashion magazines and is preparing for his own brand released later this year, said the timing for such a collection was perfect. At the post-show gathering at a nearby tent bar, Suh was even compared with Raf Simons, a young iconoclastic Belgian designer with his own brand “Raf” and creative director for the Jil Sander label.
In the Korean fashion scene, Suh has a reputation for organizing unusual, conceptually strong shows since he opened a small boutique, which bears no signage, in 2002. Front-rowers at Suh’s fashion events are not usually celebrities dressed in sponsored brands but rather curious fashionistas seeking inspiration.
by Ines Cho
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