General Idea takes Paris but stays loyal to Seoul

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General Idea takes Paris but stays loyal to Seoul

In Seoul, going to a “General Idea” fashion show is like following the herd. Choi Bum-suk and his brand, General Idea, have earned a loyal following among the city’s fashion elite, since he began selling stylish and affordable men’s wear in Dongdaemun Market. He opened his first flagship store in Apgujeong-dong in 2003, earning a coveted reputation as one of the most influential men’s wear designers in Korea.

The mob psychology surrounding Choi’s success was evident as 1,000-plus spectators packed into Club Cage in Itaewon on Oct 27. Yet opinions were divided among those who were fighting for a seat to view his 2007 spring and summer collection.
Some criticized Choi for being “too commercial” and for moving too far from his humble origins at a popular market known for selling cheap clothes to wholesale merchants and bargain hunters. Others were enthusiastic and said his latest collection recalled his May 2005 show, which was full of sexy, exuberant military officers and established his potential as a designer who could lead Korean fashion into the future.
Despite this difference of opinion and even though Choi does not show through the official Seoul Collections, he has managed to start selling his clothes in Paris department stores, a sure sign that he has developed an international reputation.
The show at Club Cage was a parade of extremely thin, edgy-looking male models wearing club fashions borrowed from America’s Wild West: washed plaid shirts over distressed jeans and vintage cowboy boots. More formal variations, made up of torn or perforated sweat shirts and tight-fitting suit jackets over baggy or slim pants, worn with metallic Puma sneakers, were more suitable for men who work at MTV Korea during the day.
The idea of using an American vintage look came from France. Earlier this year he had a chance to design the livery for the Renault Mild Seven Formula One car. Near Montmartre, he came across a vintage store called Washroom.
“When I saw American vintage items in Paris, I thought about what happens when Europeans wear them,” he said after the show. “Americans tend to wear their vintage clothes rough and tough, but Europeans wear them with their own sensibilities with a touch of avant garde. And they prefer softer silhouettes and thin materials, so the clothes feel natural.”
He said as a recognized designer, he feels he should now cater to consumers’ needs. “I feel I now want to design clothes that are easy for people to wear.”
When asked about his critics he said, “I’m aware of them. Sometimes they say things that don’t make sense, but often I take the criticism as a whipping rod that teaches me a lesson.

by Ines Cho
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