A new look for Fashion Week

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A new look for Fashion Week

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Won Dae-yun

Fashion is all about what’s new and different, and so perhaps it wasn’t that surprising that Seoul Fashion Week, which kicked off last Friday, broke a few traditions.

As it nears its 20th anniversary this fall, the show skipped the routine press conference at an upscale hotel in Seoul as well as a press presentation before the seven-day collection period began.

That stripped-down attitude reflects the pragmatism of Won Dae-yun, chairman of the Seoul Fashion Week Committee, the organizer of the nation’s biggest biannual fashion event.

Taking over the helm of the new organization that was founded in February 2009, the long-time fashion industry leader made it his policy to do away with unnecessary costly events.

“We’ll hold a press conference only when we have particular issues to talk about. When bureaucrats led the Seoul Fashion Week, they just followed tradition, without giving it a second thought,” Won said in an interview with the JoongAng Daily nine days before the fall/winter collection debuted.

The Seoul Fashion Week Committee, partially funded by its host, the Seoul Metropolitan Government, consists of 22 fashion industry experts including designers, fashion enterprise executives and academics. Before the committee was established, the collection went through several organizers and financiers, including the predecessor of the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.

As chairman of the private Korea Fashion Association since 2004, Won accepted the city government’s offer to lead the committee to “mend and revive the country’s fashion industry.”

“It is high time that the show breaks away from its supplier side-focused convention. It cannot remain a local cultural event forever,” he said.

Past collections had been dominated by senior designers who, in Won’s view, relied on mannerisms and lorded over fresher fledgling designers.

“It had long been a league of their own, and buyers turned their backs on the Seoul Collection. The seats were only occupied by fashion design students and some fashion-savvy celebrities who wanted some camera shots,” he said.

So Won introduced a new section named “Generation Next” at the 2009 fall/winter collection to give emerging designers a chance. And the organizers began asking for fact sheets that included details about the designs being shown and their prices. Surprisingly, the older participants hadn’t been asked to do any paperwork in the past.

Won also made it mandatory for all shows to start on time. Now, any designer starting more than 15 minutes late has points deducted in the post-show assessment.

When Fashion Week closes, experts assess individual designers’ works and those who receive bad marks are disqualified from showing at the collection in the following season. Those with positive feedback are given state financial aid to show their works overseas.

One measurement of success for the festival is the designer’s global competitiveness, Won said.

“Those designers whose products have never been exported can’t take part in the Paris Collection. We’re going to follow in those footsteps,” said the former chief executive of Cheil Industries, Korea’s leading fashion enterprise.

As part of its plan to “go global,” Seoul Collection plans to expand its foothold in Asia and the Middle East. Won, as chair of the Asia Fashion Federation, garnered agreement from his Chinese and Japanese counterparts to coordinate their fashion weeks with Seoul’s, starting this season. Tokyo Fashion Week spans from March 23 to March 29 while China Fashion Week in Beijing is March 24 to March 31.

Won is also considering inviting Korean designers who have already made a splash overseas to show in coming seasons.

“We need to foster star designers. Just one world-scale designer can make such an enormous difference,” he said.


By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]
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