Less is more for fashion Hallyu

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Less is more for fashion Hallyu

“The global fashion project for Korean designers to advance overseas.” “The global fashion brand development project.” “The project to enhance the global capacity of Korean fashion brands.”

These three initiatives are not simply different rewordings of the same thing. The first idea comes from Concept Korea, which is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. The second is from Seoul’s 10 Soul project, which is backed by the Seoul metropolitan government. The last is from the global brand fostering initiative of the Korea Fashion Association, and is supported by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

While the first and second initiatives select designers to present their works in New York and Paris, the third focuses on backing mid-sized fashion brands. All three are aimed at adding fashion to the Korean Wave, or Hallyu, and popularizing domestic brands on a global scale.

The three projects are all pursing ambitious initiatives at the same time. Concept Korea has announced a list of designers that will appear in its New York showcase in September. Seoul’s 10 Soul has internally selected designers for its Paris exhibition and will soon release an official statement. The globalizing project is also planning a major event in New York on Aug. 5.

We welcome the support the central and local governments are giving the fashion industry. We don’t even have to get to the “creative economy” policy to emphasize how fashion has come to reflect the level of culture and lifestyle of a country. However, even fashion industry insiders wonder why everyone is waging separate battles when they all have the same objective.

They have tight budgets, but will each have to pay separately to promote and run their events. This will obviously make it harder to share information and result in inefficiency and unnecessary expenditures. In fact, two projects selected the same designer, and designers and brands are not sure which project they belong to in terms of seniority and size. The fashion Hallyu projects should be unified into one so they can be operated more effectively and efficiently.

There have been attempts to join forces. In 2001, the then-Ministry of Knowledge Economy, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and the city of Seoul signed a memorandum of understanding on the fashion industry, agreeing to create a consultative inter-ministerial policy organization. The committee would make it easier to host different events abroad and co-organize events like the Korean Fashion Contest.

What made the joint scheme fall apart? Those in charge said that each agency and local government wanted to take credit for their part, and no additional budget was created for the integrated initiative.

In New York, Paris, London or Milan, a single channel - usually the Fashion Association - arranges Fashion Week, discovers and fosters new designers and supports overseas advancement projects. If anyone is curious about the fashion of that country, the Fashion Association is the place to go. Berlin and the Foreign Ministry of Germany are preparing Berlin Fashion Week in a bid to make the city “the fifth-largest fashion center.”

In the fashion industry, collaboration is key. Shoes meet architecture; T-shirts meet photography. Artists are creating hybrid projects and tearing down boundaries. This is how to get fashion Hallyu going.

If the walls between projects are higher than the walls around the global market, how can the Korean fashion wave spread around the world?

*The author is a staff writer of the JoongAng Sunday.

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