South Korea has long been the place to manufacture mass market clothes, and to buy cheap interpretations of designer styles. But lately, the country’s capital has emerged as a cosmopolitan design hub—with emphasis on innovative architecture, product design and fashion, as well as recent launches of national editions for Nylon and Dazed & Confused Korea. The recent Seoul Fashion Week put all of this into focus with an emphasis on the country’s ultra- modern, super-hyped lifestyle, in which fashion only factors as one part of the aesthetic equation.
Many Korean designers, such as Woo Young Mi and Y & Kei, have made their names overseas, but the local talent showing at Fashion Week proved that there’s a burgeoning scene of up-and-coming menswear designers in Seoul. The week kicked off with three days of menswear shows, and ended with a live taping of the Korean version of Project Runway, which, we hear, is almost a direct replica of the Bravo show—but with Korean contestants.
The week kicked off with the MVIO collection by Han Sanghyuk. The designer took inspiration from Sherlock Holmes, but turned all that 19th century haberdashery on its ear with a collection that reinterprets British tailoring standards. Blazers were shown without sleeves, for updated vests and 3 piece suit looks, trousers were shown cropped and high-waisted, with track stripes at the sides, worn with braces over a natty vest. The collection took further cues from Britain’s most famous sleuth in the form of capelets and cape details, updated blazers, overcoats and even a sweater, while herringbone and argyle patterns appeared as styling accents.
Beyond Closet also captured our imagination with a nostalgic, military-tinged collection. Designer Tae Young drew on his own army stint (mandatory for all Korean men) for inspiration. We liked the collection’s theatrical elements—the runway was strewn with autumnal leaves and models entered the show through a military tent— to complement the array of chunky knits, great women’s pieces and tailored trousers, all of which appeared in a very limited palette of tan, olive, navy and orange. Slim fitting double-breasted overcoats got the military treatment, while epaulettes and woven shirts looked great with functional pocket treatments. Not everything was military, however, as the runway also featured simple tweed blazers worn with corduroy trousers, oversized sweaters and cropped jackets with fur collars.
One of Korea’s most famous designers, J. Juun, showed his Juun J collection in Paris in January and, again, in Seoul in March. His collection of reworked classics included great outerwear with wide, cropped sleeves, and classic items including trench coats, jackets and sweaters that were reworked to make a very modern statement. Other practical items included oversized ponchos, which were cut from plaid shirting materials and worn with slim trousers.
Designer Kang Dongjun showcased an interest in gangster attire with his D.Gnak collection, which was based on mafia-style sharp shouldered suits and sharkskin fabrics, all updated with asymmetrical closures. The collection was named “Carlito’s Way,” and the designer ended the show with a clip from the namesake film, followed by a procession of models all wearing prison jumpsuits.
We loved The Herin Homme by Park Herin. One of the few female designers of Korean menswear, she named her collection after Pride and Prejudice this season. The mostly black and grey collection of clean basics, tailored sportswear and updated jackets (with sleek lapels and collars), gave us a fresh take on motorcycle jackets, and some well fitted slim trousers. Korean TV star Kim Jun, created a media frenzy with a quick cameo at the show.
Though Seoul may at first seem like just another city vying for attention by adding another fashion week to an already crowded calendar, it has, in fact, emerged as one of the hottest new design destinations.