Seoul Womenswear: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Last week we covered the Seoul menswear collections, an easy-on-the-eye collective rumination on romance, nostalgia and masculinity. The womenswear shows, on the other hand, could be generally categorized as overly decorative, the wrong shade of retro and anything but modern or inspiring. Those collections that actually shined did so in a particular style that fused earthiness and etherealness without giving up the street ethos so necessary for a young fashion city’s credibility.

Ha Sang Beg threw the doors open on day five with a line in clean white, high gloss silver and what can only be described as the most demure day-glo hues this side of the future. Titled “Pirates of Wonderpond” the couture-meets-street collection wavered between silk, cotton and linen. Soft frills and ridges recalling desert lizards and fleshy amphibians added a delightfully warped sense of naturalness to a pop aesthetic that proved inventive, fun and altogether covetable.

Kwak Hyun Joo’s sandy swatches of shimmering and matte beiges, creams, coppers and khakis also evoked this arid aesthetic. The costume designer-cum-catwalk director layered loose and structured items in materials as diverse as gauze, netting and denim, managing to coax an impressive amount of character from a predominantly neutral palette.

Meanwhile, Lee Suk Tae showed off charming, elfin power suits. A few were a little on the bulky side, but the slimmed down versions—tapered pants, structured high-waist skirts and jackets with only a suggestion of urban fairy—conveyed a satisfying blend of quirk and sophistication. The Paris-trained designer also mentioned that he views “clothes as a space that occupies body,” while describing his vision for spring/summer ’09 to be futuristic and architectural. On that note, there were also metallic-plated skirts, voluminous and trailing knits as well as those impossible to overlook full-frontal wedge-heel sling backs.

Last but not least there is Jain Song, whose debut show took place at Daily Projects, a trendy select shop specializing in up-and-coming designers that served as an alternative show space. Perhaps because the smaller venue meant that the seating area was standing room only, or maybe because the young designer has already built-up a local cult following, but Song’s “Discord” show certainly felt the most exciting. In fact, her clothes are rather understated, subtle innovations of hipness: streaky bleached denim, androgynous silhouettes, almost translucent nylon hoodies and toe-less bootie flats. And the audience, which was the youngest and coolest all week, ate everything up.

So yes, while there was plenty to complain about at the collections (the un-sexy venue, the troublesome lighting, and the tedious line-ups) there is promise amid the cascades of flounces to keep an eye on Seoul.

—Rebecca Milner

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