From K-Pop to K-Beauty to capital K-fashion, we discover on a trip to the capitol city why the world has fallen for all things Korean.
It was maybe six months ago when it finally dawned on me that BTS wasn’t just industry jargon for behind-the-scenes snaps or video from a photo shoot. No, that would be the seven-man Korean pop act that has taken this country by storm, as evidenced by the pop sensations’ recent debut on the that other iconic acronym, SNL. That performance, of course, is merely the tip of a pop culture iceberg.
Take Glossier, perhaps the most buzzed about new beauty brand of the decade, which, with its jelly cleansers and “cloud paint” borrows heavily from Korean beauty trends. Part of the appeal lies with the fact that country frankly beats us to the punch in trends and technology. I couldn’t help but laugh when I was informed that there would be no wifi on my 14-hour Korean Air flight from New York because “Koreans are accustomed to cutting edge technology and would be disappointed by the slow speed.” But there’s something about that willingness to even consider unplugging that sets the place apart.
Arriving during the buzz of Seoul Fashion Week, I’d thoroughly anticipated Big Apple-style chaos. Instead, I was pleasantly stunned by the calm, careful coordination of the entire operation. The shows, which were all housed in the futuristic, Zaha Hadid-designed Dongdaemun Design Plaza, all ran on time (!) And despite the screaming crowds awaiting the arrival of countless K-Pop stars, the whole operation was far more civilized than its counterparts in the traditional fashion capitals. But what perhaps struck me most was the accessibility of it all as a large portion of the attendees were actual customers. And despite a generally lower, more contemporary pricepoint than what’s presented in NY, London, Milan and Paris, these emerging talents did not at all scrimp on design:
Infinitely wearable but far from boring, I loved the sophisticated color palette and the softly tailored, slightly asymmetric pieces. The orange blazer with the scarf lapel and off-kilter buttoned knits were standouts and tailoring is definitely her strong, er, suit.
Breaking the mold, the talents behind this buzzy brand lent thought-provoking details to basics such as neon puffer pockets on a black suit jacket.
It was inspiring to see a young designer embrace that tradition in such a bold way, with outerwear inspired by traditional Korean hanboks and monks’ robes. And while the color scheme was restrained, the imagination and materials certainly were not.
Seoul may be filled to the brim with all-night markets offering no shortage of fast fashion but this is a brand determined to stand its sustainable ground with elegant—and ethically sourced and produced—knits and shearling.
Images Courtesy of Seoul Fashion Week