Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Seoul Fashion Week AW18 - Sitting Front Row At Major Fashion Weeks Across Two Continents, Street Style and More!

About a year ago, I decided I wanted to go to Seoul Fashion Week. I'd been attending London Fashion Week biannually for a while and, given my great love of Korean fashion, wanted to see what it was all like over there. It seemed like a distant dream - it would be too expensive, it was so far away and I'd likely have to go alone. And then my friend announced she and her boyfriend were going to Japan and I thought, "If they can do such a big trip, I can too!"





Organising it was difficult. The flight, hotel...all that stuff was easy but fashion week was hard. It's not as old or well-established as London and, as a result, the mechanisms in place don't run as smooth. I never actually did manage to properly register through the official event. Plus, I was doing it all through my limited understanding of the Korean language and contact with people who spoke limited English. Then, my Korean teacher saved the day and put me in contact with a designer friend of hers, Jimmy Tailor, and a designer I met at LFW pulled through for me with a hook-up. The amazing, jam-packed line-up of shows that I had envisioned didn't happen but these contacts saved the entire trip for me and I got to attend five shows and peep the incredible street style outside, as well. Plus, the fact that I didn't have a crazy schedule meant that I got to tourist in Seoul and have an actual holiday!






Seoul Fashion Week was lots of the things that I had imagined but also surprised me in many ways. I knew it was run by Hera, a big Korean beauty brand, but I hadn’t realised that it was originally a government-run affair. And, in going private, I was told privately that it has gone from an event that funded young designers and became a system that allowed big designers to get bigger and gave newbies little chance to grow. This is disheartening news, to say the least, but not at all surprising in such a cut-throat industry.

Also surprising was the street style situation. It was as colourful and fascinating as I had presumed - though a North Londoner who happened to walk past me described the aesthetic scathingly as, “the ugliest clothes you can find with a bucket hat on top” - but there was a note of desperation that was unique to Seoul. Not desperation in a pathetic way but in a way that was so enduringly hard-working and eager that it made me sad. The main walkway down to the show venues was constantly lined with street style star hopefuls, posing and waiting to be papped. The same people were there for hours and hours and worked it in a way that was impressively professional. Of course, these types of people are at every fashion week around the world but they were especially persistent at SFW. Furthermore, the sheer number of young men compared to women was startling and severe. In Seoul, the boys are just as serious about fashion.

Vanon Studio


Sown Garments & Brown Hat


When it came to the shows, I was super into the width and breadth of influences and styles. I had presumed that a very urban and contemporary look would reign supreme (as it did outside, on the kids waiting to be photographed) but, while it was present, it was not king. The first show I went to, A.Bell, was a refined and expertly restrained affair in sandy tones that would give Celine a run for its money. The next show, Vanon Studio, nodded to 1980s cybergoth and bondage. Largely made up of risqué menswear pieces, it featured  harnesses, cutouts and a traffic cone tied to a wrist as an accessory. Immediately after that came Sown Garments, with accessories by Brown Hat, which saw lots of neutral toned suiting directly from the early 20th century. Then was my favourite show, YCH, which was an ode to 40s and 50s trunk shows and boasted super-oversized hats, pearl details, headscarves, cheerful pops of colour, reimagined classic tailoring and romantic blouses. Finally, I had the Low Classic show that was all earthy palettes, draping, luxurious fabrics and boho tailoring.

My hook-up was pretty good and I ended up with lots of great seats - a couple of second rows and two front rows. However, for the YCH show, there was a fuck-up with the list. My name wasn't there and neither was the name of a Russian company director and the nine people who had come with her. She wasn't impressed and the show was about to begin. We were told to wait for one of the organisers to come meet us but she didn't show so the Russian lady dragged me along to the entrance to figure it out. We eventually found the woman in charge and she presented the Russian lady with two tickets. She laughed in shock and reminded the organiser that she had ten people in her group (who had since disappeared). Frustrated with the situation and sorry for me (who was next in the list of concerns and not yet considered), she simply handed me one of the tickets and said, "Go." I thanked her and ran inside. "Where do I go?" I asked several people (in Korean), as there was no number on the ticket. "That way" and a casual point in some direction. I asked two more people, the lights were going down, it was about to start. "Dear God" (or the Korean equivalent) said a more senior looking person and grabbed my wrist, brought me over to the front row, tugged a Matches Fashion buyer's name off of it, handed me the gift on the seat and pushed me into the chair. So, I ended up with a perfectly positioned seat, a cute present and a record of being front row at major shows, at major fashion weeks, across two continents. I might not be where I want to be in my career but that, alone, is pretty damn neat for an aspiring fashion journalist








It’s funny, my experience of SFW gave me a great deal of insight into its uglier sides and, yet, I still saw enough beauty and genius that I fell in love. And you know it’s true love if it still happens when you can see the flaws so clearly from the get-go. My friend, who is a local fashion insider, said he felt that Seoul is just "one designer copying another, though it’s not like European designers don’t do the same". Of course, he’s not wrong that the fashion industry, globally, sees a lot of people jumping on board the same trends. But I would argue that the lens through which Seoul sees and re-imagines things is special and addictive. And now that I’ve gotten a taste of it, I can’t wait to go back...


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