A growing economy and greater confidence on the world stage means Korean designers are making waves. The Korean ‘look’ is perhaps less well documented than that of its Japanese neighbour but those thinking Asian design can be categorized under a single Eastern umbrella are ignoring demographical differences between Korea, Japan and China. Korea – perhaps more (or more quickly) than Japan has re-centricized itself as a global fashion force without fuss or overt historical references.
Thus Korean consumers – many of them in their 20s and 30s, with money to burn and a social media sense that empowers the search for constant novelty – want the best products from around the world; a fact that provides opportunity but challenges for those attempting to break a market where distribution is partly monopolized and trends change so quickly.
From even the most conservative Korean designers, expect respect for market forces with a confidence to push the envelope. This is what consumers want. Welcome to the future of retail.
What can seem avante garde in Choi’s creations is – more fundamentally – a drive through primal colours and a modernist (read 1920s elegance) with an intelligent focus on the midsection – wide or slim belts; contrasting top and bottom colours, more belts that taper or hang loose that complement free-flowing colours and flaired trousers or tapered dresses.
Where Pyo’s creations are conservative (the designer promotes a muted palette and promotes the individuation in the wearer’s interpretation and addition to her garments), they are fundamentally sensual in their simplicity. She often starts from the top down with wide shoulders, contrast in that area or trailing jackets to downplay any lower level radicalization or formal sensibilities below.
For the designers A/W 2019 collection at London Fashion Week there were contrasting principles on show: a 1940s asthetic advocated long coats and long dresses in tweed or thick cotton that tended to arrest – even suppress – the figure. This concept is aggrandized with parallel lines (and for this show stripes) that redifine the silhouette and ask questions about the body – whose is it, how do we perceive it?
Part of a swaythe of young Korean designers with neither resource or recourse to bend to international demands. The 2019 A/W collection at Seoul Fashion Week speaks to a smart, statement-making youth with slick takes on the humble mackintosh, gigantic puff and long jackets over disassembled underclothes in either deadly serious or day glow colours. This all indicates just how seriously young Koreans take fashion and how designers have to be reflexive to quickly changing tastes.