Keeping Up With South Korea: Highlights from Seoul Fashion Week

Since its inauspicious start, Seoul Fashion Week has become an important incubator for young talent.


Seoul Fashion Week has gone fully global this season. The Fall 2016 collections kicked off on Monday at the Zaha Hadid-designed DDP building with an impressive international set of editors, stylists, buyers, and designers–including none other than Victoria Beckham (in town to launch her latest capsule collection with MyTheresa), Nicholas Kirkwood, Justin O’Shea (the crowds were buzzing about the news of his appointment as creative director for Brioni on Wednesday), Simon Collins, Caroline Issa, and Susie Bubble–in the front row.

“It’s my second time at Seoul Fashion Week,” said Issa. “I think there are some very exciting brands to watch here.”

Wednesday’s busy lineup was exemplary of the promising fashion talent in Seoul–and the ways in which designers are stepping up their shows this season by hiring top Korean stylists for their shows and more A-team models to walk in their shows than in past seasons.

First up was BNB12, a unisex urban casual label by Jeon Sang Park and Jeong Min Choi. It was hard to ignore the endless stream of camera flashes before the show as a slew of K-pop stars, including Danbi Chun (who was the runner up on “Superstar K,” Korea’s version of “American Idol”), the girls of Hello Venus, and Nicole Jung (now a major solo artist in Asia, formerly of the popular girl group Kara), found their way to their front-row seats. The collection incorporated a range of trends, from sporty bomber jackets embellished with sequins and beadwork to dramatic flared pants in various iterations for men and women that proved to be a standout. And then there was the brand’s recurring Disney theme. The show closed with “When You Wish Upon A Star” blaring from the speakers as the models made their final walk. “I really liked the whole Pinocchio theme, how the whale came out on some of the sequin clothing and most of the clothes were related to Pinocchio. It was very deep,” said Jung as she made her exit.

In stark contrast, the brand Charm’s, a unisex streetwear brand favorited by K-pop stars and founded by Yohan Kang, opened with a bunch of black-clad drummers standing in large cages in the center of the room. The models strutted around them, wearing army green and black garments of every variety, with the occasional pop of red in the form of a plush coat or Chinese symbols (the brand is said to be making a big push to target the Chinese market) embroidered on the back of jackets which translated to: “One must be willing to die for something in order to win. If you fight to just survive, you will lose.” Other shirts were stitched with similar messaging, such as “Never Say Die.” What proved to be the brightest moments in a rather dark show, however, were the reworked nylon bomber jackets pieces. The Dior reference was noticeable here (recall the $6,000-plus, bomber style evening jacket from a few seasons back), but nonetheless, pieces like the oversized green bomber worn as dress and the floor-length evening skirt in the same material had a real cool factor. The black sweatshirts with the “CHARMS” embroidered logo, however, might prove to have the most commercial success.

The mood was much lighter at Kye, a brand stocked at shops like Opening Ceremony and VFILES. The collection played with unisex streetwear from different periods using a mixture of fabrics like faux fur (a signature for the brand), velvet, corduroy, and plaid in shades of electric lime, royal blue, red, and olive. “We are always about a casual, fun collection—nothing too serious but good to look at,” Kathleen Hanhee Kye, the founder and designer behind the Seoul-based unisex label, said backstage. Items like the dusty pink silk bomber-and-short set, worn by It girl model Irene Kim, and the bright red, fur-trimmed men’s jacket with “KYE” stitched on the back, are sure to be a hit with Kye’s loyal K-pop clientele, many of whom were in the audience today. “When we started Seoul Fashion Week, it was very humble,” Kye said. “Now we have this big, beautiful venue and everyone, especially Asia, is focusing on Seoul fashion. It’s kind of amazing.”

The day closed with another heavy hitter—Fleamadonna by Jei Kim. This season (her second season showing in Seoul), Kim found inspiration in the ’80s movement led by the Italian design group Memphis. “It’s all about club, discotheque,” said the young designer before the show. “The spirit of the brand is dynamic and fun and that’s what I want t showcase here.” The show did exactly that, with the models gliding down the runway to disco tunes wearing Kim’s version of a white go-go boot (these were bejeweled), plenty of sequin sparkle numbers in the form of crop tops, slinky dresses, and mini skirts. The highlights, however, included a bold green, glossy crocodile-patterned mini skirt that had several editors ready to place an order on the spot, and an off-the-shoulder green bomber paired with wide leg denim culottes trimmed with feathers. The models danced their way off the stage and the crowds left with a smile on their faces. “That was just so refreshing,” said one seasoned female showgoer as she headed for the door. “It’s nice to see people actually having fun at a fashion show for once.” Agreed.

Photos: Keeping Up With South Korea: Highlights from Seoul Fashion Week

Finale at BNB12 Fall 2016 Show, Photo Courtesy of Hera Seoul Fashion Week.

BNB12 Fall 2016. Photo Courtesy of Hera Seoul Fashion Week.

From Left: Danbi Chun and Nicole Jung after the BNB12 Fall 2016 Show. Photo Courtesy of Hera Seoul Fashion Week.

Fleamadonna Fall 2016. Photo Courtesy of Hera Seoul Fashion Week.

KYE Fall 2016. Photo Courtesy of Hera Seoul Fashion Week.

From Left: Hyorin from Sistar and Hyeyeon from Girls’ Generation wearing KYE after the KYE Fall 2016 Show. Photo Courtesy of Hera Seoul Fashion Week.