The runway shows came to a close this weekend Seoul Fashion Week after several days dominated by streetwear, toddler street-style and K-pop stars. Both Friday and Saturday’s round of shows offered up plenty in the way of bomber jackets, hoodies, velvet, statement-making clothes (literally) and cell phones as the accessory-du-jour—all ongoing trends here—but the themes on the catwalks at Dongdaemun Design Plaza were widespread. Finding a unified cultural reference to sum things up would be difficult because designers here are thinking about everything from chess games to the movie Kill Your Darlings for their fall collections.
Though mid-week is typically viewed as the strongest in terms of the Hera Seoul Fashion Week lineup, the designers who brought up the tail end this time around left things on a high note.
Blindness, a young men’s and women’s label founded by Kyu-Yong Shin and Jong-Taek Lee in 2013, was one of the most refined outings of the week (the star lineup of Korea’s inexplicably tall male models with cut-glass bone structure certainly helped matters, too). “I was inspired by the movie Kill Your Darlings, and the emotional crash that took place in the film,” said Shin, referring to the Daniel Radcliffe vehicle about American Beat poets. The literal reference came in the form of black leather motorcycle jackets painted with “Kill My Darling” on the back and other pieces that just said “Kill.” But the brighter spots here were in the more classic pieces — a camel coat and matching scarf, the ruffle collar blue-and-white stripe shirts for men with oversize bows tied in the back. The styling was another level above most of the shows here, and it set Blindness apart. They didn’t reinvent the wheel; they managed to show us a different side to Korean fashion besides streetwear.
Also on the more sophisticated end was Andy and Debb, a men’s and women’s line launched back in 1999 by Seokwon Andy Kim and Wonjeong Debbie Yoon. After a stint showing on the New York Fashion Week calendar in the mid Aughts, they returned to Seoul and have become the resident veterans on the calendar. It was a collection of 32 looks, 16 black and 16 white (the house’s signature colors), just like a chessboard, with plenty of bell sleeves, high ruffle necklines, and flared pants to go around.
“We were fascinated with the idea of the chess pieces and especially the bishop, who could be either good or bad during a game,” said the design duo. At the end of the show, there was a game of model chess on the runway, where the model’s moved around on the make-shift, large-scale chessboard on the runway. If we are talking about fashion as a game of chess, there were certainly some winning pieces — a classic black with a ruffled hem and white collar comes to mind.
On the more sporty side, there were brands like Sewing Boundaries (the final show of the week) that veered towards the younger set, but made the case for being very wearable pieces its Korean audience is likely to buy. Think bright, color-blocked hoodies and sweaters worn with track-style pants; color printed separates (the print used repetitively throughout looked a donut pattern from the front-row); and chevron striped jackets. Almost all of the looks were worn with Timberland boots.
Over at Yohanix, by Yohan Kim (who first launched his label in London in 2009 and worked at Balmain before doing his own venture), the focus was on mixed materials. The collection was already shown in Milan and New York, but the Korea-born designer also opted to show here in his native country. Models paraded down the runway in dark, androgynous looks finished with crystal embellishments, star insignias, and plenty of brocade. We could have done without a few too many leather pieces, but the outerwear, like the tweed jacket with crystal embellishment on the front, proved to be particularly memorable.
What stood out most was the beauty—partially, because there haven’t been many major beauty moments on the catwalks with this week. At Yohanix, models had frizzed-out, voluminous hair (save for those with buzz cuts), and a deep, oxblood red lip that they purposefully smeared all over their faces as they walked down the runway. That move, in particular, seemed like one of many this week that somehow just got lost in translation along the way. Shows here lack the editing and expert styling we’re so used to in the four main fashion capitals. For instance, it would do the designers a great favor to cut down the shows to a tighter selection of their strongest looks. But that's all part of the growing pains of any new ambitious endeavor, and if anything, Seoul has the resources and enthusiasm to become a major destination for the fashion obsessed in years to come.