It may often feel like Instagram's street style stars are getting younger and younger. And during Seoul Fashion Week, it is practically unavoidable—but these sartorially forward subjects aren't twenty-somethings, but rather actual toddlers.
A significant amount of planning, purchasing and execution has to take place in order for a child not yet old enough to read have their picture make a splash in the street style world. They aren’t wearing your typical Osh Kosh B’Gosh overalls or Baby GAP hoodies. The looks are as complex as anything their adult counterparts would wear: Yeezys; Nike Cortezes; t-shirts from Supreme and Stüssy. They wear carefully arranged layers that defy the practical codes of children’s dressing, and designer accessories abound—like Chanel necklaces and Gucci side-body bags (albeit all of dubious authenticity).
It is not difficult to figure out who was behind all these street style kids. For every Givenchy-clad four-year-old standing outside the shows, there was mom standing just outside the camera frame—sometimes smiling, sometime scowling, but always quietly standing guard, making sure the photographer gets the shot. On more than one occasion, these mothers even pushed their children in front of strangers’ cameras. One thing these women all have in common: an unwavering desire to have their child photographed at fashion week.
Most of the women are from Seoul, and a few from nearby suburbs, thought two had flown in from Lanzhou in central China just to “attend the shows” with their well-dressed daughters. “We came because we love fashion,” said one attendee. Neither was able to name a single show they attended.
But flying six hours by plane was nothing compared to the preparation some of these women put into fashion week prep. Each day of fashion week requires anywhere from two to six outfits, all of which are carefully packed into a suitcase carried by the mother to the venues. Outfit changes happen on the street just around the corner from where most of the street style photographers perch. “I started researching the clothes last month,” said Lee Kangsun, whose seven-year-old son Yun Jaewook caused a stir with his red jumpsuit and round wireframe glasses. “I look to blogs and social media for the trends to start putting his outfits together.”
While most mothers exert total control over what their children wear, the process becomes more of a collaboration once the children are old enough to actually understand what clothes are and develop their own taste patters. “I used to do it all, but now she tells me what she likes,” said Eunice Lee. When asked how she would describe her nine year-old daughter Jarring Lee’s style, Jarring pushed her way in, threw both arms in the air, and shouted, “I want to look chic-chic-chic!”
Jarring explained her outfit, one of her favorites: an emerald velvet dress with lace cuffs. “She has more clothes than I do at this point,” said her mother.
And organizing your child’s outfits is just the first step in being a successful street style mom. The next is to set up an Instagram page on behalf of your child and populate it with charming images. Every street style kid is on Instagram, even before they are old enough to understand what Instagram really is.
And Instagram isn’t just for getting your child’s picture out there. Apparently the real action goes down in the DM’s, or direct messages. The moms told me stories of using DM’s to create playdates, to ghost other street style kids who were off-brand to their own image, and, most importantly, to create cliques. Yes, street style moms essentially roll in a few different gangs. They coordinate outfit colors and meeting times for all of fashion week—on Wednesday, we wear pink, on Thursday, we wear black and red, that sort of thing.
After exploring the “how” of Seoul’s street style moms, there is still the central question of why they go through all this effort. Jihee Choi insisted that her two-year-old daughter Sihoon Park “really wants to be a singer.” Most other moms gave similar answers, indicating that their child was some sort of emerging model or aspiring KPOP group member. They all believed that getting a street style pic would bring the exposure necessary to advance their children’s nascent careers.
But for a few of the moms, Seoul Fashion Week is not about a chance at fame—it’s a good old-fashioned family outing. Hyesoo Lee,(who dressed herself, her sons Hojin Woo, 6, and Hyunjin Woo, 3, in matching Stüssy outfits, said, “My boys are actually pretty shy, so I brought them here to make new friends and help them come out of their shells a bit.” Added Hey Jin, mother of five-year-old Seung Hyan Yang, “It’s really fun to be here at the shows. We love fashion and I just want the best for my daughter.”
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