Why Asia's Brightest Stars Struggle to Shine, Seoul Fashion Week

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Business of Fashion rightfully raises the question on why fashion weeks in Tokyo, Shanghai and Seoul still lack global visibility. A handful of important voices from Korea have shared their thoughts. I am so grateful to have been included in this important article and expand on my quote to speak out my opinion on this topic below.
Click here to read the full article.

The strategy and focus behind Seoul Fashion Week needs to be shifted from being a touristic attraction putting the emphasis on the city and the fashion week brand to promoting fashion creative talents and the real fashion business opportunities. I don’t mean that fashion week should become a trade show, not at all, what I’m saying is that the CREATIVE INDIVIDUALS= DESIGNERS need to be the main focus. The easiest analogy is to compare a fashion show to a stage. Fashion week is a series of stages produced and presented by fashion design talents. It’s a serious professional business. But you must also understand that the designers all have different maturity and strengths and the director’s job is to communicate with each designer and identify the strongest names and the most exciting emerging names by bringing the best group of professionals in the industry together and work as a team to promote them. Set the frame and give the designers the freedom to do what they’re very good at doing – fashion is an incredibly creative form of art. Remember how London Fashion Week was able to bring back some of its powerful names like Burberry, Vivienne Westwood (Red Label), Paul Smith, while working together with the experts to identify and support the emerging talents. Seoul has an amazing pool of emerging talents spread out all over the world and a handful of established as well. I think cooperation within the industry is more important at this moment.

Better communications and strategy is also paramount. The main focus should not be about promoting the city or the fashion week brand, but to build relationships to potentially get the words about the great talents out and start a healthy flow of communications with the international audiences. This approach requires an investment in a strategy working towards results. Guest programmes are a great example that can give direct results as seen in the case of London Fashion Week and London Collections Men and relationship building is key for buyers and press alike. Buying can be a bit complicated because of the timing but it’s not impossible.

It’s quite crazy that the 4 major fashion weeks in Asia from Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing to Seoul conflict in their schedules but it tells you that they probably don’t really look at each other’s events. While all eyes are fixed upon the global fashion week calendar, taking place in the 4 major cities I think it’s fair to say that Tokyo has probably been the most attended one out of the 4 mentioned above, until the country struggled economically affected by various issues and of course the nuclear incident. It’s definitely worthwhile for the leading forces of each fashion week to start discussing the schedule and considering attending each other’s fashion weeks.

Fashion is not only a complicated business but also a relatively new language to the fashion week organizers in Asia with the exception of Japan. It would be a good idea to listen to the Japanese who are very experienced in this sector. Political issues and historical conflicts should be put aside. It’s about fashion and Japan leads the game in this industry. 

All arguments aside, I do want to emphasize that Seoul Fashion Week is working really hard to make things better. I welcome the fact that they now have a new director, a renowned and respected designer Kuho Chung who made it possible for this season’s Seoul Fashion Week to be sponsored by Hera, the powerful Korean beauty brand. Seoul Fashion Week daily is another great tool they have introduced including designer reviews by the best writers we have like Bom Lee, Editor in Chief at <Dazed & Confused> and Kwangho Shin, Fashion News Director at <Vogue>, Yuri Cho a renowned fashion columnist (all issues can be downloaded here*). The fashion scene in Korea has entered into the new establishment phase and there is now an amazing industry of fashion professionals who are all very passionate about promoting its own talents. International forces are great and can amplify and communicate what the local forces bring together. So it’s super important that platforms are established for the local fashion professionals to come together.

Finally I think designers like Jin Teok who was honored with a retrospective exhibition at the recent Seoul Fashion Week deserves to be acknowledged because she tells the story of our own fashion history and heritage which may not have had a long modern life but nevertheless very rich and so colourful. I love how Jin Teok’s collection is all about the beautiful and the classic mostly in shades from white to cream perfectly revoking the spirit of calm once the country stood for in the past: Korea has been referred to ‘The Land of Morning Calm’. Then there’s of course the K-Pop aesthetics by designers like Kye who is part of the powerful fashion movement in Korea right now. I love the rich pop colours applied to faux fur and silk by Rabbitti as well – Rabbitti is an emerging brand and doesn’t show at SFW yet but is stocked in leading multi-label boutiques in Seoul. Other great names include CY Choi, J Koo, Kim Seo Ryong, Low Classic, Lucky Chouette, Moonsoo Kwon, Pushbutton, R.Shemiste, Steve J Yoni P and many more. Visit Seoul Fashion Week to find out more. 

Written by Inhae Yeo
Photo captured from Business of Fashion webpage.