Seoul finds itself in an odd spot, so far as its Fashion Week is concerned. The past five years have seen the South Korean capital rise to become a real arbiter of style and a biannual destination for editors, buyers, and influencers from around the world. This season, however, its longtime artistic director Kuho Jung, who spearheaded much of the change, announced it would be his final turn at the helm. Though interest remains, the momentum has been difficult (and costly) to maintain, as attention turns to Shanghai and parts further afield, while local success stories like Low Classic and Blindness have departed for Europe.
When Jung began his directorship, he shared a fervent hope that his Fashion Week would find and nurture a promising designer, who might help pave the way for his or her countrymen in establishing a Korean fashion history. No matter what comes, Seoul remains rife with young talents, who need support to make it onto that international playing field. Here, the five shows to remember from Fall 2019.
For nearly eight years now, Minju Kim has been quietly making frothy tulle dresses, plush quilted coats, and other whimsically feminine designs that rank among Seoul’s finest creations. This season, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp graduate relied on the Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In to push her girlish fantasies to a darker place Think: pastel pink capes printed with snow rabbits and hunting knives, or elaborate laser cut leather jumpers pierced with hoops. Standouts included the iridescent black puffer numbers, which were soft to the touch and came trimmed prettily with faux fur.
The talk of this season was the Esmod Paris–trained Kyo Ho Lee, who presented the third collection for his label Moho. Lee creates conceptual, often sustainable garments; Fall’s “Animalité” was his meditation on the industry’s pervasive use of animal skins and furs. “I was thinking about why do we wear other animals in the first place, why do we think that is pretty,” he explained, “and how could I bring out that animalistic feeling without using any of those materials?” He subverted expectations by sourcing found objects—the bubble wrap boxed up in packages sent to his office, for one—to recreate those natural textures. See the show-stopping spiked porcupine top, which on closer inspection, was revealed to be hundreds of black cable ties pierced through cloth.
Designers Bona Kim and Jae Hyuk Lim remain inspired by the formative years they spent in London (she at the London College of Fashion, he at the Royal College of Art). Besfxxk, which is a portmanteau of “bespoke” and “fucked up,” relies on their deconstruction of classic British tailoring like camel-colored trenches (flipped into a floor-length skirt) and duffel coats (detached and re-attached at the hem), a Margiela-ish move that nonetheless resulted in modern clothes with lots of hanger appeal.
Designer Hyun Min Han continued his thoughtful execution of tailored menswear and elegant blending of Eastern and Western references. This season, he drew from South Korea in 1890, the country’s age of enlightenment, which meant hanbok necklines and sprigs of flowers embroidered with silk, then transferred onto traditionally Western suiting and coats. Classic Korean motifs appeared as a quilted silk bomber with a pink tasseled zipper and sharp separates that recalled Münn’s Spring 2017 The Handmaiden–inspired show. Bonus points for consistency.
The fleeting nature of a runway show does a disservice to the quality of designer Eun-hye Jo’s construction. Her iterations on schoolgirl and work uniforms are well assembled and easy to wear, with intriguing design details like the asymmetric scallop of a hem or a slight bunching along the breastbone. There was a nice range of midi-to-maxi skirts with matching blazers, and Jo managed the trick of including a brand collaboration (with Hello Kitty, of all things) in the subtlest of ways, letting her clothes remain the main course.