With my new schedule I still hardly have time to breathe. Two and a half weeks into my time in Seoul I was pretty much ready to call it quits with designers who had expressed interest in having their Fall/ Winter 2016 styles profiled on The Toronto Seoulcialite, only to still find no tickets in my new mailbox 24 hours before their shows. Designers (well…people in general) can be fickle and disorganized, so I was ready to spend my Saturday catching up on sleep and Shonda Rhimes. Star (of 87Pages) convinced me to get my ass outta bed at the crack of dawn on Saturday to take in the madness of Fashion Week in Seoul.
We arrived expecting a massive crowd quite early, but the place was pretty empty. It was really nice to take in the first really warm weather of the season with the beautiful, modern architecture of Dame Zaha Hadid’s Dongdaemun Design Plaza where Seoul Fashion Week is held. Stepping out of my taxi there was an eerily pristine moment of calm before the storm in which I got to admire the building and its empty surroundings bathing in sunlight from all angles. I reflect on that moment now, just having found out that Hadid, first woman as well as the first Muslim to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, died of a heart attack only 5 days later on March 31st, 2016.
We all wore pieces that we assumed would stand out. I have my subway kiosk ridiculous red hat paired with basic black and white (some peplum, all H&M because let’s face it – I’m on a teacher-in-Korea’s salary) with my studded Betsey Johnson Mary Jane wedges. Star had done her hair in a very un-Korean manner, and Mika (The Seoul Child) was wearing bright, multi-coloured, flowy pants.
With her hair and signature scowl pout she got a lot of attention. There were photographers and randoms alike snapping photos of us, but only a few popped up under any of the anticipated hashtags on instagram.
Our first show was R. Shemiste (a play on Alchemy). A famed Korean model with whom I had been speaking mentioned that Korean style didn’t have an identity. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the shows, but a whole bunch of Korean idols showed up so we at least indulged the step and repeat. Can you name any of the above artists? As far as the show goes, I was impressed with the organization and music. We were never waiting on any models, the show started relatively on time (at least for Fashion Week), and the crowd was clearly groovin’ to the MIA-style tunes. We won’t discuss the styles because of the golden rule. If you want to see them (all of them…sped up) check out the video above.
The Yohanix show was much more my speed (and is also in the above video – significantly less “glossed-over”). While I hadn’t received my tickets for this show either (grrr…) PR for Yohanix was able to find me my seat in the front row since Star had only been assigned one pass. I was seated beside a buyer from China who mentioned that Yohan Kim’s line sells very, very well in China. It’s expensive, but the Chinese love the mix of fabrics and textures adorned with embroidery and jewels.
The show began like any other – standard ambient/ electronic music accompanied tall, lanky models with sullen faces marching along the runway in over-sized garments. It quickly took a dark turn. I started to notice the music change to Hans Zimmer (which I later discovered was “Dream is Collapsing” from “Inception” rather than the initial assumption that it was from “The Dark Knight”). “Aliantha” by Clocks & Clouds came next, followed by “Maximum Effort” by Junkie XL from the “Deadpool” soundtrack. What was Yohanix trying to say with all of these dark melodies and heavy beats from soundtracks to alternative reality/ superhero movies? Was this a translucent cover to what I would interpret as a political statement?
The designs muted from grays and olives to dark browns and blacks. Then, on all the models’ faces (men and women alike) I noticed a deep burgundy lipstick smeared across one side of their face just like The Joker.
Paired with Zimmer blasting through the speakers and models with huge sleeve tattoos, the whole event seemed very un-Korean. In fact, with the final looks showing shiny, evening-wear blazers with nothing underneath I’m sure to most of the audience it felt distinctly anti-Korean.
This was a statement on Korean fashion as a whole and it seemed to me that Yohanix had a clearly defined identity, but it is far more influenced by Kim’s time in Paris at Balmain and his appreciation of the big name Italian designers than anything I have ever seen in Korea.
On the last look the models walked with their faces covered in black masks. Each had a different message which I interpreted as different methods of censorship. The entire show was extremely powerful, but that last dig at Asian media and the Korean style of saving face took the cake. This show was highly political. The final song was “Fear” by MINO ft. Taeyang. Like most Korean Popular Music (I struggle to call this song K-Pop), the beat is strong and you can groove along to the music pretty easily. It’s definitely not the feel-good song you might initially expect. I found a translation of the lyrics and the pieces fit the puzzle: Koreans, just like the rest of our generation, are constantly looking to our parents and ancestors to fill the void; to find some clarity or an answer. We all have a fear of our futures and a fear of other people’s perceptions indicative of our generation and our place in the world. It’s no wonder his F/W 16 season was called “Generation Maybe”, our obsession with information and technology has left us without a clue.
There is much more to Yohan Kim and Yohanix than the designer’s sheepish, almost mischievous smile and gracious attitude. He posed for pictures for a lengthy period on the runway with fans and idols after the show, and went outside to thank his volunteers in person. Nobody even noticed him outside DDP near where the idols were walking the red carpet. He also stopped to chat with us after our interview with KBS. Our interview will air April 10th at 11 PM, so check it out if you have cable in Korea!
My one day at Seoul Fashion Week F/W 16 came to a close with the official after-party at The Banyan Tree Resort & Hotel. For such a luxury hotel group, this sure was a small banquet hall. I was half expecting a cabana party by the pool with heaters and champagne. There was champagne (one glass of sickly sweet brut included with our KRW 20,000 ticket), but there were no cabanas, and nobody was dancing. True to form, the VIP sections were flooded with people sitting and staring at their cell phones. The girls and I took over the dance-floor, and before long I was up to my old tricks trying to liven up the party. I asked to exchange jackets with popular YouTuber 艾克里里ercolili. Surprisingly, he said yes and exchanged my sale rack H&M jacket for the sparkly number above. We also had the pleasure of meeting (and, of course, exchanging jackets with) some of the models who had walked all week. One of them actually nearly walked off leaving me wearing a beauuuuutiful black leather bit which, naturally, didn’t quite fit my hips. Sam Okyere was the only one who didn’t indulge my fashion swap idea. Can you blame him? That blue leather is to die for! Ultimately, we left the party as it wound down. Soon enough I was runnin’ through the 6ix (er…Itaewon) with my woes…scooped up into another VIP, this time with Moet to my absolute delight. Seoul Fashion Week: I’ll see you for Spring/ Summer 17. Can’t wait.