K-pop, contemporary art – Seoul Fashion Week recap with WWD

Seoul – The spring 2024 edition of Seoul Fashion Week took place a month earlier than usual amid sweltering late-summer heat, with fashion enthusiasts braving faux fur and leather balaclavas for a glimpse.

South Korea’s biggest fashion event has reset its calendar from October to September for the first time since its inception in 2000, taking advantage of the star wattage of the Korean entertainment industry to recover from the effects of COVID-19. Masks were made mandatory in hospitals and other public spaces in the Asian country until May, making the spring 2024 collection the first truly mask-free event.

The relaunched event in October 2022 had a significantly larger crowd than previous offline editions. According to the Korea Tourism Organization, the number of visitors to Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul’s fashion district, home to night markets, shopping centers and SFW at the venue — the Zaha Hadid-designed Dongdaemun Design Plaza — increased 4.2 times in June alone compared to June 2022.

Appearing on the „blue” carpet and at the shows are K-pop girl group NewJeans, who are SFW’s global ambassadors; Girls’ Generation’s Seohyun; actress Han Ye-seul; Taiwanese actor Darren Wang; Model Hye Jung Lee, and Nayun, Hye Bin and Momoland’s Ahin.

Even BTS added to the pop-infused energy with an exhibition of clothing from Billboard Hot 100 topper „Dynamite” held inside the plaza’s trade show venue.

Girl group Kiss of Life was also in attendance, wearing distressed cargo miniskirts and subtly cropped tops as they performed on the runway for Ul:Kin. This is the second season in a row that the eco-friendly brand will open SFW.

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A look from Ul:kin’s Spring 2024 collection.

„Some of my pieces are recycled K-pop clothing and you can even see the artists’ names written on the label by their stylists,” Ul:kin creative director Lee Cheongdong told WWD. The waistlines were low and wide, as was the case for Kwon Bangseok’s BLR, who made a name for himself by dressing A-listers like EXO, Twice, and Seventeen.

„The epidemic was really hard. But Korean pop culture was getting a lot of attention at the time,” said Maison Nika’s Monica Koh, the originator of K-pop megagroups, the Emmy-winning show “Squid Game” and the Oscar-winning film “Parasite.”

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„I can sense a new interest in my clothes from foreign buyers, especially from New York. I think it’s a by-product of this attraction to all things Korean,” Ko added.

„It’s great to see everyone from fashion and entertainment coming together after the pandemic,” actress and singer Jo Ka Bin, formerly known as Sojin of girl group Nine Muse, told WWD while attending the SFW debut for BluDw. „K-pop and fashion are inseparable, so I’m always interested in emerging brands.”

Fresh off an internship with Henrik Wipskov, BluD’s Kim Kyungdeok presented a surprisingly cohesive and mature collection for the label for the first time, from muted nautical stripes and washed denim to zany diving suits with wild graffiti prints and moss patterns. Belongs to a Mediterranean coast.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 07: Models walk the runway during the BLUDIBLU show at Seoul Fashion Week S/S 2024 on September 07, 2023 in Seoul, South Korea.  (Photo by Justin Shinn/Getty Images)

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Looks from Bludiblu’s Spring 2024 collection.

“Bludiblu deals with both art and fashion, and this collection was an opportunity to showcase both at the same time,” said Kim, who is also an artist with two exhibitions under her belt. His experimental collection supports SFW’s commitment to bringing a new artistic nuance to the event.

The crowd included VIP guests from Frieze Seoul, which runs through September 9 in conjunction with SFW. Holding runway and trade shows in September is a business-savvy decision that doesn’t just focus on the global fashion week slate. Synergy Effects of Simultaneous Art Events.

Almost a third of exclusive brands from newcomers like #whysocerealz! Collaborated with South Korean artists for established labels such as Lie and T-Antidote.

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#whysocerealz during Seoul Fashion Week! A scene from the Spring 2024 runway show.

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A look from D-Antidote during Seoul Fashion Week.

It was an initiative by organizers from the Seoul Metropolitan Government to help designers and artists for additional retail opportunities. Participating labels are participating in a series of pop-ups for their collections at three Hyundai department stores in Seoul until October 1.

Seokwoon Yoon, Cape’s former graphic designer, teamed up with artist Lee Sangwon to deliver an embroidered motif for his eponymous label. Yoon draws inspiration from many colorful, deconstructed street styles in „gut” or Korean shamanistic rituals. Lai Sang Bong nods to time-honored Korean motifs with architecturally cut works taken from „giva” roof tiles and „dancheong” paint on traditional buildings.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 06: Models walk the runway during the SEOKWOON YOON show during Seoul Fashion Week S/S 2024 on September 06, 2023 in Seoul, South Korea.  (Photo by Justin Shinn/Getty Images)

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Looks from Seokwoon Yoon’s Spring 2024 collection.

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Off the runway was a special art-meets-fashion exhibition, in which Anderson Bell designer Dohun Kim’s archived clothes were displayed alongside the work of Uruguayan photographer JP Bonino.

Despite the art and pop-fueled buzz surrounding the new season, SFW continues to face challenges.

Only 30 shows were offered this season, half of the pre-pandemic lineup. While veteran labels like Demoo by Park Choonmoo offer high production values ​​of his signature minimalism, younger fan favorites like Münn have moved onto European runways. Han Hyun-min will present his couture menswear in Milan next month.

“Compared to the past, the quality of brands is still a bit weak. Most brands have shallow collections of only 30 to 40 [stock keeping units], and familiar Korean brands chose to participate directly in Paris and Milan Fashion Weeks. It was a bit sad that we didn’t see their latest season’s products,” said Mengyu Zhang, marketing director of Shanghai showroom Dadasho.

But even before the pandemic, SFW lost not only its main supporter, but also its longtime executive director Kuho Jung.

Cosmetics company AmorePacific’s beauty label Hera was SFW’s title sponsor, providing $752,000 annually from 2015 to 2018. But an agreement has not been reached to ensure that designers with 60 or more features will only use HERA makeup products for their models.

However, the organizers hope to restore the number of exclusive brands and strengthen its program.

„We were really inspired by how international outfits like Gucci held its show at Geongbok Palace or how BTS performed at the World Cup Bridge,” said Sun Minjoo, senior manager of Seoul City’s beauty and fashion industry division.

„As the city of Seoul hosts Seoul Fashion Week, it makes sense to expand beyond Dongdaemun Design Plaza to highlight various landmarks around the city,” Sun said.

Sun said the change in dates has already helped turn things around. „For a long time, we have had many requests from designers to move the date of Seoul Fashion Week to September. Now that the big four fashion weeks are over and the buyers are tight on budget, it will not happen now. We had many buyers straight from Japan. [Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo]” said Sun.

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A total of 127 buyers from 27 countries attended the SFW trade show, featuring 94 brands. Among the first-time visitors were Le Bon Marse and Liberty from London, as well as Japan’s Isetan, who returned after a seven-year hiatus, organizers said.

„We’ve had a lot of buyers and guests come first, especially from Europe and especially Italy,” said Violet Yang, president of trade show organizer Trade Society. European buyers accounted for a quarter of buyers this season, a significant increase over previous seasons.

Among the guests from Italy was Marcella Di Simone, project manager of Milan Loves Seoul, an event to introduce Korean designers during Milan Fashion Week next February.

“The Korean wave is absolutely exploding in Italy. Popularity isn’t just about K-pop and TV dramas, there’s also a growing interest in Korean fashion. We are here to discover and launch new brands,” said De Simone.

John Friats Mathias, a buyer at Emirati concept store Essentials 5ive, said he comes to Seoul for its novelty value. „Dubai has the highest brand concentration in the world at 95 percent, so it’s always a challenge to find something new. That’s why I’m coming to Korea now for the fifth or sixth time, seeing emerging brands like BLR, Ul:kin and Holy Number 7. These are very forward-thinking,” said.

A look from Holly No. 7’s Spring 2024 collection.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 05: Models walk the runway during the BLR show at Seoul Fashion Week S/S 2024 on September 05, 2023 in Seoul, South Korea.  (Photo by Justin Shinn/Getty Images)

Looks from BLR’s Spring 2024 collection.

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„If you’re asking which market to look at because of its potential, it would be Korea,” said Joel Adebayo, buyer at London multibrand store Not Just Another.

„Brands like People of the World understand the blurring between street, sports and traditional Korean fashion, while still respecting its collaboration with Reebok. And in other ways, like gender fluidity, there’s a more mixed approach,” Adebayo added. I like to start, not store them.”

  • With contributions by Denny Hoo

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