K-Fashion Odyssey: On Board with the South Korean Designers

The London Fashion Week approaches, and the most appropriate way to prepare for it is with the International Fashion Showcase (IFS). This being the second exhibition for the Korean Cultural Centre, it is another ambitious and successful year for the young and emerging Korean designers to showcase their very best. It goes without saying that in the near future, most of the international students in London are looking to go back to their motherlands. Whatever the reason may be, the round journey between London and their home is a laborious change, especially for the South Koreans as they are extremely patriotic. This is the reasoning behind the two Guest Curators, Sofia Hedman and Serge Martynov’s decision on the ‘boat’ theme for the exhibition, ‘K-Fashion Odyssey’, with an emphasis on the figurative ‘wave’ of young designers. It’s clear through the exhibition that when they say ‘boat’ and ‘wave’, it’s not a canoe on a subtle river, but a lone man boat on a sublime and violent ocean.

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The Central Saint Martins (CSM) graduate and now a freelance designer Chloe HeeJin Kim has floated back on the British shores from Korea just for this exhibition. She’s quiet, but her ideas are bold. She is constantly inspired by the image of a girl, the nature, and dreams, but far from the context of fairy tales. ‘The “girl” that I envision is an abnormal and disturbed one that lives in a dream. Not a dream full of hopes or happiness, but a haunting and mysterious one’, she said. She makes a reference to Charles Dickens’s character from Great Expectations, Mrs. Havisham who takes refuge in the forest after a tragic betrayal of love. The main inspiration comes from her Korean roots – the painting Dream Journey to the Peach Blossom Land by An Gyeon, a Joseon artist, and her own mother’s floral embroideries on Korean traditional folding screens. Both inspirations focus greatly on the complex, surreal images and themes, which Kim transfers onto her garments. Interning previously at Alexander McQueen, Chloe Kim shows her appreciation for grunge with a hint of femininity, but her textured frills and evening gown silhouettes are distinctly her own. 

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In the context of the ‘wave’ theme of the exhibition, Regina Pyo would be best described as a tsunami. When one sees the designs of this CSM graduate and designer of the brand REGINA PYO, one could say that it’s very Korean, European, or even both. In fact, Pyo never intended for any cultural input in her pieces, but ‘blood will tell’, she says, ‘As long as I have my own input into my pieces, the interpretation, I leave to whoever sees them’. The philosophy behind Regina Pyo’s designs becomes interactive with the presence of the viewers – the more minimal and colourful her designs are, the more room for imagination. If she weren’t a designer, she’d have chosen to be an artist – especially abstract art. The flowy silhouettes of the crepes and flares could depict a hanbok, the vibrantly coloured Korean traditional dress, but at the same time, it could also be a minimal Jil Sander-esque dress. That’s the true privilege of having a dual nationality, which leads to ‘my very own original piece’, as she calls it.

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Gigi Jeehyun Jung must have intended for her designs to be paradoxical – some words she uses to define her collection are kidults, and Tim Burton’s films combined with Korean history. As a CSM graduate and currently MA Fashion Artefacts student at the London College of Fashion, Gigi knows how to push her designs over the boundaries and try something different. Her original illustrations of a Korean child and headpieces made from a child’s toy, such as miniature pigs and houses with pieces of jigsaw puzzles, express her fascination of the peter pan complex. She reflects back to the hard times in the Korean history where our ancestors were not given a chance to be the child at the appropriate stage. With this dark historical context, she takes a humorous turn with bright colours and toy-like sculptures as headpieces and accessories. ‘It’s a tribute to our ancestors in the 1950s and 60s’, she said. As a big fan of Tim Burton films, she had Pee-wee’s Big Adventure in her mind as she created her pieces. ‘The idea of an adult who dreams of being a kid was more interesting than tragic to me’, she told us. In fact, it’s not about being childish, but it’s about fulfilling the dream that never came true. 

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Hyein Seo is another rising designer recognized by Korean fashion industries such as Vogue Korea. In an attempt to express the new avant-garde in Korean fashion, her collection reflected on street styles inspired by the Gothic elements and glamour. From watching old horror movies where a ‘rich woman who wears lots of jewellery, [and] red lips on her pale skin’ is a symbolic subject to terror, she looked at them as a fashion statement.  With the theme of ‘fear eats the soul’, Seo put more emphasis on how cinematic fashion can be. Studying in Antwerp, Seo also feels that she may not have intended to express the Korean roots in her production, but the growing fashion scene in Korea has inspired her, not only through street fashion, but through the efforts of artists and designers trying something new.

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Having studied in the UK, working in South Korea and supporting Ethiopia through the organization, Save The Children, Narae Park’s horizons are largely expanded for inspiration. Park met the fourteen year old Bakantu through Save The World and has been struck by the different lives they live. ‘Neither child nor adult’, as she describes in the program, Bakantu has shown Park the inevitable labour both a child and an adult face is clearly presented through her garments. From the work shoes that seem worn out and the use of ‘Royal Mail plastic-woven mail sack’ material called polypropylene, the story behind her collection recognizes the disturbing truth behind child labour. This 2013 L’Oréal Professionnel Young Design Talent Award winner also appreciates the ‘Heung’, the Korean spirit that accentuates happiness and enthusiasm. By combining both the Korean and Ethiopian cultural differences together, Narae Park recognizes the impact the nation has on an individual.

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The ‘K-Fashion Odyssey’ runs from 4 February 2014 to 2 March 2014 at 1-3 Strand, London WC2N 5BW.

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The Shoreditch Fashion Show 2013

The best part about being in London is that it doesn’t give you time to waste. It’s very cliché of me to say that there’s so much going on here, but one after another, there are so many events coming at you, it’s your loss if you can’t catch up with them. As soon as I was aware of The Shoreditch Fashion Show, with a pass or ticket, either way, I knew I had to be there.

I’m still in the process of getting to know London, but one thing for sure, Shoreditch has so much creativity to offer, and it’s going through a fast paced development. “Through the dark, light shall appear” is the show’s theme this year, which corresponds to the impression I had of the area. As exciting and phenomenal as the London Fashion Weeks are, the exclusivity of the event leaves us disappointed and alienated. However, if you could access the most innovative and talented designers, artists, and musicians simultaneously, without having to be Coco Rocha, you’d be at The Shoreditch Fashion Show.

Hosted by Offbeat in association with Batiste Shampoo, and produced by VIVID Fashiongroup, this year’s Shoreditch Fashion Show presents designers from internationally well known fashion colleges such as London College of Fashion and Istituto Marangoni. One cannot go wrong in a fashion show with the Welsh designer Julien MacDonald being the mentor of these designers. Aside from fashion, they presented sensational live music and inspirational art pieces at just £20 per ticket, which, compared to the priceless experience you’re leaving with, is worth every pence.

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Opening up the show were the designers Christina Tiran and Victoria Rowley, graduates of the London College of Fashion. With a collaboration of feminine gown-like silhouettes and unexpected phallic prints, the duo already inspired the guests with their creativity.

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The fashion show ended with Isabell Yalda Hellysaz’s collection, which has been showcased at the Stockholm Mercedes Benz Fashion Week and worn by Lady Gaga. Isabell flew over to London especially for TSFS, which made the finale much more meaningful and memorable.

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More from the fashion show from designers Nicholas Wirth, Marcelo Yarussi, Maria Zhminko, and Rebecca Morter and Gemma Vanson…

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The night was full of people from all kinds of fashion backgrounds, and had lots to share. Photographer Nirma Madhoo and I were lucky enough that we interviewed key figures of the night of which we are very excited to share with everyone!

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Coincidentally, Aphra and her piece Composition X were both the first to capture our attention in the fashion show. As if to place you in front of a dressing room mirror, the sculpture starts to light up as you’re passing by. That’s exactly what Aphra intended to do: the sculpture draws you in with its detailed overlapping of geometric figures, slowly lighting up as you get closer to the censor at the front of the sculpture. Composition X welcomed us into the show by lighting up and flaunting its intertwined representation of ourselves. The mixture of these forms “represent life – the connection between you and me, an interaction” she told us. That’s why it’s so powerful in a space like the Shoreditch Fashion Show. Full of interactions and new relationships, she wanted to “[turn] viewers into active participants” with her piece, as said in the official programme of the show. Not only did it light up the sculpture, it ignited the viewer’s interest in an instant.

Check out the entire collection of her pieces at www.aphrashemza.com

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Nirma and I couldn’t help but stop Danny from passing by. He was rushing past the crowd, but he definitely stood out. With his yellow beanie and statement-making sweater, we fired up questions about what he does. The pass around his neck loudly spoke for itself – makeup and hair director for VIVID fashiongroup. “The concept of the night is the light coming into the darkness” he described to us. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the result of his work has helped us understand the show much better. The white hairline on the models transitioning into their darker hair color was both a literal and an artistic way of depicting the sudden ray of light in the dark. His artistic process was aired on the projector throughout the night, and as the viewers watched the screen, they all had a chance to share his creative energy and passion. He expressed his excitement for the show as he said “Shoreditch went from a graveyard to a burst of creative culture”. His view exactly parallels the theme of the night “Through the dark, light shall appear”.

Check out Danny’s work or contact him through his website www.dannydefreitas.com

With a model profile, Ben stood a head above everyone else, but to us short girls, the pass that hung from his neck was at our perfect eye-level. Ben Adams and Daniel Jones are the directors of the Shoreditch Fashion Show, CEOs and Founders of VIVID Fashiongroup, and luck was on our side for the night when Ben said yes to the abrupt request for an interview. It didn’t come off as a huge surprise when he told us that he was a graduate from LCF’s Design and Pattern Cutting. His degree was a pedestal of his eye for scouting of the designers. It’s exhilarating enough to know that there are numbers of LCF graduates in the show, and to meet the man behind the job of gathering them all was beyond excitement. Even though I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Daniel Jones, Ben’s partner, I learnt that his background in musical theatre has an enormous role in VIVID. TSFS was the place for VIVID to create a fashion stage with a theatrical touch, which came from the hands of these differently backgrounded directors. And by presenting these new, innovating designers to the crowd through purchasable tickets, The Shoreditch Fashion Show is known for its biggest strength, accessibility. “It’s a great opportunity for both the designers and the audience” he pointed out. It’s a win-win situation where the viewers have a more approachable take on fashion, and the designers have a wider range of press and crowd. As ambitious as the show was, he emphasized the cultural development that allows for the show to happen. “Bethnal Green is going through an agricultural growth. There is a creative spark”, he told us. After the show, we think we definitely agree.

All photographs by Nirma Madhoo

J.Crew’s 38 Lamb’s Conduit opens up on October 10th

Dear all J.Crew menswear lovers in the UK,

Christmas came early. If you still haven’t heard about J.Crew’s European debut, it’s better now than never. They’re coming in three different packages. The already much publicized Regent street Flagship location, Brompton location dedicated to the Collection pieces, and finally, a men’s shop on 38 Lamb’s Conduit street. And luckily for their menswear fans, including me, the Lamb’s Conduit is the first one to open up. 

I’m not exaggerating when I say that their shop is the first thing you will notice when you get to Lamb’s Conduit street. It’s hard to miss or ignore the stylish lambs drawn by the one and only Hugo Guinness on the window panes of the store. 

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I probably can’t express my own excitement for this shop’s opening. I’m a big fan of J.Crew’s menswear, and if you love having tomboy moments in your fashion routine, you’ll definitely agree with me. I’ve been there for a few hours helping them getting the store ready, and all I can say is that I’ll be a very frequent visitor to the store. It’s a plus that the shop’s nostalgic design and layout also does so much justice to their signature pieces, as well as their Thomas Mason, Corgi, HAN KJØBENHAVN gems. 

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J.Crew SS2014 at NYFW

To make this milestone event even better, Mickey Drexler will be dropping by for the store openings. The big one will be at the Regent location, just the night before the opening, but he will definitely pay a visit to the Lamb’s store, which makes the opening so much more meaningful. Too bad Jenna won’t be dropping by with him…

The store opens next Thursday, and I can’t think of a better way to pump up the J.Crew fans for the grand debut of the brand in the European market. It’s such a great honour to have a part in such a historical moment of J.Crew and menswear as a whole! 

See you next Thursday!

All pictures taken from J.Crew’s blog