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Fashion Week kicks off with new tradition

Hanbok takes the catwalk for the first time in event history
Mar 21,2018
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This season’s 2018 Fall/Winter Hera Seoul Fashion Week began with a show by designer Kim Hye-soon, featuring a joint performance by pansori master Lee Hee-moon and jazz band Prelude. [SEOUL DESIGN FOUNDATION]
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Blindness 2018 Spring/Summer, A BELL 2018 Fall/Winter, Big Park 2018 Spring/Summer
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Greedilous 2018 Spring/Summer [JOONGANG ILBO]
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Fashion brand Beyond Closet holds a fashion show at a 2018 Spring/Summer Hera Seoul Fashion Week event, top, while fashionistas pose for street fashion photographers outside the runway shows, above. [SEOUL DESIGN FOUNDATION]
In an industry that always keeps its eyes forward, trying to set the latest trends and push boundaries, taking the time to celebrate tradition can be refreshing, as seen at Monday evening’s opening show for the 2018 Fall/Winter Hera Seoul Fashion Week at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) in central Seoul.

Strutting down the runway at DDP were not only models clad in elegantly designed hanbok (traditional Korean dress) by designer Kim Hye-soon, but also pansori (traditional Korean narrative song) master Lee Hee-moon singing and dancing along to music played by jazz band Prelude. The show sported a healthy mix of traditional and modern which came together in peculiar harmony and set the tone for this season’s celebration of fashion.

Although hanbok is a unique staple of Korean culture, the Seoul Design Foundation had refrained from featuring it on the runway before as it had sought to go for a modern and universal idea of fashion that was appealing to foreign buyers. “We decided that we would like to flaunt the beauty of Korean culture to foreign buyers and the press, which is why we started the week with a hanbok fashion show,” said Jung Ku-ho, director of Hera Seoul Fashion Week.

It has been common for local designers recently to add modern touches to hanbok or add elements of hanbok to their creations, but seeing these designs at a fashion show featuring a live fusion of traditional Korean music and modern jazz was a sight to see.

Musical performances on catwalks have been seen in fashion shows around the world, but Seoul was quick to make sure it added a distinctly Korean touch to the show with music that would be hard to hear anywhere else in the world.

Other memorable details of the show included a few members of the audience dressed in hanbok sitting alongside others who had been instructed to sit on the floor of the risers placed alongside the runway to symbolize Korean culture, in which it is common for people to sit on the floor. Throughout the presentation, designer Kim’s dresses were a perfect balance of hip and classic.

Kim, whose dresses have been seen at over 50 shows in 25 countries throughout her long career, kept to the classical silhouette of hanbok, but with slight twists, like silk trousers worn under the skirt, and adding touches of colorful fur to the sleeves or around the neck with long scarves.

“We’ve had different opening shows [for the Hera Seoul Fashion Week], but we wanted to emphasize the beauty of Korean history through this one. We can’t have the present without our past, and we wanted to show how beautiful our past is. Kim Hye-soon was the best person to show that,” explained Jung.

As soon as visitors approach the DDP grounds for the biannual fashion extravaganza, the biggest difference from previous iterations that can be seen is that the venue for Generation Next Seoul (GN) now sits right in the middle of the plaza, surrounded by glass walls that allow visitors to have a peek at what’s going down the runway. The GN show is a program set up by the design foundation to allow smaller and newer brands to present their designs to the public. A total of 13 shows will be held, each featuring two up-and-coming brands.

Bringing the GN out to the center of the plaza is an opportunity for people who did not secure a ticket to a big name fashion show inside to see the work of young designers and be a part of the Fashion Week festivities. “This year’s event aims to be a festival for everyone to come and enjoy, instead of just those working in the fashion field,” said Seo Jeong-hyup, president of the Seoul Design Foundation.

For those looking for something other than fashion shows, there are a variety of side events planned throughout the week, including seminars, a film festival, exhibitions and mini markets.

Sponsor Haagen-Dazs will allow visitors to try a few popular ice cream products at the pop-up store set up inside the venue and will also hold a seminar on Wednesday.

Thursday’s seminars, held by the Seoul Design Foundation, include big-name mentors such as Vogue Italia Deputy Editor-in-Chief Sara Maino, Vogue U.K. Fashion Critic Anders Madsen, Dazed U.K. Editor-in-Chief Isabella Burley and Mario Dell’Oglio, the owner of Italian select shop Dell’Oglio.

Visitors can watch fashion movies and attend panel events afterwards at the Fashion Film Festival. Tuesday’s movie was “American Honey” (2016), followed by “Personal Shopper” (2016) on Wednesday and “The Bling Ring” (2013) on Thursday. Reservations can be made online.

An exhibition titled “Life Plus Moment” will be held at the DDP’s Design Museum, and features photographs, posters and props created by designers participating in Seoul Fashion Week, each presenting the different moments in their lives that inspired them to create.

Each designer is looking to bring something new to the fashion world as well. Song Zio, designer of brand Songzio Homme and the chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of Korea, will be the first to apply the “See Now Buy Now” method in Seoul, in which visitors can immediately purchase designs they see on the runway instead of having to put in specific orders and waiting for production.

“The Korean fashion market has been growing at a pace similar to that of the global market, and some designers have really stepped up to the international standard,” said Song. “If there exists a certain boundary that other fashion week events cannot change, [Hera] Seoul Fashion Week has the advantage that it can be oriented towards the future, which is also the reason why the upcoming years are very important.”

BY YOON SO-YEON [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]