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Biennale highlights fashion’s influence: Designer Kan Ho-sup talks about how clothing affects industries, including cars

Oct 24,2018
Models walk the catwalk at the opening show of the 2018 International Fashion Art Biennale in Seoul in Apgujeong-dong, southern Seoul, on Oct. 19. [KOREA FASHION & CULTURE ASSOCIATION]
The Korea Culture & Fashion Association’s 2018 International Fashion Art Biennale in Seoul will run until this Friday at BEAT 360, Kia Motors’ brand experience center in Apgujeong-dong, southern Seoul. [KOREA FASHION & CULTURE ASSOCIATION]
Kan Ho-sup
The Korea Fashion & Culture Association (FCA) held the opening runway show for 2018 International Fashion Art Biennale in Seoul on Oct. 19 under the title “Fashion Communicates Automobile,” presenting fashion as a means to embody both art and industry.

Held at the BEAT 360 in Apgujeong-dong, southern Seoul, a brand experience center for Kia Motors, the biennial event will run through Friday, featuring diverse works by 120 artists, designers and professors from 25 countries.

This year’s fashion art biennale is the fifth of its kind. The event is focused on “works of fashion that go beyond the realm of fashion,” according to Kan Ho-sup, president of the FCA and also professor of textile art and fashion design at Hongik University.

The outfits sit at five different sections that are divided by color - red, yellow, blue, black and white - along with a model of Kia’s most popular vehicles in each section.

According to Kan, this is the only fashion event in Korea to host works of people from 25 different countries, which is why he dubbed it as “The Olympics of fashion.”

The FCA was established in 1995 by professors and designers to establish a strong domestic fashion art industry.

“Although we might not be aware of it, cars have come into the realm of fashion as fashion expands its horizons further into other aspects of culture. Everything that we see and experience have become ‘fashionized,’ as I call it,” said Kan.

In an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily prior to the opening ceremony of the biennale, Kan explained that fashion is not just the small, closed-off world where choices are limited to choosing one’s outfit for the day. Fashion eagerly shapes the way we style our lives.

“For instance, when you are planning on buying a car, what is the first thing that you consider? You think about which model you’d like to buy, based on its exterior design. Then you decide on what color you’d like, what materials you’d like for the seats - leather or fabric - what frame you’d like for the wheels and so on,” said Kan.

Fashion goes beyond just choosing between different patchworks of textiles, but includes almost everything that we see and buy in our everyday lives.

From clothes to bags, accessories, cosmetics, food and home decor, fashion’s influence can be seen across many fields.

“Change in fashion means a change in paradigm,” said Kan, referring to how different cultural environments lead to different trends in fashion. “Fashion is actually the key for industrial brands to find common ground with their consumers. If they find the right image for their brands and the right consumer, then that’s where a new culture arises.”

Kan is one of the most recognized figures in the field of fashion education in Korea, but his path to becoming who he is now wasn’t easy. He aspired to be in fashion from a young age, but attended dental college due to the wishes of his parents.

He eventually dropped out of school to pursue his dream of studying fashion.

“I can’t put a word to it. But you know when you know, and I knew there was nothing I could do better than this,” said Kan.

He has been teaching at universities for over 20 years and believes that now is the best time to be in the local fashion scene.

“It’s easier for people to work now. You can easily get a sense of what’s happening in the international market, which means anyone can ride the wave if they just have the ability to read it properly. The global flow is with Korea right now.”

As a professor, he also advised young designers and students to try their best to find their signature style, like his scroll dresses that he named “jokjaui” in Korean.

In July, Kan held an exhibition of his scroll dresses - dresses that look like traditional folding screens or scrolls when hung on the wall, but can be worn on a person - which he has been creating since 1999.

“The future is all about AI, which usually means artificial intelligence. But I believe what’s really important is the artistic intelligence, because creative genius will always come from the human mind,” said Kan.

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