Big Korea

3c7c25ed6cfa0c0e22b5a9ff79894255screen Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 1.17.17 PM I spent two years living in South Korea the year after I graduated from university. During those years, when I wasn’t travelling, eating, and partying my way through the peninsula, I was spending my hard-earned teaching salary on clothes. I was envious of all the impeccable-looking women I passed in the streets of Seoul who always had the best lipstick colours and the highest heels, rain or shine. Even though I found the style of dress, at times, a little predictable and conservative, I was genuinely fascinated by how polished Koreans were and are always capable of looking.

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 1.13.43 PM Polish and presentation are things Koreans do very well. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that they fought their way out of post-war poverty and straight into the OECD within 50 years. You don’t achieve something that impressive by accepting your limitations. This perseverance and determined hustle seem to define their shared cultural identity, from what I observed during my years in Korea, and it comes into play in more ways than just fashion. Technology, education, pop culturepublic infrastructure, even their boy bands are light years ahead of anything the West has ever produced.

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 1.16.31 PM Fashion-wise, there is a sense among Koreans that anything the West can do, Koreans could do it better. They wouldn’t be entirely wrong. For the past few years, a whole new pack of ethnically Korean womenswear designers have  started appearing on style.com. They—the Lims, the Chois, the Lees—as well as a number of fresh young talent coming out of London and New York have an obvious inclination for minimalist designs, muted colours, and polished looks. These are a far cry from the maximalist sensibilities of brands like Missoni, Isabel Marant, and Prada. Rather they seem much more inspired by the thoughtful simplicity of Phoebe Philo’s Céline, the downtown cool of Alexander Wang, and the deconstructed classicism of Yohji Yamamoto.

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The Pack is hardly new to the Korean fashion game—shhrug recently wrote about the Antwerp graduate and winner of the 2013 H&M Design Award, Minju Kim. Click after the jump for a breakdown of a few of my favourite new designers from the Land of the Morning Calm.

Min Kim

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Background
MA in Fashion Design Technology – Womenswear from London College of Fashion. BA in Fashion Design – Womenswear from Sejeong University in Seoul.

Inspiration
“I took inspiration from the Pink Frilled Dress Syndrome and photographer Vee Speers’ The Birthday Party. I feel that the Pink Frilled Dress Syndrome is a kind of mental development stage all girls go through – my collection, with its neutral tones and unexpected silhouettes is the antithesis to this.”

For Fans Of
J.W. Anderson, Whistles, the colour grey, Gareth Pugh’s FW 2014 collection.

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Low Classic

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Background
Designers  Lee Myeong Sin, Hwang Hyun Ji, and Park Jin Sun are all graduates of the prestigious Konkuk University in Seoul.  After graduation and before they set up the label in 2009, the three friends gained experience in the industry as buyers, editors, and designers—Lee was even a competitor on Project Runway Korea.

Inspiration
Their Spring Summer 2013 collection was inspired by Beethoven and love letters, while their recent SS 2014 collection was “inspired by Hellen Van Meene’s photograph collection, which reflected on the confusion of puberty. [It] portrays the memory of school; defiance during puberty and self-identity under strict regulations and crosses the borderline between street and high fashion.”

For Fans Of
Jacquemus, minimalism, Alexander Wang, high street prices, Opening Ceremony.

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Harim Jung

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Background
Graduate of Parsons the New School for Design, awarded the 2013 graduating womenswear designer of the year. Winner of the Parsons and Kering Empowering Imagination Competition.

Inspiration
Naming her graduate collection “Identity + Ethos”, Jung sought to take the memories associated with her Korean high school uniform and recontextualize them using modern techniques and new methods of patternmaking.

For Fans Of
Joseph, Victoria Beckham, menswear, Jil Sander, black and white.

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J. JS Lee

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Background
BA and MA in pattern cutting and womenswear at Central Saint Martin. Recipient of the prestigious Harrods Award in 2010.

Inspiration
“A modern woman who is concerned with looking sharp in a uniquely feminine way.”

For Fans Of
The Row, Calvin Klein Collection, turtlenecks.

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Sechung

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Background
Former designer and buyer for The Reformation, Sechung got her start in the industry working for Californian labels Wren and Cult Gaia.

Inspiration
Women’s role in the workplace, the affinity for love, and mid-century ready-to-wear fashion designer Claire McCardell.

For Fans Of
Chloé, vintage, The Kooples, Ellery, L.A.

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Rejina Pyo

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Background
MA from Central Saint Martins. Chosen by Weekday to reproduce her graduate collection for sale in stores. Awarded the prestigious Han Nefkens Fashion Award (judged by editor-in-chief of The Gentlewoman, Penny Martin, Viktor & Rolf, and Han Nefkens). Featured in Vogue, Elle, Independent, New York Times, AnOther, The Gentlewoman, Dazed and Confused, and Style.com.

Inspiration
A 1957 photograph of a girl doing the jive by British photographer Roger Mayne, Japanese wood sculptor Isamu Noguchi, American painter, sculptor, and printmaker Ellsworth Kelly.

For Fans Of
Deconstruction, Céline, Stella McCartney, architecture, 3.1 Philip Lim.

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7 thoughts on “Big Korea

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