We may have Paris, Milan, London, and New York for seeing what’s up next for big fashion houses like Valentino, Gucci, and Burberry. But cities like Seoul, with a burgeoning fashion week, are where we can discover emerging designers who, in 10 to 15 years, may helm the LVMH’s of the fashion industry. In Seoul, all runway shows take place at Zaha Hadid’s Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP); within the plaza there’s a tent for young designers who are part of Seoul Fashion Week’s mentorship program, Generation Next. The street style outside of the design plaza is a mix of sharp tailoring, dyed hair, and impeccably dressed little kids. Seoul’s fashion week is a spectacle. It’s ripe for people-watching and spotting what you might want to buy next at the overwhelmingly abundant surrounding markets.
In between shows and inhaling kimchi stews, I popped in on trendy Korean brands Ader Error and Stylenanda. One thing I found to be consistent in South Korea’s retail and high-fashion spaces is that knitwear and menswear tailoring are of the highest quality, regardless of price range. These are the product categories to invest in if you want to get a head start on shopping Seoul-based designers and brands.
Read on for the five designers to watch from Seoul Fashion Week.
1. Han Chul Lee
Designer Han Chul Lee has inspired us to ditch jewel tones and opt for more desert-inspired ochres and sophisticated pinks. The spring/summer collection featured sharp, neat tailoring that still felt innovative and fresh. Han Chul Lee is also leading the movement for men in Mary Jane flats, come warmer weather, which we are here for!
2. Long Playing Record
Designed by Seung Kwon, Long Playing Record is part of Seoul’s fashion-incubator program Generation Next, which fosters young, up-and-coming talent. This season was all about thoughtful layers. Denim jackets were thrown in the blender with V-neck sweaters, and khaki cargo jackets with button-down shirts. Models walked down the runway wearing looks that made you do a double take because of the detailed garment construction. The future of layering is here, and it’s being led by Long Playing Record.
Streetwear meets feminine girly-ness for KYE. The brand has been consistent with its aesthetic every year but never fails to surprise us with subtle curveballs, like this season’s bolo ties and neon-trimmed corsets. The clothing is designed for the subcultures of South Korea, for the kids who aren’t as keen on the tailored trend that is taking over Seoul; it’s colorful, printed, and loud.
Set in a smaller, more intimate space at the DDP, Lee Mooyeol presented his designs on a black-lit runway. But it wasn’t the rave techno-vibe you would have expected; the collection was clean and purposeful. Models were thoughtfully cast and paired appropriately with their looks. Full looks were cohesive down to the shoes, and every piece felt like it belonged within the collection. A sartorial delight for anyone who witnessed it.
5. Holy Number 7
Dramatic dancing and a smoke machine set the tone for this dramatic yet wearable runway show. Leather motorcycle jackets were given a new perspective and paired with long, flow-y dresses and matching shorts. The casting was chef’s kiss perfect, and the entire show was a reflection of what you can see on the streets of Seoul, hence the runway-turned-road effect, with speed bumps and all.