06 Apr Review: Seoul Fashion Week / i-D
The South Korean design sensibility is as unconventional as its infamous K-beauty grooming methods, where products are formulated from snail slime and pig placenta. So it feels appropriate that the extraterrestrial backdrop for the daily parade of street style stars at Seoul Fashion Week is the mind-boggling Dongdaemun Design Plaza, colloquially known as the DDP: a Möbius strip of concrete and steel dreamt up by the late Zaha Hadid. While it means sharp elbows are required to get to the shows on time, taking in the circus of outfits is the perfect introduction to Seoulite style in 2018, as it moves towards an increasingly wider spectrum of ages, genders and ethnicities.
It’s testament to the city’s refreshingly democratic approach to fashion week: nowhere else would you see toddlers and septuagenarians posing for street style photographers and walking runways. So too does it signify a wider paradigm shift, as a younger generation pushes back against the deeply embedded Confucian-Christian religious values that have little tolerance for racial, sexual or gender difference: despite the country’s notoriously fraught relationship with its biracial population, the most mobbed star outside the shows was Korean-Nigerian model Hyun Min Han.
Even once inside the relatively calmer confines of the exhibition spaces, for sheer entertainment, Seoul Fashion Week is in a league of its own. D-Antidote hosted a troupe of breakdancers, thudding techno and strobe lighting, while colourful streetwear label Charm’s opened with dancers bundled inside a giant tiger suit, crawling their way down the catwalk and nuzzling against the knees of the front row. The eye-popping spectacle of Miss Gee Collection began with a bedazzled #MeToo tee and concluded with models stomping the runway in taffeta ball gowns to Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5, before forming a tableau of flamboyant poses. Think Battle of Versailles bombast meets Donatella’s supermodel reunion — it was as bonkers and as brilliant as it sounds.
Seoul’s approach to trends can feel jarring to a Western sensibility, with many designers happy producing riffs on familiar designs. No single influence (both on and off the catwalk) was more pervasive than that of Demna Gvasalia, even when given a more inventive spin by designers such as the charmingly eclectic cult label PushButton. Whether it was power-shoulder silhouettes, oversized hoodies or the ubiquitous Triple-S sneaker, the city offers a fascinating window into the seismic impact a single designer can have in the age of social media, sparking imitators across the furthest corners of the globe in a matter of minutes.