Most people concentrate on the big four shows during fashion month and drop off runway watch immediately following Paris. It’s such a shame because Tokyo and Seoul fashion weeks piggyback Europe and offer some of the most cutting-edge and innovative styles out there. Seoul Fashion Week is rising in prominence because of the growing influence of the Korean fashion market and the fact that Korea is pretty much THE arbiter of taste in Asia. I’m still working on a roundup of the collections but honestly, forget the runway because the streets are where it is at here.
The streets of Seoul inspire me for multiple reasons, but one of the most important being it is where style lives, breathes and moves. As a whole, Korean people are more fashionable and on trend than any other place I’ve been. This is largely due in part to the over-emphasis on appearance in an image-centric society, but be that good or bad, the fact is people put a lot of effort into looking nice and I appreciate that. Korea is also an environment where people can get creative and daring because they have a lot of home grown material to play with. Pop-culture and celebrity influences abound and if anyone has seen a k-pop video, then you know the options are infinite and there is no limit to the print, pattern, color, makeup or absurdity acceptable. Moreover, Korea has a lot of very talented local designers and hardly relies on imported fashion.
As fashionable as Koreans are, I always found the women’s style to be fairly uninspiring. Perhaps this is because it just doesn’t vibe with my own and bends towards the conservative side. Yet I also find women’s fashion lacks a lot of diversity. In Korean culture being different isn’t nearly as championed as it is in the West and while being different is the trendsetting mantra in Europe and North America, being the same as others motivates Koreans. As such, if a certain look is on trend, then all the ladies rush to it. The stores sell the same styles, the women wear similar colors and looks and everyone carries the same handbags etc. etc.
Now, don’t get me wrong because there are definitely some female styles I love – namely the casual hip-hop inspired streetwear looks the younger set rocks. More on that in Part 2. But it’s the boys that are the real inspiration. Men’s fashion in Korea is unique because they are not bound by the same notions of masculinity and sexuality that confines menswear in other cultures. It’s not only completely acceptable, but expected for Korean men to pay attention to their appearance and grooming to the same degree as women. Moreover, they can do so without being stereotyped or negatively judged. Sameness also doesn’t affect Korean men the same way it does women so there is a lot more diversity in styles and looks.
I will go as far to say that Korean men are the most fashionable I’ve ever seen. Street style stars are everywhere on the streets of Seoul – especially the catwalk that is Garasou-gil in Sinsa-dong on any given Sunday afternoon. But outside the shows at Seoul Fashion Week, the finest showed us what Korean style is all about. And my favorite Korean street photographers and bloggers captured them beautifully.
So let’s hear it for the boys! (and apologies for the varying pic sizes)
photo credits: Streetper /I Like Street / YourColor / SolSol / Seo Da Woon / StreetD / Baek Seung Won / Jang Jaeyun / JMinism / Kim Hyoung Won / Kim Hong Jae / Marvle Magazine / Steady / Le Mode Outre