Post #11 – Where should I start with Seoul Fashion Week? With the venue, the sponsors, the runways, the celebrities, the photographers, the street fashion, the public? It is such a unique experience, that it deserves many blog entries, so over time I will revisit the subject for sure. For now, here is a summary.
The beauty of Seoul Fashion Week is that everyone traveling to Seoul in March or October can be part of the hype in some way. The fashion event happens twice a year and is surrounded by a lot of accompanying events such as the Seoul Fashion Festival and many other informal happenings.
I had the privilege to attend for two years in a row and each day it is hard to pull yourself away. Keep your camera handy – you never know who will come around the corner at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, the splendid architectural masterpiece of Zaha Hadid, that can be best appreciated from the top floor of the nearby LOTTE Department Store. From that bird’s eye view, the complex is even more impressive than from the ground.
In Wikipedia, the Plaza is described as below:
“The Dongdaemun Design Plaza, also called the DDP, is a major urban development landmark in Seoul, South Korea designed by Zaha Hadid and Samoo, with a distinctively neofuturistic design characterized by the “powerful, curving forms of elongated structures”. The landmark is the centerpiece of South Korea’s fashion hub and popular tourist destination, Dongdaemun, featuring a walkable park on its roofs, large global exhibition spaces, futuristic retail stores and restored parts of the Seoul fortress. The DDP has been one of the main reasons for Seoul’s designation as World Design Capital in 2010. Construction started in 2009 and it was officially inaugurated on March 21, 2014. It is physically connected to Seoul Subway via Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station on Line 2, 4 and 5.”
The Dongdaemun Design Plaza is very convenient to reach from any part of the city by subway, and a must-visit all year long, even when Seoul Fashion Week is not on. The venue hosts ongoing many cultural events, art exhibits, festivals and fairs, as well as major K-pop music TV shows. It is surprisingly easy to enjoy the happenings even if one does not have a ticket or does not stay in line for hours to see the celebrities up-close. On my arrival day in 2015 I just passed by and was able to see and hear Girls Generation, Got7, BTS, CNBLUE, and many others while I was investigating the area. So keep alert; when you see big crowds, something is happening.
The main sponsor of Seoul Fashion Week for the last two years I have visited has been HERA, an upscale cosmetic line of products. Their generous social media booth gives out gifts in exchange for your photo on Instagram. Other sponsors are media outlets, such as CECI Magazine, who conducts interviews and games with models and celebrities. While some of these happen indoors for ticket holders, many activities are held outside, and are open to the large public.
The famous ‘blue carpet’ at Seoul Fashion Week is center-stage and can be seen also by everyone from a distance. The Dongdaemun Design Plaza has several levels, and the stairs of the blue carpet must be 2-3 floors high. My heart went out to all the ladies models and celebrities invited, that had to walk it down on high heels. Fans line up to see the celebrities who will come down these stairs before each fashion show. Each day there are several shows during the day and the evening, anywhere between 5 and 7. Dozens of photographers with super professional cameras, lenses, and flashes stumble over each-other to capture it all in pixels. These photographers also come dressed up in their best photographers’ street fashion, so the spectacle is complete.
Truth is, top celebrities don’t come down these stairways-to-heaven, but are rushed inside through the back door. At the most they pose at the sponsors’ wall indoors. They endorse certain fashion brands who endorse them. It was no surprise that actor Yo Ah In was present at a bathing-suit runway and singer Jessy was actually presenting the line she co-produces… among others. Some celebrities such as the incredibly famous Cha Seung Won and the bass player of CNBLUE Lee Jung Shin actually model on the runway for their fashion favorite Songzio.
The fashion shows are spectacular, with innovative settings, backdrops, live music, light shows and more. The public can purchase tickets locally, although I am not aware if these are sold outside of the country, and a lot of the best seats are reserved for sponsors, celebrities, top media and the likes. Many art and fashion school students attend all dressed up in their best outfits. Modeling schools bring their entire roster of models in groups, styled to perfection, to parade around the venue and model for the many photographers in attendance. This is my favorite part of the show, since it brings together a mix of high fashion and street fashion of truly Korean flavor. In comparison to the runways, this fashion is more daring and fun, even if not necessarily competitive in the world arena. But it is what we all think Korean fashion is – truly avant-guard fashion with its own distinct personality.
Seoul Fashion Week also showcases museum-quality fashion exhibits. One of these was dedicated to one of Korea’s most famous designer Jin Te Ok. The exhibit was stunning, and included a large array of Jin Te Ok’s creations inspired by Korea’s ethereal traditional hanbok costume.
If you are a street fashion aficionado, bring your cell phone, a cup of coffee and just linger. The show will unravel just in front of your eyes. It never fails that up and coming celebrities just venture among the crowd to create a sensation. Most people are surprised when I mention that Koreans are actually very tall. Well, the models are. It is endearing to see how they have to squat next to their fans to fit into dozens and dozens of selfies. Using social media as a promotional tool is very in in Korea, so models are eager and ready to cooperate.
For the tourist who loves fashion and photography, this unique event is like candy. After two years I know I will keep going to see it every time I can. Everything about it is pleasant. The crowds are polite and pretty. Getting there is painless; being there is diverting. The subway linked to the plaza has stores and restaurants with delicious buffets, coffee shops and more. In 2016, a fashion street fair located on the top level brought in more street food and a nice collection of underground fashion designers with one-of-a-kind interesting pieces, at very affordable prices.
And then, by night, the whole area lights up with a fashionable glow and even more camera flashes. It is hard to leave…
Each individual runway is a story on its own, so I’ll revisit Seoul Fashion Week again soon. Stay tuned….