The KCC’s last exhibition for a while, in February, was scheduled to contribute to London Fashion Week. It was also a participating event in the International Fashion Showcase, a joint project between the British Council and the British Fashion Council designed to mark the 2012 Olympics with a display of talent to honour Olympic ideals. Co-curator Anna Orsini from the British Fashion Council wanted to make sure that South Korea was represented, both as a country which has an appreciation for the best in fashion, and as a country with a strong base of emerging designers.
The resulting show at the KCC won the award for the best show of all the countries participating.
The young designers drew their inspiration from a wide range of areas: Columbian street fashion was Kathleen Kye’s source, with plenty of bling, tassels and fringes blending with red tartans in a versatile, ghetto-fabulous fusion look. Definitely my own favourite collection in the show.
Laykuni’s theme was the Olympics: tight-fitting leggings with designs that referenced the famous rings while still remaining impressionistic enough not to fall foul of the Olympic branding police. It was the sort of apparel that can only be worn by the young, slim and super-fit: I dread to think what a portly ajumma would look like in these.
Yeashin Kim’s designs were inspired by coral reefs and the underwater world: blues and greens predominated, with colourful reds and oranges as accents. She also includes the rococo era paintings of Antoine Watteau as an influence. The coats looked snug and comforting.
The neckware and jewellery by Yoolhee Ko was strikingly geometric and futuristic, but looked rather impractical as accessories.
Minju Kim’s collection is a reaction against the cutsiness and sexual suggestiveness of K-pop girl bands. Her manikins have cartoon-like face masks, designed to be cute but scary, in which they succeeded. She calls them her love robots, critiquing girls’ obsession with becoming the perfect girlfriend. Sadly, the masks drew attention away from the garments themselves, which therefore don’t stick in the memory as well as some of the other collections in this show.
Ara Jo’s experimental work has been shown at the KCC before, and one piece from this collection (entitled Whitemare) has been worn by Lady Gaga. The clothes deliberately restrict body movement, recalling how sometimes it’s impossible to run when you’re in a nightmare.
Minky Jaemin Ha’s work, full of exaggerated sculptural curves and unexpected holes, made Ara Jo’s work seem positively middle of the road by comparison – quite an achievement. The collection’s title was “What Men Live By”, each outfit was intended to represent a stage in life of someone living in a dystopian capitalist state.
Finally, the work of Juhee Han took knitting, crochet and macramé to a new level. Possibly the highlight of this collection was the orange skirt with the purple top which was little more than an extremely long scarf. Very elegant, but you would need to be very brave to wear it. Overall though, this was a collection that was distinctive and looked comfortable to wear.
What was also striking was the attention to detail in setting the exhibition up. Each collection had its elegant display stand, with white cotton panels stretched over a bare pine frame, in a design that recalled the wood and paper construction of doors and windows in Korean hanok architecture. Each designer had their own jangseung, a totem pole to wish them luck and ward off evil spirits. This attention to detail extended to the accompanying catalogue, where images of the designers’ work, with interviews and essays, were juxtaposed with images from traditional Korean folk art.
Overall this was a stimulating and varied exhibition, and we look forward to seeing more from these designers in future.