November 15, 2019
An inside look at the fashion event with much more than just fashion
Last week, Seoul hosted (and boasted) its biannual Fashion Week. In April, the Fashion Week showed Spring and Summer styles. This October, the event showed the hottest Fall and Winter styles. Events lasted all week showcasing established designers & up-and-coming designers.
Being what some would call ‘style challenged,’ fashion does not generally draw my attention. I prefer simple, easy, and — most importantly — comfortable clothing. Seoul Fashion Week easily could’ve passed like any other week to me. Many around me watched the event closely through Instagram and Snapchat stories, but I paid little attention.
Besides, fashion shows always seem like closed events. Events that welcome only top celebrities, important market-movers, and other relevant influencers. And I am none of these.
So why would Seoul’s Fashion Week be any different? Seoul, after all, is one of the most stylish places I’ve ever seen. Sometimes just walking down the street seems like walking in the middle of a high-end fashion show. Either you come out looking stylish or you don’t come out.
Knowing Seoul’s focus on style, I expected the Fashion Week to be exclusive. By the time I even knew of the event’s existence, tickets had sold out months ago. For those in the fashion industry, especially the Asian fashion industry, Seoul Fashion Week is crucial. The styles shown here set the trends for markets not just in South Korea but in all of Asia. Anyone who’s anyone in Asian fashion comes to this event.
So I didn’t give Seoul Fashion Week a second thought. At least, not until midway through the week when a local suggested visiting the Dongdaemun Design Plaza on the last day of the event. While the main events all happen inside the DDP, the DDP’s magnetic draw brings a crowd of stylish individuals to fill the plaza. Many of these people come hoping to experience just a taste of the famous fashion week — see a celebrity walking in or watch the show on a large screen’s live streaming.
But something special happens as the crowds gather outside the DDP. The plaza becomes a cross between a fashion show and a modeling shoot. This — my friend said — this unstructured, unplanned, and totally unique culture was worth experiencing.
Even though basic internet searching didn’t confirm this unofficial event, I took the advice. I put together my best try at a stylish outfit despite having a large pile of laundry limiting my options then headed to the DDP. Sure enough, the silver structure was surrounded by crowds — and not your typical Seoul crowd where everyone is rushing to get somewhere. No, this crowd wasn’t going anywhere. Young, old, short, tall, large, small, goth, bright, layered, simple, and everyone in-between gathered outside the DDP.
For the fashion industry, Seoul Fashion Week may encourage specific products or pricing. For everyone else, Seoul Fashion Week encouraged something more essential:
The desire to express yourself freely.
The crowd outside the DDP was more than a living fashion show. Every individual expressed themselves while enjoying and recognizing everyone else. In this crowd, everyone was a model. Just stand against the edge of the walkway and pose long enough, and someone would stop to take a picture of you. They would appreciate your uniqueness, nod their gratitude, and continue along. So all along the sloped walkways, models posed and photographers snapped pictures. Minutes later, different models posed and different photographers snapped pictures.
This culture of being noticed, valued, and appreciated — that’s why people came. Fashion was only the channel of self-expression to foster this culture.
Seoul Fashion Week’s influence extends beyond market trends to encourage the pure joy of creation and expression. Indeed, Seoul has surprised me. Maybe fashion has more value than I used to think.
Yours Truly, A Former Fashion Skeptic
P.S. Want to find out more about Korean Fashion & Beauty trends? Take a look at the world of k-beauty here!