If you are a fashion enthusiast, I am sure along the road you have heard about the “Big 4” fashion capitals of the world, meaning that these major cities have significant influence in international fashion trends. Other than that, these are also the places where the design, production, retailing, events and shows all related to fashion generate and contribute to the growth of their economy.
Now, traditionally, these Big Four fashion capitals are Milan, Paris, London and New York.
But I am taking a big bet that one of these few incoming years, there will be changes in this lineup. As of the moment, fashion hubs are forming all around the world, with the potential, capability and influence to challenge these Big Four. Among them is Tokyo, Rome, Buenos Aires and let’s include the star of this article, Seoul, South Korea.
But before we delve into what it is now, let us go back to the very beginning.
History of Korean Fashion
Going back in time to the Joseon period, between the years of 1392-1897, hanboks were the all around fashion trend. To simply describe hanbok, it basically consists of a blouse and loose-fitting bottoms. Pants for men and skirts for women. There is not much clothing option within this particular era and hanbok is the primary piece. Despite it being the only choice, hanbok has different variations with elite and affluent families and individuals wearing a more expensive version and its contrast from the lower class is evident.
1910 to 1945 were tough times for South Korea as these were the years of the Japanese occupation where they were stripped off their culture. With the control of outside forces, hanbok were prohibited as a way to subdue South Koreans of their culture. And under the influence of Japanese and their fashion trends, Korean men were to wear suits and women were introduced to pants. Accessories also became a common sight as men started wearing hats and women, occasionally, carried a handbag. Makeup also was a sight to see for women, red lipstick being the most influential.
After the Korean War, the years of 1945 to 1950, South Korea struggled amidst extreme poverty. Because the consequences of the war has left the nation with little to no resources, South Korean have to adapt and use KJP or 구제품 (ku-je-pum) fashion, which in English stands for “relief supply” as their clothing style. Since it was an aftermath of the war, military uniforms were also in abundance so that too, was a source of clothes and style.
It was also during this time that the traditional hanbok made a comeback since its prohibition during the Japanese occupation. With the war over, South Koreans have regained back their freedom to wear their traditional clothes.
At the current time, despite evolution and fashion innovation throughout the newer years, hanbok can still be seen. Koreans still wear them on holidays, like Thanksgiving and Lunar New Year, and in major events like wedding parties. And despite being a traditional clothing, hanbok has a skyrocket international fame and is absolutely adored by foreigners because of the Hallyu Wave and well-known historical Korean dramas has brought about this attention.
The years from 1950 to the present have seen brighter futures in regards to fashion and style.
Despite still struggling with poverty in the 50’s, fashion designers have started making a name for themselves and the first South Korean fashion show was held in 1956 at the Bando Hotel by the fashion designer Nora Noh, who at the present, was one of the named founders of Korean fashion.
With the awakening of their heart for fashion and designing came the rise of fashion designers. With this evolution, one of the well-known areas in Seoul, Myeongdong, became the epicenter for fashion, trends, and styles. Soon after, Myeongdong was slowly filled to the brim with designers and their take on fashion.
The 1960s was the actual reshaping of South Korea’s fashion and the start of the trends. With the workforce slowly getting up to their feet, designers started producing clothes that focus more on mobility and comfort. For women, due to the singer Yoon Bok Hee, miniskirts have become significantly popular. With it, comes the makeup, with women dolling up more than ever.
1970 and the later years for South Korean fashion has progressed pretty much the same as the others. They’ve also seen the fame for bell-bottom pants with hooped earrings and big sunglasses in the 70’s. They have also used fashion to creatively rebel against the tight and traditional upbringing of the government by using bolder pieces of clothing.
South Korea also went through the baggy pants and chain fashion phase in the 80’s because of the influence of disco popping up across the country. There is also a birth of bright colors and makeup, with women dressing up more casually with jeans and tshirts.
The 1990s and 2000s was the take-off period for South Korean fashion because of the influence of the Hallyu Wave. Korean celebrities and idols are greatly adored and favored by their fans around the world and in turn, was greatly influenced by their fashion. With the rule of supply and demand, brands from across the world started to pick up on Korean trends and sense of style. Up until the present year of 2020, you can still see the dominating fashion of South Korea in the recent makeup trends and clothing styles. This is now known as the K Fashion.
The K Fashion
If we are to talk about the Korean fashion, I think it is only right that we begin with the basics, the everyday wear and the casual trends. As the bearer of the rising influence, Korean idols and groups are the center of attention when it comes to fashion styles and despite being dressed in what might be the next big thing or the current trending piece, it is still pretty common to see them in casual streetwear.
Of course, fashion styles and trends are not set in stone. They are continually evolving and changing every passing moment across the world. But with South Korea, some things just never change. And even though there are certain portions of the population that don't have the need and feel to follow, these are still the commonly seen guidelines for South Korea’s casual wear.
Conservative Tops and Bare Legs
Exposing your shoulders, a bit of your chest or stomach is not as controversial as they were a few decades ago, mainly because of the mixed influence from the West. Nowadays, South Korean women are in love with crop tops and off-shoulders tops that this particular topic is no longer relevant.
But generally speaking, South Korean’s values stem from their conservative nature. And it is a common and appealing look to them if a woman were to dress elegantly and classy, even with everyday basic outfits and this warrant for clothes that doesn’t reveal too much than what is necessary. But as I’ve mentioned, clothes that reveal the shoulders and stomach are now wholesomely accepted but there is still a bit of apprehension when it comes to pieces that expose the woman’s cleavage.
However, the bottoms are on a completely different part of the scale. Shorts and skirts are an absolute trend in South Korea and if the season allows them, it is an everyday staple. And if you yourself is a short or skirt wearer, you’d know that undershort is a must as an added protection from revealing way too much than what you intend.
Both South Korean men and women, head to toe, love dressing up in oversized pieces. Whether it is an oversized shirt with tight-fit jeans or sweater that are a few sizes bigger paired with jeans or skirts.
This is a common trend in K fashion where clothings hides the figures. It looks adorable on women and gives the man an effortless look. Overall, it is a comfortable fashion style.
We Are In Love Look
I am not too sure about everywhere else in the world but in South Korea, it is pretty common to see a pair or a couple match outfits. It doesn’t necessarily mean the exact same pieces but instead, in the same color scheme or same aesthetic.
The Seoul Fashion Week
Now that we laid down the basics of K Fashion, it is high time that we move to the higher pedestal. The Seoul Fashion Week is a fashion show held twice a year in the seasons of spring/summer and fall/winter. It is held and sponsored by the city of Seoul and conducted by Inotion World Wide.
The Seoul Fashion Week is usually split into three parts. First, is The Seoul Collection, which is considered the high-end Korean fashion event. Second is Generation Next, a fashion design program intended and concentrates on the designers with fewer than 5 years of experience. And the third and last part is The Seoul Fashion Fair, an exhibition showcasing Korean fashion companies with a mission to help these companies build partnerships and to become globally competitive.
Now that we know what The Seoul Fashion Week is, let’s look at the hottest trends that will be shaping South Korea’s fashion in the coming months of 2020.
Everyone is up for some bold and neon colors nowadays. It is a bit challenging to wear but with the right amount of mix and match, you will be more than just a bright person walking around, you will be an icon.
White outfits really offer such a pristine and clean look and that is why it is so simple yet so loved by many.
Baggy jeans has been making its comeback to the present era. It’s a relaxing look but definitely stylish.