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With unrivaled environmental wonders and fantastic street markets, it is no wonder that South Korea is becoming a hub of culture and art. Galleries and restaurants are emerging everywhere, with design at the forefront of all. South Korean fashion designers are making a considerable mark for themselves on the world stage. The Culture Trip takes a look at ten of the country’s top names in Korean fashion.
pushBUTTON is a frequent favorite of the press. It’s difficult to pick up any Korean magazine without seeing one of their bold pieces in both men and women’s editorials. Park Seunggun, pushBUTTON’s creative director, takes the brand in quirky and whimsical directions, while never straying from a sophisticated and clean line. Founded in 2003, the brand has collaborated with Puma and Korean beauty giant Amorepacific in order to reach a wider audience and lend their aesthetic to more everyday items. They have also launched a sub label named Dressmonster, which is currently available at the premier platform for fresh talent.
beyond closet is one of Korea’s foremost menswear designers. Designer Ko Tae Yong combines his love of dandyism with contemporary American design to create reconstructions of classic styles. His bright designs belie the structured nature of his collections, which still bear the influence of his degree in uniform design at the Catholic University in Korea. Tae Yong juggles a fellowship at Sasada Fashion School, where he still lectures, with a blossoming career in fashion design. He was awarded the New Designer by Korea Fashion Brand Awards in 2010, and recently debuted his s/s 2014 collection in New York to positive reviews as part of Concept Korea, a platform which allows Korean designers to exhibit their work at New York Fashion Week.
Dong-Jun Kang studied at the Parson’s School of Design, which has produced a variety of U.S. fashion talents such as Marc Jacobs. Kang founded his label in 2008, followed by a secondary label D by D. His collections mix streetwear with conceptualism and favor cut over color in order to create innovative yet timeless designs which communicate a uniquely Korean aesthetic. D.Gnak has attracted the attention of everyone from, Vogue Italia to Wiz Khalifa. With high accolades from the makers and shapers of menswear, Kang is going to set his own precedent for international success in the coming months.
General Idea is one of the biggest names to have been exported from South Korea in recent years. The brand looks set for world domination as it continues to go from strength to strength. Head designer Bumsuk Choi studied Design in Tokyo before debuting his F/W collection at New York Fashion Week in 2009. Previous to this, Choi expanded into everything from racing car design to a professorship at Seoul Art Technical College. It has made him one of the most respected designers in South East Asia and has given him the necessary grit and experience to succeed on an international level.
Human Potential, usually stylized as HUPOT, is a fashion brand founded by designers known as DO and YK in 2008. They first became known for one-of-kind print pieces, before expanding into a cohesive brand and synthesizing their aesthetic into monochrome looks, usually in head-to-toe black. After commencing international exportation in 2011, the brand has been sold everywhere from Hong Kong to London and has been worn by both K-Pop singers and U.S. rappers Big Sean and A$AP Rocky. The philosophy behind the brand’s name is that “human’s are unlimited and can achieve their dreams.”
Jardin de Chouette was created by designer Kim Jae-hyun in 2005, and quickly won over a large fan base with her feminine cuts and nods to nostalgic favorites, such as appliqué patterns. Her designs proved so popular that she started a diffusion line in 2005 to make her designs more accessible to the public. Lucky Chouette offers the same aesthetic as its sister label, but at a more affordable price with streetwear inspired accents which draws in younger customers. In 2014, Jae-hyun became the first designer to showcase two labels at Seoul Fashion Week. With coverage from Vogue Paris and Harper’s Bazaar, it’s doubtful that she’ll be slowing down any time soon.
Not to be confused with the English rock band of the same name, Johnny Hates Jazz is the creation of University of the Arts London graduate Choi Ji-Hyung. Hyung creates thoughtful, witty collections with undertones of a social message, and has previously worked with kindred spirit and British icon Vivienne Westwood. Previous collections have included looks inspired by military wear and the Cuban revolution, which has garnered her the attention of international magazines such as Elle UK. This is the kind of intelligent design that keeps people guessing as well as buying, which is sure to expand Hyung’s business outside of Korea in the coming months.
Designer couple Steve J & Yoni P both studied at Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion in London and started their label in 2007. The two designers draw heavily on their university city, taking British street-style inspired pieces and transforming them into striking runway designs that have attracted legions of Korean celebrities and K-pop singers. Their off-centre designs have accrued a large following worldwide, and are sold internationally in the U.S, U.K., Saudi Arabia, and Hong Kong. The two designers might be the favorite of fashion insiders at the moment, but keep your eyes on them before they become the next big thing.
Yong Kyun Shin first gained prominence by dressing Icelandic singer Bjork. This, accompanied by the fact that he’s already won the International Fashion Talent grant for young fashion designers and the South Korean competition ‘Top Designer’, and has opened his own store in Seoul, makes it hard to believe that he only graduated in 2012. His debut at London Fashion Week for SS14, titled The Broken, recalled early Rodarte and Alexander Mcqueen by portraying a tough, futuristic femininity, complete with unusual combinations of fabrics and couture-inspired geometric silhouettes.