Sunday Lifestyle

How I fell in love with Korean fashion-in London

LIFE & STYLE - Millet M. Mananquil - The Philippine Star

It was love at first trip when I visited Seoul last December.That was a wintry cold time to discover a new culture, but the people were warm, the sights beautiful, the energy and creativity too awesome. I felt transported into the future by a country that respected its past.

Last month, I was reminded of that Korean ability to create while I was in — of all places — London. On the street where we lived — Northumberland Avenue near Trafalgar Square — was this window enticing me to stop and enter, even as I was too hungry and craving for fish and chips instead. Entitled “K-Fashion Odyssey,” it was an exhibit installed by the Korean Cultural Centre to showcase the works of  five young, avant-garde Korean designers. It is significant to note that four of them are graduates of Central Saint Martins.

The exhibit projected  the feeling  that after the Japanese, it is the Koreans who will probably be the next provocateurs in European fashion. “Like Japanese designers that emerged onto the European fashion scene, we can expect to see Korean designers of our generation rise,” says Hyein Seo. The big factor that helps boost Korean creativity in fashion is this: the Korean government gives financial support to the fashion industry. The exhibit made me envious as well. While our very own Lesley Mobo is making the Philippines proud in London , we hope there will be more Filipino rising stars getting a boost from our government.

Reading interviews with these five designers, I saw so much passion and depth. And a sense of patriotism. How could I not love their exhibit?

Rejina Pyo, 30, says that for her modern collection, she was inspired by Roger Mayne’s 1950s photograph, “Girl Dancing” and abstract paintings by Ellsworth Kelly and Hans Hartung. But her design inspirations come mostly from Seoul, “a phenomenal design-conscious city, so forward-thinking.”

Narae Park, 26, says the Boundary collection was inspired by the life of Bakantu (14, Ethiopian) who Narae personally supported through Save the Children.  “Through my works, I hope to reveal the inconvenient truth of our lives and add some comfort and softness to it.”

Chloe Kim, 24, drew inspiration from a Charles Dickens character in Great Expectations, Miss Havisham. “She was an old woman who was betrayed by her husband and she ended up living alone in a forest until her death. I wanted to create a dreamy, otherworldliness atmosphere inspired by her and the forest.” Likewise, Chloe got inspired by traditional Korean drawing techniques.

Hyein Seo, 26, put out a collection inspired by this cinematic character from an old horror film — a beautiful rich woman wearing a luxurious fur coat and red lipstick on her pale skin. To make this woman young and contemporary, Hyein mixed this Gothic horror atmosphere with street culture. “Because of its old effects and not-so-real elements, I’d feel more hilarity than fear.”

Jeehyun (Gigi) Jung, 24, was inspired by Tim Burton’s first film, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure where the main character lives forever as a kiddult, staying in a dream of fun and fantasy. The collection of Jeehyun revels in  childhood nostalgia. “My background as a South Korean also inspired this collection, as historically even in the ’60s and ’90s, Korea has been an unknown entity to the west. Our ancestors have worked tirelessly to bring Korea into the forefront of music, film and technological advances . Our ancestors have grown tired and as a tribute to their efforts, I wanted them for one moment to reclaim their lost childhood fantasies.”

My fantasy is to someday see the collections of  young Filipino designers on exhibit somewhere in London. And of course, see Lesley Mobo there, standing as their mentor and icon, wearing his trademark baseball cap.

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Follow the author on Instagram and Facebook

@milletmartinezmananquil. E-mail her

at [email protected]. Photos by MILLET M. MANANQUIL












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