IN SEOUL – One of the best things about my job is discovering the next up-and-coming, die-die must-buy, fashion brand on my bi-annual Asian fashion week trips. From Tokyo I’ve discovered brands like Fleamadonna (which is actually Korean, but shows in Japan) and Lamarck; now here’s the latest on the five hotest Korean fashion brands you need to know about.

TI:BEAG

5 Korean fashion brands you need to know about TI BAEG 1Ti: Baeg SS15 runway show in Seoul. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

Launched in 2011, Ti:Baeg (yes, it’s basically pronounced “tea bag”) is a casual contemporary brand that features delicate prints and sheer layers of fabric to create a feminine but not too girlie vibe. Designer Cho EunAe graduated from Seoul’s Yonsei University after studying Clothing & Textiles plus Human Environment & Design before working for a major Korean fashion brand and was invited to show at Seoul Fashion Week in 2012. Ti:Baeg has the super cute concept of the fashion being “flavoured with our love & care; Directions: needs no water, take, adjust, feel its taste” just like a tea bag, of course.

5 Korean fashion brands you need to know about TI BAEG 2Ti: Baeg SS15 runway show in Seoul. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

What this translates into is a brand that has a light, airy touch with a witty, slightly quirky twist on very wearable but on-trend pieces. Cho’s prints are particularly clever as she layers up various versions and colours of a single print to create a luxe feel without any of the heaviness you’d expect. For Spring Summer 2015 she featured lots and lots of green landscape type prints, tied together with sky blue, white, black and then moving into flowers in pink and orange. Her cuts are particularly wearable with a sporty edge making Ti:Baeg pieces super easy to add to your wardrobe; there are lots of easy-to-wear dresses, cute shorts and really nicely cut and printed tees too.

Ti:Baeg is definitely a label to watch; grab it now before everyone else does and its prices go up!

For more information about Ti:Baeg, go to tibaeg.com. You can follow the brand on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tibaegby2nd and you can shop it online at shop.firstlook.co.kr/tibaeg but the next time you’re in Seoul check out its studio at #599 Itaewon2-dong Yongsan-gu, Seoul. You can email in advance at tibaeg@itbaeg.com.

PUSHBUTTON

5 Korean fashion brands you need to know about PUSHBUTTON 1PushButton SS15 runway show in Seoul. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

Designer Park Seunggun launched PushButton in 2003 with the aim to “shake up” the Korean fashion scene; the brand has numerous celebrity fans including singer Lee Hyo-ri and actress Kong Hyo-jin and has certainly become one of the must-see shows of Seoul Fashion Week. PushButton has always had a bit of a “cute” and fun edge to it but it’s firmly based in well-tailored ready-to-wear with strong use of colour and the addition of streetwear staples like tees and sweatshirts.

Although self-described as “unique, quirky, crazy”, the reality is very wearable and like many Korean brands, quite feminine. The quirky bit comes from its use of interesting materials and strong colour more than weird shapes or unwearable ideas.

5 Korean fashion brands you need to know about PUSHBUTTON 2PushButton SS15 runway show in Seoul. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

For Spring Summer 2015, the brand showed a collection that was perhaps a little less cute and a lot more wearable (which saw some fans a bit disappointed apparently) showing that the brand was growing up, so to speak. There were some absolutely lovely tailored pieces, particularly some semi-sheer taffeta blouses and beautifully cut jackets and skirts with interesting ruffle details.

Overall, the SS15 collection is very wearable, still distinctive, and absolutely worth getting your hands on as soon as you can. Prices aren’t cheap but this is one brand that will increase in value.

For more information about PushButton, go to www.pushbutton.co.kr; you can follow the brand on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pushbuttonseoul. You can also attempt to shop the brand online at www.pushbutton-e-boutique.com (but we’re not sure about how the delivery is organised) or visit the brand’s store at Pushbuttonspace, 5/6F Parkland Bldg., Daesagwan-ro 6-gil 5, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea. The brand is also available online at www.pixiemarket.com/pushbutton but it’s a very limited range.

LOW CLASSIC

5 Korean fashion brands you need to know about LOWCLASSIC 1Low Classic SS15 runway show in Seoul. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

Known as much for its designer Lee Myung Sin’s stint as the winner of Korea’s version of Project Runway, Low Classic is a brand that’s been steadily growing its fan base since it launched in 2009. This is a brand that’s described as “minimal”, the concept being “design of classic [classicism] and wit” and with a fairly strong influence of Korean traditional dress and materials; it has a minimal-hippie vibe with a focus on natural materials and colours. It’s been picked up by some of the most influential global fashion stores like Opening Ceremony in the US and Japan, IT in Hong Kong and A-Land in Korea, so you know it’s a label to watch.

For Spring Summer 2015, Lee showed a series apron-type shapes in muted tones, neutrals and black, interspersed with some slogan sweatshirts, boxy tops and very textural knits. The theme was apparently the “complete worker” ‒ which is where the apron-like overalls came from perhaps – the rest of it seems to have been more about what women would wear to work (if their workplace was very arty) than influences from other eras.

5 Korean fashion brands you need to know about LOWCLASSIC 2Low Classic SS15 runway show in Seoul. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

Still, the star-studded front row and the palpable excitement about the show ‒ it was standing room only ‒ goes to show that the fashionistas and buyers (who were out in full-force and packed the front row) think that this is definitely a label to watch; which means we think you should too.

For more information about Low Classic, go to www.lowclassic.com; you can follow the brand on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lowclassic. You can shop the brand online at www.lowclassic.com/shop (but we’re not sure if it ships to Singapore as it’s all in Korean!) or check it out at its store at 554, Shinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. Or try the Opening Ceremony site at openingceremony.us/lowclassic.

ARCHE

5 Korean fashion brands you need to know about ARCHE 1Arche SS15 runway show in Seoul. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

Designer of Arche, Yoon Choon Ho, has had a bit of a career when it comes to fashion; he’s worked for one of Korea’s top labels Lie Sang Bong and has showed his work at “Who’s Next” in Paris and “Coterie” in New York, but his biggest claim to fame came with his Autumn Winter 2014-15 collection for Arche when his distinctive “Greek Laurel Wreath” print pieces ended up on every hot celeb and in the pages of every top Korean fashion mag.

So it wasn’t unexpected to see those same celebs sitting front row at the Arche Spring Summer 2015 show at Seoul Fashion Week. The collection for this season was based on London’s iconic red telephone box; in some ways it was entirely literal ‒ think actual prints of the red boxes and British red post boxes – and in others it was more a suggestion of shapes and references to the Union Jack.

5 Korean fashion brands you need to know about ARCHE 2Arche SS15 runway show in Seoul. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

Arche offers both menswear and womenswear with a casual yet sexy vibe; this is definitely a label that’s focused on “persuing modern feminism based on classic womenswear” as the brand description goes; no wonder Arche is beloved by Korea’s K-drama goddesses.

For more information about Arche, go to www.arche-reve.com; you can also shop the brand on this site but again, it’s all in Korean so we’re unsure if it will deliver to Singapore. When you’re in Seoul, head to the Arche boutique at 110-110 104 Gye-dong, Gye Building, Jongno-gu, Bukchon, Seoul. You can email the brand at republic2012@naver.com for more info. You can also follow the brand on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ARCHE-seoul.

SURREAL BUT NICE

5 Korean fashion brands you need to know about SURREAL BUT NICE 1Surreal But Nice SS15 runway show in Seoul. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

This is one of my favourite Korean fashion labels. I first came across it at Tokyo tradeshow RoomsLink a couple of years ago and met the designers, Lee Su-Hyong and Lee En-Kyoung, who were really lovely people. Surreal But Nice launched in 2011 but both of them have worked in the Korean fashion industry for a number years and there was also a stint at Maison Martin Margiela so they understand what it takes to keep a brand alive.

Known particularly for mixing “technical” fabrics like neoprene with more natural materials like leather and silk; the prints are also super cool. There’s a slight girlie Office Lady vibe to some of the pieces and a more sexy, “after-dark” theme too. What makes Surreal But Nice stand out is the nice balance between the two sides of a woman’s nature – sweet and girlie versus dark and sexy.

5 Korean fashion brands you need to know about SURREAL BUT NICE 2Surreal But Nice SS15 runway show in Seoul. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

For Spring Summer 2015 the designers focused on expanding the brand with the addition of menswear – which was particularly good actually – while continuing the blend of sweet and sexy inspired by Peruvian culture, particularly in the prints and styling. While some of the pieces were less successful ‒ I’m really not getting the whole “fringe” thing ‒ the second half of the collection with the emphasis on sporty shapes and soft tailoring in more technical fabrics was totally on-brand and very covetable (yep, I wanted it all).

This brand is available at a number of cool multi-brand stores in Seoul, but it’s also at Initial in Hong Kong, Essence in Beijing and Ohh! Fashion Boutique in Taipei so make the effort to check it out if you’re in any of those countries. Surreal But Nice is still relatively reasonably priced so snap it up when you find it!

For more information about Surreal But Nice, go to www.surrealbutnice.co.kr. You can follow the brand on Facebook at www.facebook.com/srbn9681; on Instagram at @surrealbutnice_ and on Twitter @srbn9681. You can shop the brand online at www.wconcept.co.kr/shop/surreal-but-nice and if you’re in Seoul, head to Rare Market, 95-5 Cheongdam-dong, Seoul, to shop the brand (and lots of other cool stuff).