I’ve always loved Asian fashion – I have a long-standing addiction to Japanese brands in particular – but over the last three years or so I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with the fashion coming out of Seoul, South Korea. It might be due to the whole Hallyu Wave thing (yes, I’ll admit to a bit of fan-girling over Big Bang and 2NE1), or just because I’m always looking for the “next big thing”, but whatever it is, I’m always excited to see what’s going to come down the runway at
Seoul Fashion Week.

So, here are the four fashion brands that blew me away during my recent visit to Seoul for the Spring Summer 2015 shows … Keep your eye on them all, they’re definitely brands to buy now before they blow-up and move out of your price range!

BIG PARK

My 4 favourite Korean fashion brands at Seoul Fashion Week BIG PARK 1Looks from Big Park SS15 show. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

The designer of Big Park, Park Youn Soo, is reportedly a major deal with a history of being in the industry and who is “reinventing” himself with this label. The Spring Summer 2015 show was my first experience with Big Park and I wasn’t disappointed.

First up the front row was packed with celebs like Raina from Orange Caramel (her team-mate Nana is a fan of the brand too apparently), secondly the soundtrack came via a live DJ and rapper P-Type; thirdly … the clothes were just awesome! 🙂

My 4 favourite Korean fashion brands at Seoul Fashion Week BIG PARK 3The opening look from the Big Park SS15 show with live rapper P-Type (you can see him in the back on the right). Image: Seoul Fashion Week

All of the super cute prints were created by Park’s two artist sisters, Sooy and Jay, whose work is all about travelling around Korea and reference traditional motifs like mountain rabbits, waves, mountains and clouds; there were also bananas but I’m not sure where those came from. The sisters’ work was translated into brightly pigmented prints that were emblazoned as “logos” on sweatshirts, tote bags (die-die must-buy items by the way), and then separated out into repeating motifs to echo the logo versions. On top of the fabulous own prints, there were even awesome printed sneakers to match; part of a collaboration with Nike Korea these shoes were hands-down the best of the SS15 season. I’m dying to get my hands on a pair.

Described by the brand as being an “adventurous lifestyle brand, inspired by the boys and girls dressed in their strong, unique and individual way around global neighborhoods”, Big Park is mostly smart streetwear and soft tailoring in technical fabrics.

My 4 favourite Korean fashion brands at Seoul Fashion Week BIG PARK 2Looks from Big Park SS15 show. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

The prints and the shapes elevate it above the run-of-the-mill sweatshirts and tees to something that’s becoming a new fashion genre – Kpop contemporary. Defined by the recent rise in athleticwear and streetwear, this style of fashion is basically what everyone is really wearing on the streets; comfortable, active-friendly but differentiated by classic quality cutting, unique prints and colours and use of excellent fabrics … this is Korean fashion at its best.

There were so many favourite pieces from the SS15 collection; check out the photos and make sure you get your hands on something the next time you’re in Seoul!

Big Park has its own store at Younsomi B/D Dosan-Daero 55Gil #49 Gangnam-Gu, Seoul. You can email info@bigparkys.com for more information on how to get there.

J KOO

My 4 favourite Korean fashion brands at Seoul Fashion Week J KOO 1Looks from the J Koo SS15 show. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

One of my personal favourites (OK, again), as in this is one label I want to wear head-to-toe, J Koo is designed by Koo Yeon Joo and Choi Jin Woo who launched the brand in 2010 in the UK first after graduating from Central Saint Martins in London. They’ve already been noticed internationally as being a brand to watch with invites to show at Pitti Uomo, New York’s Coterie and Tokyo’s RoomsLink tradeshow since its launch. The brand was also in Singapore at Blueprint 2014 so some of you will already be aware of this brand.

The think I love most about this brand is the way menswear cuts and concepts have informed its womenswear; the lines are clean and simple and extremely wearable but with that little additional “something” that makes it more than just basic. There is an indefinable “something” that takes a piece of clothing from retail to runway – my personal way of differentiating the ordinary from the extraordinary.

My 4 favourite Korean fashion brands at Seoul Fashion Week J KOO 2Looks from the J Koo SS15 show. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

For SS15 Koo and Choi were inspired by classic tennis wear from the 1920s and 1930s, the original “tennis whites” of Lacoste, Bill Tilden and Suzanne Lenglen that somehow managed to combine tailoring with athleticism. In the collection there were oversized tennis dresses (totally loved it), oversized polo shirts (a major trend for SS15 everywhere) and paint-splosh prints. Oh, and have to give a shout-out to the awesome shoes too; this brand always does good shoes.

This label is the perfect combination of sportswear and minimalism; the small touches like the use of fringe to outline shapes and raw edges on hems added texture to what could have been a very cold and simplistic look. This is what makes J Koo a brand to covet; it’s the differences that push it into runway territory.

For more information about J Koo, go to www.studiojkoo.com; you can also follow the brand on Facebook at www.facebook.com/J-KOO and on Instagram at @studio_jkoo. You can shop J Koo if you’re in Seoul at 4F, Lighthouse, #15 Eonju-ro 157-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, and email studiojkoo@gmail.com for more information about international stockists. The brand is available from selected I.T Hong Kong stores (big IT).

KAAL E SUKTAE

My 4 favourite Korean fashion brands at Seoul Fashion Week KAAL E SUKTAE 1Looks from the Kaal E Suktae SS15 show. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

I discovered Kaal E Suktae last year and have been keeping an eye on the brand ever since. Designer Lee Suk Tae launched the brand in 1997 (yes, a while ago) after graduating from Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne and working in the design teams at Sonia Rykiel and Christian Dior. The brand is described as being “a modern contemporary brand that pursues structural avant-garde” which basically means very well cut minimal with a twist womenswear.

There’s always been a touch of contemporary sportswear to the collections – particularly in the AW2014-15 range – but that “touch” became very obvious for Spring Summer 2014. The mix of manish tailoring and very sexy sportswear pieces made this collection a little schizophrenic but there were lots of very wearable, stand-out-from-the-crowd pieces; and the shoes, which were designed by emerging brand Dusty Mauve (another brand to shop when you’re in Korea), were awesome as always. 

My 4 favourite Korean fashion brands at Seoul Fashion Week KAAL E SUKTAE 2Looks from the Kaal E Suktae SS15 show. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

Apparently the SS15 collection was based on the concept of “Seraphim” … “Inspired by the ‘Seraphim’ that is the angel of the highest class, completed collection with avant-garde structural aesthetic and combination of fabric with a pop of colour and futuristic feel, to express a mysterious and holy atmosphere”.

My 4 favourite Korean fashion brands at Seoul Fashion Week KAAL E SUKTAE 3The Kaal E Suktae SS15 final walk with live beatboxer Krnfx. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say the collection was “holy” but it was certainly futuristic and fun. The soundtrack for the entire show was actually beatboxing, which was unusual, but even better was the fact that it was actually live! Krnfx, Terry Im, is one of the world’s top beatboxers – he’s even been on Ellen – and is apparently a friend of Lee; as the models started down the runway for the final walk, out came Krnfx to show that he’d been providing the soundtrack live for the entire show. The models danced and even the designer had a boogie on the runway; what’s not to love? 

You can shop Kaal E. Suktae online at Opening Ceremony (US) that ships to Singapore; go to www.openingceremony.us/kaalesuktae to shop. For more information about Kaal E. Suktae, to go www.kaalesuktae.com; on Instagram at @kaalesuktae and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KAAL-ESUKTAE.

CRES E DIM

My 4 favourite Korean fashion brands at Seoul Fashion Week CRES E DIM 1Looks from the Cres E. Dim SS15 show. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

Cres E. Dim was launched in 2009 but it’s really been building momentum over the last two or three years or so. Designer Kim Hongbum always has a fairly esoteric inspiration for his collections; for AW14 it was the book by Alvin Toffler, Future Now, and for Spring Summer 2015 it was apparently the “works of Canadian media artist Nicolas Sassoon and Yves Klein Blue’s contemporary moods”.

Whatever … The collection was basically a distillation of every sportswear / athletic trend that’s around right now – baseball shirts, mesh, text, cropped tees, baggy pants, athletic socks with slides, bucket hats, tennis headbands, oversized cricket sweaters … even Macs (a la spectators).

My 4 favourite Korean fashion brands at Seoul Fashion Week CRES E DIM 2Looks from the Cres E Dim SS15 show. Images: Seoul Fashion Week

While there was a very young vibe for SS15 it actually seemed more suited to the brand’s secondary line, Dim E Cres which caters more to a younger (read poorer) demographic by riffing off the mainline and making it more casual, collegiate and affordable.

So, I didn’t DIE for the entire SS15 collection, but there were some really great individual pieces interspersed amongst all the athletic gear ‒ I particularly loved the semi-tennis look of wide pant with over-skirt and oversized mesh sweater. Still, Cres E. Dim remains one of my favourite Korean fashion labels, and it’s well worth checking out the next time you’re in Seoul.

For more information about Cres. E Dim, go to www.cresedim.com. You can follow the brand on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cresedim and on Instagram at @cresedim. You can shop the brand online at www.cresedim.com/shop (but again, you need to check if it ships to Singapore) or go to www.notjustalabel.com/designer/cres-e-dim which does ship to Singapore. Both brands are also available from major department stores in Seoul like Doota in Dongdaemun.

For more information about Seoul Fashion Week, go to www.seoulfashionweek.org. You can follow the event on Facebook at www.facebook.com/seoulfashionweek and on Instagram at @seoulfashionweek.