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Backstage at R.shemiste AW16
Backstage at R.shemiste AW16

Five designers shaking up South Korea’s fashion scene

In the wake of Seoul Fashion Week, we spotlight five of the city’s most agenda-setting design talents

Thanks to the likes of Kwon Ji-yong aka G-Dragon, frontwoman of 2NE1 CL, emerging trap star Keith Ape and others of their ilk, the West is starting to sit up and pay attention to South Korea’s music scene. But music isn’t the country’s only cultural export of note; its fashion is also gaining notoriety – from CSM grad Kye, whose off-kilter designs have caught Rihanna’s eye, to former Helmut Lang intern Kiok, who is proving that Korea is a force to be reckoned with in the luxury fashion market. Last month’s Hera Seoul Fashion Week paid further testament to that fact, with shows and presentations that shared K-pop’s wide appeal and high voltage energy. Here, we round up five of the week’s standout designers and their collections, as selected by Dazed’s editor-in-chief Isabella Burley.

KIOK

Kang Kiok is known for her denim, but this season she proved how cleverly she is able to rework the textile. She shredded it, fused it with plaid, spliced it up and tied it together with shoelaces, and layered it with fishnet. Imbued with a sense of off-kilter cool, the collection channeled fashion’s current obsession with a deconstructed, oversized silhouette. To top it off, a troupe of nine dancers closed the show, twerking to the pulsating beat of a remix of Rihanna’s new dancehall-inflected song “Work”.

@kiok_studio

R.SHEMISTE

Like Kiok, Seoul-based design duo Jiyeun Won and Jooho Lee are fans of denim, but they reworked the textile in an entirely different way. Inspired by 20th–century anarchist Emma Goldman, the collection embodied an emphatic nod to 90s grunge, with ripped, baggy jeans and flannel shirts that were either cropped or tied around the waist. Furthering this sense of DIY, satin bomber jackets were split, denim camisoles rendered holey and layered over ruched, crumpled-looking shirts and outerwear, again, was deconstructed and oversized.

@rshemiste

PUSHBUTTON

With its name drawn from the lyrics of Madonna’s 2003 dance tune “Hollywood”, Pushbutton is a favourite of South Korea’s modelling contingent, now in its 12th season. This time around, founder Seung Gun Park merged 80s New Romanticism and contemporary streetwear – for men, this translated to frilly silk shirts, floral satin suits and pussy bow blouses; and for women, gowns cinched at the waist, jackets padded at the shoulder, long, billowy leg of mutton sleeves. For all its retro vibes, the anime prints and silk ropes strapping iPhones to the models’ waists showed Park’s affinity for the present day.

@pushbutton_official

MUNSOO KWON

For his AW16 collection, former Helmut Lang and Thom Browne intern Munsoo Kwon took inspiration from K-pop’s 90s boy bands such hip-hop and reggae group Roo’ra, who were at the forefront of the genre’s first wave. The backdrop, which comprised of IRL screaming fans waving balloons and banners, paid homage to this phenomenon and the incredible following it has gathered over the years. Down the runway itself came models-slash-B-boys (also bearing balloons) dressed in a brightly-hued mash-up of 90s sportswear and relaxed Western tailoring.

@munsookwon

KYE

One of Seoul’s most well-known fashion exports is Kathleen Kye, who trained at Central Saint Martins before showing at London and New York Fashion Week. Quirky and colourful, her designs are marked by the street art graphics and have found fans in the likes of Rihanna (who’s been seen in her blue mink coat), G-Dragon and 2NE1’s Dara. This season, Kye mixed grunge plaid and band tees with satin and fur in what was an ode to the city’s streetwear.

@kye_official