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Is Korean fashion next in the Korean Wave abroad?

Posted February. 13, 2012 01:14,   


More than 540 journalists and fashion buyers flocked to the fashion show Concept Korea Fall/Winter 2012 at The Stage at New York`s Lincoln Center Friday to see fall and winter clothes by Korean designers. All seats were filled due to the unexpected large number of participants.

In its fifth year, the fashion show is organized by the Korean Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry to help Korean designers enter overseas markets.

In 2010 when the Concept Korea show made its debut, it was organized unilaterally by the government, but its nature has now changed. The number of inquiries from buyers who want to display clothes designed by Koreans this fall has increased and the volume of on-site purchase contracts have also grown. Carol Song, a buyer at fashion retailer Opening Ceremony, said, “Diverse approaches by Korean designers toward sensitivity and materials deserve attention,” adding, “It`s a matter of time before their collections succeed.”

Korean fashion could follow the wave of Korean dramas, music and food growing popular throughout the world. Domestic fashion giants, which have focused on taking over overseas brands, are racing to attract Korean fashion designers.

○ Raised profile of the Korean fashion industry

Korean designers began entering overseas markets in the early 2000s, but Korea’s national image was a hindrance to their success. Since the fashion industry sells image, Korea was no match for France and Italy.

People around the world, however, began considering the “Korea” brand trendy thanks to Korean dramas and music. A source from a Korean department store said, “Quite a few Chinese come to our store with photos of lead actresses in Korean dramas in their hands to buy Korean clothes.”

For three days from Jan. 25, the first Japan-Korea joint fashion event Korean International Style Show held at Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Tokyo attracted 33,000 participants. The event was joined by Korean music groups such as Girls` Generation, Kara and Sistar, designer Lee Sang-bong, and fashion brand Spicy Color.

The Japanese Nikkei Marketing Journal recently said in the article “Impressed by Korean Fashion,” “The Korean fashion industry hasn’t gotten attention compared to Korean cosmetics and esthetic services. But the former is rapidly expanding its sphere these days,” adding, “Riding on the popularity of K-pop singers who began debuting in Japan in 2010, Korea’s chic image has apparently impressed Japanese consumers.”

○ Meeting between designers and fashion companies

In the past, even Korean fashion companies active in the global market showed little interest in Korean designers and instead chose to acquire famous fashion brands. Today, Korean fashion giants are growingly recognizing the value of Korean designers and seeking to join hands with them.

At the fall and winter 2012 fashion show for men in Paris in January, Korean designer Jeong Wook-joon got huge attention. Suzy Menkes, an influential fashion journalist, and famous fashion bloggers came to Jeong’s JUNN.J collection. World-renowned fashion blogger Scott Schuman called Jeong’s collection “the best show of Paris collection.”

Fashion companies are teaming up with star designers to make forays into the global market as well. Jung Ku-ho, director of Cheil Industries, has entered the New York collection with his collection line “Hexa by Kuho” and is eyeing Paris next. In September last year, the FnC division of Kolon Industries opened a pop-up store at Harrods Department Store in London to promote the handbag brand “Couronne” by Seok Jeong-hye. The brand that the company took over in 2010 was also invited to the Vendome Luxury Trade Show in March. Seok said, “The meeting between a business system and the intrinsic value of designer’s brand is producing synergistic effects in the global (fashion) business.”