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Korean Brands Sample Pure


From speaking to brands being launched in the UK using Korean designers, (sold in TopShop, Boxpark and elsewhere) and to brand consultants, “all our buyers are now going to Korea to get ideas from Korean designs and designers.” Bit by bit there are more Korean designs in shop windows: clean styles, cuts and silhouettes, slightly preppy, young in feel and contemporary. But it would be a mistake (and an insult) to assume it’s somehow Korea’s version of ‘Japanese influenced design.’ And although everyone in Asia references and follows Japan, western brands included, Korean brands are more likely to have created their own following within Korea and outside – particularly China.

Another significant dynamic also signposted by WGSN is the extent to which Korea has intercepted a lot of potential fashion business being channeled from China to Europe, and made it their own, with a closer cultural fit and distribution channel. This has the potential to further empower Korea as a fashion force to be reckoned with, with future catwalks and trends set to demonstrate this growing potential and influence.

In the meantime, Korea has demonstrated more than cursory interest in Pure SS16 this year in the shape of I.D. – a brand consultant, with several brands represented at the event and many more in their portfolio. How was the event for them? Eric Nam director, with a totally relaxed and friendly demeanor revealed, “With relatively low expectations, the interest shown has far exceeded expectations.” They had by the second day had mostly online retailers looking for new styles; a procurement agent for ASOS.com and a magazine that has ‘promised to come to Korea to interview them’ (probably for a fee).  And if there’s time, to look at showroom potential. It was interesting to observe a not overly concerned representative, taking a sanguine approach to this new market potential. Often, the risk-reward of cost of participation in Pure (having a lot riding on it) is practically emblazoned on the forehead – usually for smaller, first time participants without deep pockets.

I.D.’s model is an interesting one for Korea. Given the relative immaturity of the market, Korea does not have a developed brand consultancy platform, and so I.D. focusing on numerous new designers is still working its way into the modus operandi of the industry. Good to be first, but not always easy to gain traction, if you are waiting for everyone to understand the model you are working to. In other words, there’s all the brands you might think of and recognize from Samsung down, and then there’s all the largely unknown brands in waiting, known perhaps only to specific followings in Korea. I.D. is the nurturing father to these brands, taking care of business.

Manufacturing, design and production of the collection is the designers (brands) responsibility, as is usually the case. I.D. helps with trading, marketing, and managing capital (investment) in the brand. All for a percentage fee of the sales made by each brand. For I.D. this has been under development for three years, with a planned focus on Hong Kong, Taipei and Japan in addition to Korea. Having witnessed the unemployed graduate design hormones going off the scale during Graduate Fashion Week, pining for quality, qualified industry acceptance to further their career, the I.D. model has a lot of merits. 

Of the brands I.D. had brought to Pure, which included: Blank Noir (a premium brand); Sewing Boundaries; Luv is True, VVV, Sovone, Anepigraphe, I had the pleasure of speaking to the creator of VVV – designer Viki Pyo, a graduate from Central St Martins in 2009 and operating out of Korea under the auspices of I.D. On display was her combined second and third collection. The design theme unashamedly and categorically, ‘Happiness’ and ‘Love’ personified. You can’t see her designs and not think ‘fun’ with energy symbols and hand-embroidered fruit onto see-through sheer fabric in a smock style, designed to be worn as layers over tops and lightweight coats. It’s quintessential Korean pop-styling, smocks, tops, dresses, pants, with hint of 90s disco, and with quality finishing (I always look at the back pockets on the pants to see the quality). The brand story is Viki’s philosophy expressed in her garment designs ‘To love yourself, have fun and not to worry about what other people think, and to be confident and positive.’ All noble ambitions perhaps for her 20-30 year old target consumers, who will be drawn to her favorite flamingo-pink color, complete with peace symbols embroidered into hearts and ‘Go on Green’ detox slogans attached in a light-hearted but well-intended manner.

I asked Viki what her design aesthetic was, and she revealed it was not a question she gets asked often. “I really like to work in pink, I don’t want the design to be flat and it must have texture, with lots of embroidery and embellishment.” She acknowledged that there was a trade off in producing garments that were commercially priced and reigning in some of her design aspirations for more elaborate embellishment that would make her collection less viable in terms of price point. The VVV designs are sold in Seoul currently, and available online with around 1,000 blog followers, following our Viki. The range is priced from £30- £160. Vicky’s sincere, parting words of wisdom to me were “you have to make clothes you like and believe in that are genuine that people can see you like. Why make clothes you wouldn’t wear as a designer?” Not something that is strictly followed by many designers, but it does make you wonder about the authenticity driving a brand when the designer doesn’t even wear it.

Viki revealed that while they may be considering other markets, ‘Who’s Next, Paris, the US’, she is “not in a hurry.” You can’t hurry love, you just have to wait. As I was leaving the I.D. stand and the delightful Viki, they were approached by Velvet House, ostensibly looking for brands for the BBC Fame Academy, to be shot end of August. They lapped up her designs, photographing many of them. I hope for good purpose. Good luck VVV-Viki.


By Paul Markevicius

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