Experts Ponder Future of Fashion
By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Seoul Fashion Week is in full swing this week, but the lack of buzz and sometimes sparse crowds at fashion shows seem to reinforce doubts whether Seoul has what it takes to become the fashion capital of Asia.
At the Global Fashion Forum held Monday, fashion industry experts weighed in on the prospects of Seoul Fashion Week.
Nicole Fall, head of a Tokyo-based Asian consumer intelligence agency Five by Fifty, believes there is a strong case for Seoul as a fashion capital.
``There will be five billion consumers living in Asia by the year 2050, with an astonishing 60 percent of the world's population in Asia. The richest countries will be in Asia. How can Europeans and Americans simply dictate to Asia what to wear? We believe Seoul has the essential ingredients to become the future capital of Asian fashion,'' Fall said.
She cited Seoul's prime location, wealth, four seasons, manufacturing expertise, thriving telecommunications technology and rich culture. ``Korea is also a key influencer in trends in Asia. Its celebrities, talent and culture are highly valued in Asia. There is a potential for the country to build its own brands,''' she said.
To distinguish itself from other fashion events, Fall suggested Seoul Fashion Week take its cue from the popular Tokyo Girls Collection, a semi-annual fashion festival that incorporates digital lifestyle trends. Tokyo Girls Collection features fashion shows by affordable, trendy Japanese brands and is open to the public. Visitors to the fashion shows receive real-time text message updates on how to buy the clothes on the runway.
``We have a vision that incorporates technology and democracy with the buying public. Fashion trends are in the hands of the consumers, not the fashion press. Seoul can capitalize on its technology and heritage. Our idea mixes commercialism with the realities of the fashion world today and incorporates the much-needed entertainment factor missing in traditional fashion shows,'' Fall said.
Asian designers, including Korean designers, are also becoming more visible on the international fashion scene. Unlike in the 1980s when Japanese designers such as Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake started a wave of avant-garde fashion, this time Asians from different countries are attracting attention.
``With the world becoming a global village, the cultural gap between the East and West is narrowing. Differences in style and looks are also narrowing. Another reason for the success of Asian designers in the West is the backing they have received from domestic customers,'' Felix Boukobza, a leading French creative director, said.
The future of fashion may not be on the traditional runways, but in film. Diane Pernet, a well-known fashion critic and influential fashion blogger, believes that if the magazine era focused on photography, the Internet era focuses on films.
A fashion icon to many, Pernet writes about the global fashion scene on her popular blog www.ashadedviewonfashion.com and founded ``A Shaded View on Fashion Film,'' a festival showcasing films about fashion.
Pernet cited the growing phenomenon of fashion companies making short films for the Internet, sometimes to sell the product and sometimes just as a visually exciting experiment in design.
``(Dutch designers) Victor & Rolf decided this year that instead of having a runway show, they would present their collection on the Internet, giving everyone a front row seat. I think that's the future,'' she said.
Pernet only had good things to say about the fashion shows she saw during Seoul Fashion Week.
``I thought it was very well done and production wise, it was on an international level. It's the same with every emerging market, everyone wants to be on the same level as Milan or Paris or New York and London, but it takes time to build an international following. I think what (Seoul is) doing right now, inviting international people and press to come, its what should be done to get a higher profile,'' Pernet said.