08-25-2010 17:19
[KoreaToday] Concept Korea II breaks into New York Fashion Week

The designers of Concept Korea II will attend the S/S 2011 Fashion Week in New York. From left, Juyoung Lee, Choi Bum Suk, Kwak Hyun Joo, Lie Sang Bong, Do Ho, Lee Jean Youn, Yoni P and Steve J.
/ Courtesy of Concept Korea

By Ines Min

New York, London, Milan and Paris. The four centers of fashion across the globe bring a certain level of glamour to mind, and for those who are still relatively new to the scene of runways and camera flashes ¡ª the major urban meccas are gateways into an immaculate reality where clothes do make the man.

Concept Korea, run by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, will be holding their first group show at the S/S 2011 New York Fashion Week Sept. 9, featuring seven domestic brands, eight designers. Four established labels will have the opportunity to showcase their stylish wares throughout this week, while three emerging talents will be given their chance on the main catwalk.

The first Concept Korea was held earlier this year during the F/W 2010 New York Fashion Week, although designs were only on exhibition at the New York Public Library. Other Korean, designers have held official shows in the East Coast market, but this will be the first group endeavor sponsored by the Korean government.

The Korea Times sat down with designers Juyoung Lee, Kwak Hyun Joo and Lee Jean Youn last week, delving into the creative minds of the debuting trio to provide a preview of what the fashion world can expect next month.

`Lee Jean Youn¡¯

One designer. Twenty looks. Seven minutes?

This was the dilemma of Lee Jean Youn, one of the triumvirate, who will grace the New York catwalk for the first time at one of the world¡¯s top fashion weeks, next month.

``Because the show is shared between three people, you have to present all the designers in 25 to 30 minutes _ so the time I have is seven minutes,¡¯¡¯ Lee explained during the interview. ``So I thought about how I would be able to give a show in seven minutes that would have a great impact.¡¯¡¯

The designer is best characterized by his thoughtfulness, which won him a limited collection at Mango last year. His previous shows reached from Paris to Barcelona, and he has received recognition for his talent from Oscar de la Renta and Nina Garcia _ though his foot is still nudging the door open in the United States.

I could use either a smaller number of models who show several looks, or 20 models for each,¡¯¡¯ Lee said. The designer settled on the latter, with a view to have the slim figures walk onto the stage then stand there, mannequin-style, so as to ingrain the image into the audience¡¯s mind.

Taking up on his prior collections¡¯ themes of rebirth and sustainable design, the designer plans to divide the looks into two sub-genres: black and pink. Taking from the life cycle of charcoal (from tree to charcoal to ash, and back again), colors mingle with alligator leather to form the main component.

Integrating plenty of fine details, Lee makes sure to distribute his star fabric throughout his work, including small ladybug-shaped buttons and bows made of leather. But before PETA-enthusiasts can cry out, Lee already has an answer: everything is made from the scraps of purchases made by others.

``When you buy leather, people only use the middle section of each piece,¡¯¡¯ he explained, adding that by only using leftover scraps, it doesn¡¯t add to demand ¡ª the material has already been bought.

Though the designer is already well on his way to international recognition, he still feels there is plenty to learn from the upcoming group show.

``When you look at Concept Korea, it¡¯s a great opportunity to introduce Korean culture to others through fashion,¡¯¡¯ he said. ``But it¡¯s something that produces business... I think it¡¯s good practice.¡¯¡¯

Lee, who effuses a natural enthusiasm and passion for his work, inserts between sentences: ``It¡¯s going to be fun.¡¯¡¯

`Resurrection by Juyoung¡¯

Juyoung Lee is a name already well-known throughout some artists¡¯ circles in Korea. The Parsons¡¯ graduate helped create the costumes for ``Hedwig and the Angry Inch¡¯¡¯ in 2008 and has already participated in trade shows in the United States and Paris.

Dressed in dark colors accented with a bright pink lipstick, Lee reflects her personal line wholly during the meeting ¡ª ``Resurrection¡¯¡¯ can be characterized by its gothic theme and drama.

Yet even with an affinity slgith cynicism, Lee evinces a strong modern sensibility, placing her work firmly into contemporary society. For this collection, created from scratch in just three weeks, the designer placed emphasis on gender and functionality.

`` When you look at trends these days, all the guys are so girlish, they¡¯re so slim and I hate it,¡¯¡¯ she said lightheartedly, though barely with a smile. ``My idea translates so that when a woman sees a guy, he can be viewed as masculine and charming.¡¯¡¯

Not that Lee¡¯s going for machismo. The main fabrics for her 20 looks are cotton, linen, lace and sparkles, with practical traits to transform pieces in seconds.

``The economy isn¡¯t in a good place right now, so I thought to myself that clothes have to be season-less and functional.¡¯¡¯

Zippers part to convert long coats into shorter jackets, adjusting lengths and weight to fit the occasion.

Though she originally studied to be a classical cellist, Lee found herself back in the fashion industry of her youth _ her parents ran a family-run clothing business.

``I think that there is a relationship between fashion and music,¡¯¡¯ she said. ``More than just visualizing, I think it¡¯s emotional.¡±

Lee continuously exudes refreshing realism and dry humor (``Fashion is all the power of PR.¡¯¡¯). When asked about how she represents Korean culture abroad, an exhausted subject at the forefront of most international endeavors by locals, she simply brushes it off.

``I don¡¯t have a separate Korean aspect to my clothing, but I am a Korean. What I¡¯m good at is my own culture, so even if I don¡¯t go all out, my work is still Korean.¡¯¡¯

`Pucca by Kwak Hyun Joo¡¯

Kwak Hyun Joo¡¯s current project comes in the form a small, 10-year-old girl with large, fluffy balls of pigtails. Pucca, a South Korean-made animated character currently owned by Warner Bros., is aiming to be the next big fictional figure.

Kwak, a fashion designer for Pucca, is looking to use Concept Korea as a stepping stone for the character already popular in the United States and Europe.

Under the idea of ``Mad Kiss,¡¯¡¯ the collection tells the story of young Pucca who, influenced by the tale of Snow White, longs to find a boy who will kiss her, driving her to desperate measures.

``The concept is connected to that idea of the mad kiss,¡¯¡¯ Kwak said.
Using silk and mesh for her main textiles, the designer found the project of taking on the character a complex one.

``If Pucca was like an average character, she could be portrayed as a children¡¯s brand name, but it¡¯s not like that,¡¯¡¯ Kwak said, adding that it¡¯s targeting reaching the levels of Mickey Mouse ¡ª an internationally-recognized image. ``I want to make Pucca a fashionable character... If you do it wrong, the character can seem childish.¡¯¡¯

Kwak, a steady figure during Seoul Fashion Week for the past several years, keeps up her own individual work as well, with notable shows including her ``Gissen¡¯¡¯ collection that featured contemporary cuts with a Victorian twist of vampires. Jersey, chiffon and cashmere were mixed with dark metallics to create a harmonizing contrast.

Schedule and events

Concept Korea II will feature on Sept. 9, the opening day of fashion week, at the Lincoln Center at 7 p.m.

The other designers that will showcase their work are Do Ho of ``Doho,¡¯¡¯ Lie Sang Bong of ``Lie sang bong paris,¡¯¡¯ Steve J and Yoni P of ``Steve J & Yoni P,¡¯¡¯ and Choi Bum Suk of ``General Idea.¡¯¡¯

For those interested in partcaking in the festivities, the event¡¯s ``Plus Campaign¡¯¡¯ invites the public to become their own icons. Everyone from home fashionistas to industry experts can submit a photograph of their own unique style to the official website.

Winners will be displayed online and through web applications, in an opportunity to portray Korea¡¯s true street fashion and become a natural ambassador. For more information, visit www.conceptkorea.org.