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[Herald Interview] Digital Seoul Fashion Week to challenge convention, promote designers globally
Published : Oct 19, 2020 - 17:00
Updated : Oct 20, 2020 - 12:36
Jeon Mi-kyung, director of Seoul Fashion Week, poses on Oct. 8 at her office in Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

The sudden outbreak of the pandemic frustrated the fashion industry earlier this year when the 2020 fall-winter Seoul Fashion Week was canceled just a month before it was scheduled to take place. After gearing up for the 2021 spring-summer season for months, Korea’s largest fashion event is going digital, breaking the barrier between designers and audiences.

“It will be our first show to attempt to show B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business to customer) retail models at the same time,” Jeon Mi-kyung, Seoul Fashion Week director, told The Korea Herald during an interview on Oct. 8. “It is a good chance to bring a digital change to the fashion circles to popularize local brands both to Koreans and people outside of Korea.”

While fashion shows are considered exclusive events for buyers and the press, Seoul Fashion Week will try to innovate, reaching out directly to customers through a digital platform and, for the first time, making it possible for people to purchase products right after the runway shows.

Those who want to watch can get on Naver, Korea’s largest web portal, or WeChat, the China-based messaging app, at 10 p.m. every day during fashion week, Oct. 20 - Oct.25, to participate in “See Now Buy Now” -- a live show where the fashion brands will sell their signature pieces after the shows. Live chat rooms will entertain questions about the items.

“The Chinese market is important to us as nearly 50 to 60 percent of purchases at fashion week is made by Chinese buyers. China is a very important market,” said Jeon on the partnership with WeChat, which has approximately 1.2 billion daily users.

A total of 43 brands -- 34 established designers for the Seoul Collection Show and nine rookie designers for Generation Next -- are participating in the 2021 spring-summer Seoul Fashion Week. The runway shows will be streamed on Seoul Fashion Week’s official YouTube channel and official website. The Miss Gee Collection will open Seoul Fashion Week with a show that will be live-streamed at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Miss Gee Collection is headed by the veteran designer Gee Choon-hee, who was named this year’s honorary designer of the year.

“The fashion industry has stuck with offline shows as the 12-minute long runway show is considered a composite art of music, performance, lighting, et cetera. Some designers were reluctant to go digital,” said Jeon, who came to Seoul Fashion Week via Harper‘s Bazaar Korea where she served as the editor in chief for 14 years. “But we persuaded them to join the show because expanding to the digital platform is an evitable change, and it is definitely worth a try in the long run.”

Jeon also stressed that Korean fashion brands are at a watershed monent. With Korean pop music and films gaining growing international attention, now is an opportune moment for the country’s fashion brands to strengthen their global presence. When the novel coronavirus hit the country a month before the 2020 fall-winter Seoul Fashion Week, some foreign buyers and press still showed their willingness to come to Seoul despite the pandemic. It was just after the film “Parasite” had swept the global film scene.

“In the past, young Korean designers strived to earn fame in France and Italy, but the trend is slowly changing. The global fashion industry is showing more interest in the Korean fashion market asking who are the top designers in Korea. For young designers, it’s getting more advantageous for them to establish reputation first in Korea.

“Korea’s pop culture has led trends in Asia and that brand image already enjoys trust. I believe it will not difficult for Korean fashion brands to get recognized in the global market,” she said.

Along with the expansion into the digital platform, the pandemic has brought a noteworthy change to the fashion industry with people spending less on fashion as they staying at home and social distancing. The pandemic naturally led us to reflect on consumption culture and fashion brands’ production process.

“The fashion brands have overly produced and incinerated unsold products in the end, hurting the environment,” she said. “Environment-friendly brands, including those that value recycling, are rising in the pandemic times, and it is also our mission to raise awareness in Korea."

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com)
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