The KCC UK‘s ‘K-Fashion Odyssey’ had been an exhibition of contemporary Korean fashion that’s formed part of the 2014 International Fashion Showcase (IFS). The IFS is a global celebration of fashion run by the British Fashion Council which was designed to happen alongside London Fashion Week. This is the second time that Korea has joined in the IFS and it gives a chance for works from up and coming Korean designers and talents to be brought into the limelight. As part of the ‘K-Fashion Odyssey’ the KCC has organised talks with Korean fashion insiders, letting an audience find out more about them and the work they do. ‘Think in Fashion’ was the closing talk of this exhibition, discussing how emerging designers launch their careers and the issues that they may face.
The exciting panel was made up of three Korean designers, Rejina Pyo, Hyein Seo, Edeline Lee, CEO of Astrid & Miyu Connine Nam, author and milliner Mary Jane Baxter and Anna Orsini, who is Strategic Consultant at British Fashion Council. The panel was chaired by Women’s Wear Daily’s Samantha Conti. The beginning of the talk was an explanation of the IFS’s work, how it was run and the reasons behind why it was first set up. The IFS helps to promote and nurture emerging talent using London as a base. Up to 30 embassies and cultural institutions get involved, each displaying emerging designing talent from their respective countries.
Next each member of the panel briefly introduced themselves and revealed a bit of what they did and how they’d got to their positions. Anna Orsini explained how she helped international designers abroad and in the UK, giving them advice on all aspects of the fashion world. Mary Jane Baxter was a full time correspondent for the BBC, but now works part time for them and also makes hats as well as lecturing on this subject.
Of the Koreans on the panel, Connie Nam first introduced herself. Slightly different from the other Korean designers in the panel, she is not a designer herself but is the CEO and co-founder of Astrid & Miyu. Hailing from Yonsei Uni and starting in investment banking, she began the company after she saw a gap in the market for costume jewellery, and was spurred on to doing this after there was a big growth in the market in this area. She invests heavily in branding and is rewarded with a 30% repeat purchase rate, boasting Pippa Middleton as a fan!
The first of the Korean designers to introduce themselves was Canadian born Edeline Lee, a London based designer who has amazing skills in pattern cutting and has worked for designers such as Dior, McQueen and Galliano, and was also the head designer for Rodnik in London. She gained a lot of recognition after being commissioned to make clothes for a jeweller’s photoshoot, which led to her starting her own collection.
Rejina Pyo spoke next, another London based designer who’s had capsule collections at H&M, has lines in Fenwick London, and has had her fashion at LFW and Paris Fashion week already this year. She was interested in basing herself in London as she liked the smaller studios here, where you could see all aspects of how they’re run, instead of the more corporate feel of studios she experienced in Korea. After winning a fashion award, things snowballed for her and she began to get more stockists and press. Currently working on her own line, she’s also a correspondent for a Korean magazine and does some teaching at Central Saint Martins.
The last Korean designer was Hyein Seo, still a student but already the winner of this year’s IFS’s Emerging Talent Award 2014 for Best Designer! She’s rapidly gaining popularity and her distinctive works are definitely getting her noticed. She said that although she’s still a student, after showing some of her designs at New York Fashion Week she’s got more than a few people knocking at her door.
After introductions were made, the panel got down to discussion on current fashion market trends. One of the main points of the evening that was discussed was the divide between creative people and more science or business minded people, and how this can impact later on in the fashion world. The panel talked about how important it was for people who chose the creative side of things to mingle with more business focused people while studying, especially at university, as after graduation designers may not have much knowledge of how a business would work. By mixing these disciplines, they said that this would enable people to build contacts in other areas and this would later benefit all parties. It was interesting to see Connie Nam’s ideas on this subject, as she had come from a business side of things. She agreed that more needed to be done in this area, and she and Edeline Lee before the show had actually talked about how it would be good for design universities to mix students from a purely design background and those learning more about fashion business to mix together. Rejina said that most of her time now was spent trying to learn how to do tax returns and accounting, so more education in such areas would have been very helpful.
The other big topic of the night was about social media and how this affects the fashion world. Edeline and Rejina brought up the idea that although social media is an amazing tool to get emerging talent into the fore, it has its negatives as sometimes there are so many people trying to promote themselves and do the same thing as you, it can be hard to get ‘heard’. However, they did both agree that social media was an amazing way to get your brand out there, and Connie Nam said that up to 1/3 of her sales and traffic was gained because of social media. Social media also allows for emerging designers and brands to do their own p.r and save on money getting a p.r agency to represent them.
Another down side of social media that was pointed out was that it was a lot easier for people to steal designs now and plagiarise. Some target emerging designers thinking they are easy targets who won’t be able to do anything about stolen designs. Hyein Seo said that some of her fashion ideas had already been copied and when she found out, didn’t know what to do about it. Some of the panel pointed out that a copy was no longer a copy if there ere 6 or 7 differences, but as these differences included stitch length, it was often very easy for people to get away with copying, and was there in fact any point in trying to stop people from copying. Alternately, they mentioned that it could be seen a flattery that someone was stealing your designs!
The talk ended with a question from the audience, asking each panellist to sum up their brand in a few words. Hyein cutely replied that as she was still a student and just at the start of her career, she didn’t want to type-cast herself just yet, lest she had to stick with that idea for good. Connie said that she sees her brand as timeless, beautiful and fun, Edeline said understated, modernist art, and Rejina said feminine and elegant but graphic.
The interesting and engaging talk was followed by a pop-up show and DJ party, with models wearing works from Hyein Seo and Gigi Jeehyun Jung mingling with the crowd. This was great to see and the models appeared unannounced; a great surprise for everyone!
This TALK Party was a great way to round up the exhibition. It allowed for people not only to hear from emerging designers but to ask their own questions. A truly fun and educating evening, it really gave you insight into the current issues facing emerging designers from a variety of backgrounds.