It feels like we've all been under the heady influence of "K" over the last few years. Not the drug but Korea's cultural exports of K-Pop, K-Drama, K-Technology, K-beauty and surgery in some cases. From trending dance moves to setting new Asian beauty standards and making smartphones the size of tablets the norm, there's just no escaping the K affect.
The Asian fashion scene has seen distinct changes too. While it's the low cost fast-fashion of Dongdaemun (Seoul's around the clock wholesale district) that's been flooding Singapore blog-shops and boutiques, it's the growing number of fashion-forward Korean designer labels that we're really excited about. With a strong domestic market coupled with a skilled manufacturing industry, ample government support and heavy investment from family-run conglomerates at the forefront of global retail, it's easy to see how Seoul's fashion designers are the rising darlings of the Asian fashion world.
The appointment of Jung Ku-ho (former creative director of Korean fashion powerhouse, Samsung Cheil) as executive director of Seoul Fashion Week this year saw even more international fashion buyers and media in attendance. In recent years, Korean designers such as early hero, Juun J, have achieved international acclaim followed by labels like, Lucky Chouette, Beyond Closet and Steve J & Yoni P in quick succession. And if this year's Seoul Fashion Week's lineup is any indication, we'll be sure to see exciting new brands to ring in a successful 4th and 5th wave. In anticipation of the next fashion week, here's our list of favourite Korean brands worth checking out every season.
1. Low Classic
We love Low Classic for their youthful and updated take on classic pieces that promises mileage. Launched in 2009, the creative direction is now led by Lee Myeong Sin, while the brand's co-founder, Hwang Hyun Ji, H, heads up their more affordable diffusion line, Locle, that debuted in 2012. Never boring thanks to innovative details and strong draping, Lee may design for today's young Seoul woman but we can see her modern minimalist aesthetic fitting in perfectly in any city around the world.
2. Kaal E. Suktae
One of Seoul's more established designers since 1997, Kaal E. Suktae deserves a spot on the international stage. Known for his wearable approach to avant garde construction, designer Lee Suk Tae masterly combines materials like silk, neoprene, nylon and faux fur with an intent to create street fashion with a handcrafted twist.
3. Cres. E Dim.
Cres. E Dim. is the label by designer Kim Hong Bum, winner of several Korean fashion competitions and a participant in Project Runway Korea Season 1. Drawing heavily from sportwear, Kim launched his label in 2009, followed by a more casual second line, Dim E. Cres to reach a wider audience. A master of proportions and cut-outs, Cres E Dim is loved for its modern, cool and effortless looks.
A Central Saint Martins alumni, Kathleen Kye is a hit with the K-Pop A listers such as G-Dragon and Girls' Generation and it's no wonder why. Her funky outerwear, oversized shapes and loud prints scream for the attention of an adoring audience — even Rihanna wants in. Focusing mainly on an urban streetwear aesthetic, the brand now shows regularly at New York Fashion week. This is one label to watch.
Launched in 2011, pushBUTTON is a brand popular with fashion insiders for their edgy looks known to always be a pairing of opposites. Feminine and masculine, sexual and sporty, high and low, pushBUTTON struts a tightrope, carefully balancing the in-between and always with a sense of humour.