HONG KONG – Runway darling Irene Kim brought her street style and pastel pink hair to Hong Kong for the opening night of Seoul 10 Soul pop-up at I.T in Causeway Bay.
Sporting a blue-and-white outfit, the South Korean-American model and Estée Lauder global beauty contributor joined 10 of South Korea’s most promising designers to celebrate the launch on April 13.
Organized by Seoul Design Foundation and I.T Group, the month-long pop-up aims to promote South Korean fashion internationally. The Hong Kong iteration follows appearances at L’Eclaireur Paris and Excelsior Milano last year, and the series continues at London Fashion Week in September.
Yunhee Kim, fashion and creative industry division director of the Seoul Design Foundation, explained that “people know K-Drama and K-Pop, but K-Fashion isn’t well-known yet. We want to help these designers reach the global market and support them with events around the world.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have fashion “It” girl Irene Kim in the room. Kim is a fierce ambassador of South Korean fashion, sharing looks and words of encouragement with her more than 886,000 followers on Instagram.
“When I first started walking in the shows in Seoul Fashion Week, there was no international interest. It’s changing fast,” she said. “Korean fashion is still new and raw, but there is a lot of talent. This [pop-up] is a great way to help them get more exposure.”
“One of my favorite designers is Pushbutton. He has always pushed the boundaries,” she continued. “I love how they play with waistlines and oversized blazers. They put a twist on what could be girly silhouettes — it’s unconventionally feminine.”
Pushbutton’s spring-summer collection is a mix of red, white and blue pieces with a retro feel, featuring a cropped polo alongside a red polka-dot dress. “In this fast-paced globalized world, I’d like to describe this new collection as a ‘Hello’ from the past to our future,” said Pushbutton founder and creative director Seung Gun Park.
A few other veteran South Korean designers like D.Gnak and Rocket x Lunch joined the pop-up, alongside fresh faces, such as Bourie, a women’s wear brand with soft silhouettes inspired by film, photography and music, and gender-bending LVMH Prize 2017 winner Blindness.
“I design with an artist in mind,” said Bourie founder Eun-hye Jos. “This time it was a French photographer. My clothes have classic curves but still feel unusual.” She pointed to her favorite pieces, a black jacket with white frills and a collared shirt with a lower-back slit, as examples.
Displayed on neon yellow racks, the spring collections featured unconventional cuts, bold colors and textured details — a natural fit for I.T Group’s edgy lineup, which includes Bathing Ape, Chocoolate, Izzue, B+ab, and 5cm. Despite its diverse roster — I.T carries around 400 brands — the multibrand fashion house hasn’t been immune from Hong Kong’s luxury retail downturn.
“The Hong Kong market is suffering; the whole fashion retail scene has been affected,” said Deborah Cheng, chief commercial officer of I.T Apparels Limited. “People get bored easily these day. If you don’t have new stimulation then they won’t have the drive to go to retail stores.” Pop-ups are one way to lure customers, she added, noting a 10 to 20 percent bump in footfall during such events. In 2017, the company plans to hold roughly one pop-up a month.
Seoul 10 Soul launched at a delicate time, as tensions remain high between South Korea and Mainland China; however, event organizers said politics did not affect the decision to visit Hong Kong. “There wasn’t an attempt to go to China first; we were targeting Hong Kong,” Kim said. “It is easy to promote fashion in Hong Kong. …It’s a good market for us.”