Can Seoul Fashion Week ever be show for the people?

By Im Eun-byel

Though promoting itself as ‘festival for people,’ fashion event remains exclusive to industry insiders

  • Published : Oct 18, 2018 - 15:34
  • Updated : Oct 18, 2018 - 15:34

Dongdaemun Design Plaza has been swarming with crowds of “fashion people,” as the 2019 S/S Hera Seoul Fashion Week kicked off Monday. Fashionable visitors have been showing up in bold outfits, ready to show off their unique styles.

According to the Seoul Design Foundation -- the state-funded institution in charge of running the event -- around 60,000 people visited the venue Monday and Tuesday. 

A model presents creation by Youser during the 2019 Spring-Summer Hera Seoul Fashion Week fashion show at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza in central Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Models present creations by Youser during the 2019 Spring-Summer Hera Seoul Fashion Week fashion show at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza in central Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Each season, the institution promises to make the event into a platform for local designers to debut on the international fashion stage. Another promise made was to make the event “a festival for the people of Seoul to enjoy.”

In line with the promise, various events have been arranged this time around. For instance, a mentoring seminar discussing influencer marketing took place Thursday for the general public interested in fashion. The film “McQueen” has also been showing at nearby cinemas throughout fashion week at a discounted price for fashion week visitors.

However, not many visitors are aware of these events. Kim Hye-seung, 23, is a college student here who majors in fashion. She showed up at DDP on Tuesday dressed in chic streetwear style.

“I came here to take photos and see what others are wearing,” Kim said. Not having been invited, she could not attend any of the shows. Of course, she could hope to have a chance to fill in leftover seats, but Kim did not want to stand in the long lines.

When asked about other events prepared for the public, Kim answered she was not aware of them. She visited the event, solely to be inspired and to read the latest trends.

“I didn’t know that such events were prepared. But still, I wouldn’t really want to join them. A film discount and a mentoring seminar are not much inviting for me. Rather, I would like to have a chance to interact with some professional designers and buyers,” Kim said.

A large portion of the 60,000 visitors are young fashion enthusiasts like Kim, who are not yet professionally involved in the industry. Other than being one-day models or photographers outside of the show venue, there is not much they can do at the fashion week event.

Inside the halls where the catwalks are placed, front-row seats are mostly filled with foreign buyers, celebrities and the press. Invited acquaintances of the designer or brand take up the second row. Behind them are usually large groups of students invited to fill the space.

But it is hard to find a show that starts on time.

“Though the show was scheduled to start at 4:45 p.m. it began 10 minutes later. But this was nothing. The opening show on Monday started almost an hour later than planned,” said Jung Min-song, a 26-year-old office worker in Seoul.

Jung was invited to the shows as she is close to some designers. But not a fashion industry professional, it is hard for her to understand why the shows begin later than scheduled.

“What is worse, no one tells the audience why the show has to start late. It all seems to be very natural for things to be late,” she added.
A poster image for the 2019 Spring-Summer Hera Seoul Fashion Week (Seoul Design Foundation)

According to local designers, Seoul Fashion Week serves as a great opportunity for introductions to international buyers. Some of the designers have made their way to big-name concept stores abroad, thanks to the opportunity.

But regarding interaction with the general public, they were not so sure about the publicity effect. Even the chances for public relations are pretty thin here.

“Through the runway, we can make people realize that we are a brand that can stage a show. But other than that, I am not so sure,” a designer said. “Doing a show in an overseas fashion week event, we were linked to so many interviews with the local press. But it’s different here.”

Meanwhile, Seoul Fashion Week has been promoting itself as a public-friendly event. Before the start of this season, Jeong Gu-ho, the general director of the whole show event, announced his will to make the event into a fashion festival for everyone. Jeong, a celebrated fashion designer, has directed the event the past four years.

“This season’s Seoul Fashion Week aims to excel in its role of providing up-and-coming designers with opportunities to rise as global fashion experts and turning the event into Korea’s biggest fashion festival, so the public can easily experience and understand what fashion truly is,” he said.

By Im Eun-byel (