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[Herald Interview] Park Seung-gun still pushing the envelope

After 20 Seoul shows, Pushbutton designer restarts as newbie in London

Pushbutton will grace the runway in London once again, having established itself as an internationally sought-after fashion brand based in Seoul.

Named after a line in Madonna’s catchy 2003 dance hit “Hollywood” -- “Push the button, don’t push the button” -- the label is led by creative director and founder Park Seung-gun. It will present a new collection on Sept. 17 at London Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2020. 

Creative director Park Seung-gun (Pushbutton)
Creative director Park Seung-gun (Pushbutton)

It is the brand’s third time on the catwalk in London, following a memorandum of understanding signed between the Seoul Design Foundation and British Fashion Council in May 2018.

“It is troublingly fun,” Park, 44, told The Korea Herald in a recent interview at his showroom in Itaewon, Seoul. “It is a strange anxiety that thrills me. I did more than 20 shows in Seoul, but in London, I am a newbie.”

“People want to see potential and talent in rookies rather than elegant skills in cutting and sewing. The same logic applies to Asian designers in Europe. They expect wit and creativity from us,” the designer said.

According to Park, fashion shows are expensive. A London show costs three to four times more compared to a show in Seoul. But it is worth it, not in terms of sales -- he has already met good buyers and press in Seoul -- but for the sense of achievement and promotional purposes.

“I have not decided on the theme for this season. I am thinking about exploring more of the art of tailoring rather than going street ... and mix-match, too. I have too many ideas in my head right now,” Park said.

Though Korea has been slowly making a name for itself in the international fashion scene, its high-end market is underrated, even among local consumers, Park said. On the other hand, a higher proportion of Pushbutton’s sales come from abroad.

“About 80 percent of sales are generated abroad, only 20 percent is domestic,” Park said. The label’s creations are sold through 39 retailers worldwide, including Net-a-Porter, Harvey Nicoles and Browns Fashion.

A model presents a creation by Pushbutton during London Fashion Week Fall-Winter 2019 in London. (Pushbutton)
A model presents a creation by Pushbutton during London Fashion Week Fall-Winter 2019 in London. (Pushbutton)

Pushbutton, known for its vibrant colors and playful materials, was founded in 2004, beginning with a showroom in the Itaewon area. Park was a singer at one point, but his interest in fashion eventually led him to pursue it.

The Itaewon showroom started with one goal: to make something that people would not buy. It made kitschy, bold items -- not something people would see every day. Ironically, these pieces became something that people wanted to buy.

The motto still drives Park these days. In his latest London collection, he presented unbalanced pants with one leg long and the other short.

“It was not for sale. It was more of a showpiece to exhibit Pushbutton’s identity. But you know what? It became a hit. Buyers asked for more and more. And I still wonder: Who would wear it to where?” Park said.

The celebrity designer is sure that the rules of fashion have changed drastically.

“Brands known for their elegant cuts have fallen out of the picture. People are more obsessed with what looks nice in photographs. For instance, puff shoulders, neon colors and all that. Details do not matter anymore, it is all about what is shown on photographs,” he said.

“We make clothes one or two seasons ahead, but it seems like none of that matters these days. What matters is what influencers wear -- they are the ones who are making the changes,” Park said.

Though not too optimistic about prospects for designers, Park is certain Korea will have a bigger say in fashion in the future.

“The world’s view of the fashion scene here will definitely improve. The teenagers of today have grown up listening to BTS, Blackpink and other K-pop bands. Their thoughts about Korean fashion labels are surely different from that of the previous generation,” he said.

“The earlier generation of designers like Woo Young-mi and Song Zio paved the way for the Korean fashion scene to grow. A juggernaut will come one day and … well, I hope that’s me.”

By Im Eun-byel (

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