In case you haven’t noticed, Seoul Fashion Week has ballooned into Asia’s spearheading fashion platform, set to rival the likes of its New York, London, Milan and Paris counterparts. Increased global coverage on the biannual fete have built up a buzz around Korean labels, palpable in the fashion industry.
The numbers speak for itself: South Korea’s homegrown luxury market was recently estimated at around S$14.5 billion. To put into perspective per head of the population, China’s is estimated to be S$25.2 billion with 1.4 billion citizens versus South Korea’s 50 million. And menswear is a massive bolster for the country’s growing segment.
It’s easy to see why. South Korean gents take dressing up seriously. Rooted in an environment where fashion, music, entertainment and celebrity collide to form a nebula of hip, it’s almost impossible not to. The country’s heavy-hitting street style pays further testament in itself.
If you’re seeking alternatives to spruce up your wardrobe, try casting your eyes on Seoul’s mecca of punch-packing menswear. From time-tested powerhouses to needle-moving newcomers, below are the Korean menswear names to start listing in your digital shopping carts.
(Main image: Wooyoungmi; featured image: Münn)
Wooyoungmi is the first Korean menswear brand to be headed by female creative directors, founded and operated by mother-daughter duo, Madame Woo and Katie Chung in 2002. And since its Parisian debut, the label has continuously proved itself as a major global menswear contender.
The pair’s unique perspective cemented Wooyoungmi’s sharp, oft-times futuristic, menswear classics. Experimental fabric research underlie their exacting silhouettes and scrupulous attention is given to the minutiae: Simple button-down shirts are twisted with origami-folded collars, understated knits are more intricate than they seem, wool-blend trousers are melded with jogger cuffs. If toned-down luxe basics are what you’re looking for, Wooyoungmi’s other label Solid Homme is for you.
Wooyoungmi protégé, Hyun-min Han, launched his own label Münn in 2013. For several seasons now, it has served Seoul Fashion Week’s strongest outings. Han’s crowd-pleasing forms construct well-tailored wools and handcrafted selvedge suiting with a pleasant ’60s sensibility.
Han’s consistent singular viewpoint on detail puts the spotlight on details that are weaved throughout his collection. For Spring 2018, he inserted a delicate nod to Korean culture in the form of an ubiquitous parachute cord, that’s shaped into petal-twisted norigae, a traditional good luck charm hung from the strings of a jeogori coat. Expect smart and thoughtful detailing on a Münn masterpiece.
A vanguard of Korea’s menswear scene, Seoul-based designer Juun.J launched his label in 1999 before re-christening it as a namesake label in 2007 and shifting his label to show as part of Paris Fashion Week, unveiling his looks — most notably the deconstructed trench — to great critical acclaim.
By now, Juun.J’s thought-provoking tropes are known far and wide. Classic menswear pieces are spliced with a graceful, genderless avant-gardism. His sartorial outputs — minimalist yet structural, intrepid yet poignant — verge on objet d’arts. Past collaborators include bigwigs the likes of Adidas, Big Bang and Ambush.
Donned by the likes of Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and G-Dragon, former Comme des Garçons and Christian Dada collaborator Bajowoo’s streetwear label 99%IS has its own pool of cult aficionados. The label first made its splash in 2011, debuting at Tokyo Fashion Week in 2014 before a celebrated homecoming at Seoul Fashion Week in 2017.
The riotous label is lauded for its meticulously handmade clothes edged by elements of underground subcultures, chiefly punk and hip-hop. Think: Blazers lined with safety pins, pale motorcycle jackets, acidic utilitarian cargo pants — clothing for the statement-makers.
If the idea of gender-bending tailoring excites you, Blindness can be your match made in sartorial heaven. The LVMH Prize-shortlisted label was recently picked up by Barneys New York, Leclaireur Paris and Selfridges London among others. And it’s high time for Blindness’ hyper-historicist menswear to make waves beyond the South Korean borders.
Young couple Shin Kyu-yong and Park Ji-sun makes a case for OTT romanticism, from medieval chainmail to ruffled shirts. While not their imaginative wit isn’t for everyone, their sartorial propaganda is bound to challenge status quos the world over.