Every year, Seoul Fashion Week offers us a bird’s eye view of the cosmopolitan capital of South Korea: a city where the old and new harmoniously coexist in one place. One look around Seoul and you’ll see a crowd of young Instagram-savvy urbanites wearing the latest fashion trends and loud monogrammed labels, navigating busy streets and towering skyscrapers. But if you dig deeper, you’ll discover that this seemingly modern city was built around traditional structures and national treasures that were created long before the Seoul we know today came to be.
This year’s HERA Seoul Fashion Week F/W 2018, held in Dongdaemun Plaza from March 19-24, mirrors the balanced dichotomy of this city. The pervading theme of the week was a re-working of classics and basics into a modern urban uniform: matching tailored suits were made oversized for casual wear, heritage patterns were cut and sewn different ways, modern takes on Joseon Dynasty-inspired designs, and the usual athleisure attire more amplified than ever.
Here’s a look at some of the highly trends that emerged from the runways:
The Infinite Possibilities of Hanbok
What better way to open fashion week and South Korea to the global stage than to showcase a master’s re-interpretation of the hanbok? Kim Hye-soon sent foreign models down the runway wearing Korea’s traditional clothing to send a powerful message: that the hanbok is for everyone, not just Koreans. The colors are more now, but the beauty and intricacy of the hanbok remain.
The Modern Joseon
This season had an overt love affair with grays and blacks. Tailored suits during SFW had robe-like openings, tied with bands of fabric at the waist, dragon emblazonments (a symbol of royalty), and the vibrant colors of hanbok —a style reminiscent of Korean traditional clothing.
Shown above: Caruso’s line this season was inspired by Yeolha Ilgi, or Jehol Journal, a travel journal from the Josen Dynasty. References to the era are infused in Caruso’s collection.
The Classic Trench
The classic trench, a long-established wardrobe staple, filled runways this season in boxy shapes, looser silhouettes, and bigger flaps.
Big, Boxy Shoulders and Puffy Sleeves
Other noticeable trends this season were squared off shoulders and big sleeves. The shoulder pads of yore and puffy sleeves of your mother’s 1980’s dress collection have come back not to haunt us, but to show that fashion is indeed a cycle.
The New Preppy
If there were two things that were present all throughout the runways this SFW, they were checks and plaids. The ubiquitous trends that were seen in Balenciaga, Fendi, Calvin Klein, among many other F/W 2018 collections in the West, covered everything from skirts, tops, pants, and two-piece suits during this Seoul Fashion Week. R.Shemiste put a twist on the all-plaid trend in his collection, and presented de-constructed, devil-may-care ensembles.
Stay Under the Covers
Korea’s biting cold winters can sometimes be too much; everyone knows that the best way to stay warm is by hibernating under the thick covers of your bed. Some designers during SFW played off this idea in their duvet coats with quilting details and cozy floral prints.
Shown above: Blindness wove the theme of “Peace in the middle of war” in its collection, with military colors symbolizing war and flowers, pearls, and ruffles representing peace.
Say What You Wear
Ageism in fashion, where models are expected to be perpetually young and forced to “retire” by the time they reach 30, has been going on for ages. Recently, however, silver-haired models in their late 50’s (Marie Sophie Wilson, Benedetta Barzini, and actress Helen Mirren) have emerged. Recently in London Fashion Week, older models have walked the runways and at Seoul Fashion Week, models who are glad to be gray walked the runway of Kimmy J.
Meanwhile, with the #MeToo movement gaining traction in South Korea, Miss Gee opened its collection with statement shirts that had words such as “Dignity” and “Speak” printed on the fronts.
The future is now. With everything, including currency, turning digital, UL:KIN took its inspiration from bitcoins, a worldwide cryptocurrency phenomenon.
Millennial and Gen Z Colors
Colors that dominated the shows this year were powdery pastels in blue, lilac, pink and bright yellows—a palette sure to infiltrate your Instagram feed in no time.
Photographs courtesy of Seoul Fashion Week Organization.