2016 Korean Men’s Fashion (Part 1)

Seoul Fashion Week Spring/Fall 2017 took place not too long ago and not only were the showcased designs impressive, but so were the street styles. Noteworthy pieces ranged not only from oversized coats and fine tailored jackets, but to heavily monogrammed sweatshirts. Over the past 10 years, menswear in Korea has developed to become more stylised. This can be attributed to Korean menswear designers and brands that have come to feature more contemporary designs, and the strides that they have taken to mature as artists and style providers.

In 2005, ‘MEN GDS’ – a multi brand store featuring menswear designers – opened on the 4th floor of Luxury Hall West of the Galleria Department Store in Apgujeong-dong. The fact that ‘MEN GDS’ carried lines from the hottest men’s apparel designers such as Kim Seo-Ryeong, Hong Seung-Hwan, JUNG Uk-Juun, and Seo Sang-Young garnered a lot of attention. These designers were quickly highlighted as the rising stars of Korean menswear post the IMF incident in late 90s.

So, 10 plus years later, what does men’s apparel in Korea look like now? Celebrating an 11th anniversary, G.GNAK by KANG D and SECOND LABEL DIVIDE (DBYD)’s Dong Jun KANG has come through as a versatile “2005 new generation era” fashion maven. In 2008, KANG debuted his first Fall/Winter collection at Seoul Fashion Week. Even before his contemporaries contemplated entering the overseas market, KANG was already at fashion trade fairs and showrooms in New York, London, and Milan. In 2011, KANG took a hiatus on his domestic affairs to direct his focus overseas. In the fall of 2015, KANG is started to refocus on the Korean market and renew his menswear label.

1. Flagship store of Thisisneverthat in Seogyo-dong. The shirt is from Spring/Summer 2016 Collection
2. Designer Kang Dongjun, creative director of D.GNAK
3. D.GNAK(by Kang Dongjun) Spring/Summer 2016 ‘Concept Korea’ Collection, New York Fashion Week

“A few years ago I felt the limitations of the menswear market in Korea and got tired of having to follow the needs and wants of the public. From honing my attention towards the overseas market, I was able to go back to basics and identify which clothes and pieces I truly did best. From studying Korean men’s fashion recently, I’ve noticed that it has become much more diverse than ever before. I wanted to create a collection that was approachable for local Korean clientele rather than something for the international clientele. ”

The best examples of Korean menswear trends can be easily seen on the streets. Areas in Seoul where fashion conscious young men tend to conglomerate include, but aren’t limited to Hongdae, Garosu-gil, Hannamdong, and Gyeongni-dan. Style trends there have never been monotonously uniform or stereotypically identifiable even in the past. Sweatshirts, hoodies, and parkas created by overseas designers, handmade tailored articles of clothing, and ready-to-wear American East and West coast style casual apparel have swept the streets of men’s fashion. A section of menswear that has somewhat faded in to the background would probably be European brands as they tend to be seen as more upscale “luxury” items rather than every day wearables.

4. Thisisneverthat Look Book archive
5. Thisisneverthat Spring/Summer 2016 ’tagging’ Collection

If the hottest and most attention amassing fashion label were to be identified, it would probably be THISISNEVERTHAT. A street wear brand founded in 2009, its establishment came to be somewhat of a ‘phenomenon’ that stepped up basic casual wear. Using the hashtag #thisisneverthat, baseball hats, sweatshirts, unique lookbooks pictures and videos spread like wildfire in social media platforms creating a stir amongst the younger generation. However, it is fallacious to identify THISISNEVERTHAT as just a simple street wear brand. On Friday, 19th February 2016, for just one day in Mudaeruk (an art and performance space in Mapo-gu, Sangsu-dong), their Spring/Summer collection showcase occurred. This was not only advertised by street culture magazines and associated media, but also by Vogue Korea, W Korea, and other high fashion press. THISISNEVERTHAT has not only become a symbol of youth culture but has also been able to bridge youth culture and street fashion.

The biggest change in the fashion industry occurred in 2010 where the walls that divided high fashion collections from fashion capitals, and local culture centric street fashion was broken down. The simple yet compelling influences from graphics, hip hop, and skater culture helped brands such as New York’s HOOD BY AIR, Paris’ PIGALLE, and London’s PALACE SKATEBOARDS to unite international fashion and sportswear. This is very much evident in Korea, and Korean fashion has crossed over to influence menswear in the Asian market. This year alone, THISISNEVERTHAT collaborated with PUMA and VANS to design sneakers. With the ever rising Korean position in the fashion industry, it is not unreasonable to claim THISISNEVERTHAT as a leading brand for streetwear.

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