The Real Seoul Fashion Week

I’m no one’s fashionista. I’m not even a remote style inspiration for the average person. Nonetheless, I’ve attended Seoul Fashion Week every year since I moved to South Korea. Sometimes, it’s for official press purposes, but usually, I’m there for the experience. It’s colorful, dynamic and has a community of its own. The fashion swings the pendulum from conservative to outlandish, but there truly is something for everyone.

For those unaware, “fashion week” is not one particular week around the globe. The various fashion capitals host a spring+summer and fall+winter several months in advance of the approaching season. Seoul’s fashion week, which takes place twice a year at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), was fairly dark in colors and textures because the fashion was appropriate for fall and winter later this year. This worked out perfectly for those in attendance for the last 48 hours of the event because the weather was insane.

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On Saturday, March 23rd, my teammates and I were running late for the first show on our schedules. Seoul experienced blasts of wind, sprinkles of rain and even snow within an eight-hour stretch. We arrived in Seoul from our respective areas of the country right on time, even had an early Airbnb check-in, but all the organization in the world couldn’t win over Mother Nature. That, and the bus driver who needed a quick break seconds after we loaded onto the bus.

I was dressed in skinny jeans, a Sesame Street sweatshirt (a past UNIQLO had me as stylish as I could possibly pull off on my own), blazer and raincoat, so I wasn’t completely freezing. This couldn’t be said for those who were committed to their outfits and dawning shorts for the sake of the aesthetic.

It’s a different kind of cosplay if you will. Most of the people who show up are fashionable and in-the-know. There’s models, designers, other foreigners, press and media. This type of people means there’s a lot of foot traffic and every movement from one end of the indoor/outdoor venue to the other will definitely have bodies bumping into one another. We anticipated this, it’s not our first time with the madness. That’s why when we arrived, camera phones charged, new batteries loaded into a DSLR, we were stunned by the sprinkling of people. Mother Nature beat the fashion scene entirely Saturday. And Sunday went back to business as usual, with beautiful skies and the usual disregard for personal space longtime expats here know well.

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Sunday, March 24th was the real Seoul Fashion Week experience. When I say that, I’m not talking about the runway shows or the celebrities in attendance. The real experience is the community that gathers around the DDP. The subtle sound of music mixed with cameras clicking and flashing, heeled shoes clopping, and layman’s sign language of asking to take someone’s photo and thanking them (most frequently with a bow), is energy I truly enjoy. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing the hottest couture money can buy, the most eclectic outfit your D-I-Y efforts could build, or you’re somewhere in between, the people who come to see and be seen is what liters my SDH card.

There’s a vulnerability in standing for a camera that creates amazing moments. The lens captures confidence, edge, and playfulness just as much as it can capture uncertainty and discomfort. Each picture on this page has a little something unique. It can’t be rehearsed like the moves for the catwalk. In some cases, it can’t even be communicated in the same language. The fashion does the talking, so to… speak. (Gosh, so corny.)

~Ashley

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