Lady Gaga knows a thing or two about unconventional fashion. In helping her dress the part, she often turns to South Korean designers like Central Saint Martin’s graduate Gayeon Lee, who she asked to design the outfit for her 2013 album cover ARTPOP, after her stylist Brandon Maxwell saw the designer’s graduation show.
Gaga is such a fan of South Korean style, in fact, that she once got into trouble with the Japanese for wandering around Roppongi Hills in Tokyo in outfits decked in Korean alphabet characters.
The influence of South Korean designers—with Gaga’s patronage and without—has been visible at New York Fashion Week, particularly at the Concept Korea fashion show.
The affluent Gangnam is Seoul’s most fashionable neighborhood (Psy called it the “Beverly Hills of Korea”), and Sangbong one of the most celebrated of South Korean designers, who has his own New York store in the Meatpacking District. Gangnam was known for its art scene in the 1980s; the 1990s saw an influx of major designers into it, and that trend has continued to grow.
After K-Pop and K-Beauty we now—thanks to Gaga and other stars—have the ascendancy of K-Fashion. You might not be familiar with their names but some of the designers unveiling their latest looks in New York included Beyond Closet by Taeyong Ko, LEYII by Seunghee Lee and Resurrection by Juyoung Lee.
On parade at the showcase were outfits for both girls and boys. A 9 p.m. nightclub scenario might be more in keeping with the wild styles but at least jetlagged fashionista got a wakeup call.
Beyond Closet’s Fall/Winter 2015 collection has been named “New Orange Boy,” an adaptation of a Korean term, “Orange Boy,” that was used to describe the excessive consumption in Gangnam in the 1990s by the heirs of wealthy families.
“This generation was notorious for its debauched ways and exorbitant purchases of luxury goods and vehicles,” Taeyong Ko said.
“New Orange Boy” instead represents the new generation of youth independent of family riches who strive to live their own lives, he added. The menswear brand mixes classic items reinterpreted for men in their twenties and thirties with more practical pieces.
Meanwhile, LEYII’s Fall/Winter 2015 collection showed Seunghee Lee’s contemporary and minimal sensibilities. A graduate of the London College of Fashion, she graduated with a BA First Class Honor Degree in womenswear and completed her MA in womenswear from Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design.
Resurrection presented its New Post Punk collection meanwhile, mixing leather, fur, high-tech fabric and gold and black color blocking. The looks have not only impressed Gaga, but the likes of Marilyn Manson and the Black Eyed Peas with the use of pop star favorites like translucent materials and zippers.
Sometimes these collections show real beauty. Think Lie Sangbong’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection, which was inspired by butterflies with skirts as decorative as the most beautiful of butterfly wings and the heels of shoes shaping up toward the calves, designed in the same vein.
And then sometimes not. The designer’s wilder pieces include dresses made to look like a spider web and hats that look like heavy metallic lampshades that have fallen on to the model’s heads.
The world has taken note. Vogue has written several articles about the fashion scene in Seoul, while the major fashion labels have followed suit, including Prada and Chanel, which just announced they will host their upcoming cruise show in Seoul, not to mention a Met Gala taking place there as well.
The opening two years ago in Gangnam of the world’s first handbag museum was testament to how big the spending power of local fashionistas is in buying luxe items, and Gangnam’s interest in obscure fashion, from the cardboard box handbags on display there from World War II and magazines rolled up like an evening bag.
GaGa is such a fan that when she showed up in South Korea last year for a tour, she was happy to wave the South Korean flag. And other stars have taken note. The likes of Beyoncé and Rihanna have also since donned outfits by Lie Sangbong, but they have yet to upstage GaGa in them.