The Korean textile/fashion industry has played a much larger role in the development of Asian fashion than many know. When talking about Korean fashion, it is easy to see what's apaprent, what you see. Some might mark a point, perhaps 2006, 2009, 2012, when Korean street fashions were perhaps worth looking at. Some liketo only look at the high fashion sector, at the designers and their fashion designer associations, or focus solely on Korea's premier fashion event, Seoul Fashion Week. However, these ways of looking at things only focus on the easily visible, the parts of fashion that are easy for the eye to see, the parts that even the neophyte can easily observe. 

There two main things I am going to point out here, in this mental bookmark article I am developing into a paper:

1) Pronto moda fashion technology and infrastructure:
That the QR (quick response) technologies of the uniquely Korean PBHs (private-branded hives) housed in Dongdaemun actually enabled the production of the diverse and unusual styles, accessories, and accoutrements worn and used by the street fashion-leading kogal of Tokyo in the 1990s. In short, the research (and any OG fashion figure one might ask in Korea) shows that there would have been no Japanese street fashion movement -- no Shibuya and Harajuku in the way we know them today -- without Dongdaemun, its silent economic partner. And even today, the growth of the PBH's (from Migliore to Doota to APM) predominance in Korea's fashion economy would not have happened without Tokyo street fashion and the Japanese market as its major client. It's a two-way street, so Korea's DDM and the PBH evolved in an environment that required (and shaped) its evolution; here would be no growth in Korean street fashion in the way we see it today on the streets of Seoul without the QR-cycle-battle-hardened, fast fashion market sharpened, fickle fashion cylcle honed PBH style of production in Dongdaemun. You don't get the ludicrously cheap prices and buffet-like extreme variety of fashion choices (often illegal knockoffs of looks taken directly from picture on ther Internet) that enables young Korean women to look exactly like and wear the clothing Sienna Miller was wearing in a picture of her within 48 of its being updloaded and disseminated across the world without the accelerated QR/pronto moda/fast fashion technology of the DDM PBH complex and places like it. And you don't get the latter without the 1990s Japanese street fashion market driving and sharpening it. (Kim and Kincade, 2009)

2) Demographic/societal changes backgrounding the rise Korean street fashion.
As in most things development related, the Japanese either experienced it first or set it into motion before Korea, but in a very similar way, given the demographic similarities and direct developmental connections between the two countries. Kawamura points out that in the Japanese case in the 1990s, an economic recession had destroyed not only old ways of thinking, but forced a shift to lower prices and a move away from the older way of branded items and outlets. This, along with the beginning of a sharp population decline, changed the way teens saw their futures. In combination with the prospect of probable unemployment even with a college degree, not to mention relative decrease in competition for spots in universities, create the social possibility for exploring life paths and identities outside of the study-college-job-marriage matrix for young girls. Hence, the environmental conditions for the eventual evolution of the kogal. (Kawamura, 2006) Sound familiar, Korea people? 

In Korea, now you have the rise of the "pae-pi" (from the first parts of the Korean pronunciation of the English words "fashion people") who are mostly young women known for their sartorial sharpness, who have started occupying a status of street celebrities, driven by fame on the Internet. Here's an interview with one such paepi (who is hesitant to dare describe herself as a paepi), a series of which I've already started on the "Street Fashion Research" section of this site.

In any case, the existence of the paepi and Dongdaemun are inextricably linked. This is a relationship and a phenomenon I plan to explore with both visual and sociological data in an extended form elsewhere, after more extensive ethnographic research. As the bad guy says in all the Hollywood movies, "This is just the beginning..."

Throwback Seoul Street Fashion: Dongdaemun Reggae Couple, 2007.

Key References:
Azuma, Nobukaza. "Pronto Moda Tokyo-Style - Emergence of Collection-Free Street Fashion in Tokyo and the Seoul-Tokyo Fashion Connection." International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management. (2002)

Byun, Sang-Eun and Brenda Sternquist. "Fast Fashion and in-Store Hoarding: The Drivers, Moderator, and Consequences." Clothing and Textiles Research Journal,  (2011).

Kim, Sookhyun and Doris H. Kincade. "Evolution of a New Retail Institution Type: Case Study in South Korea and China." Clothing and Textiles Research Journal. (2009)

Kawamura, Yuniya. "Japanese Teens as Producers of Street Fashion." Current Sociology,  (2006).

Entwistle, Joanne and Agnès Rocamora. "The Field of Fashion Materialized: A Study of London Fashion Week."

Suzuki, Tadashi and Joel Best. "The Emergence of Trendsetters for Fashions and Fads: Kogaru in 1990s Japan." The Sociological Quarterly.

Thompson, Craig J. and Diana L. Haytko. "Speaking of Fashion: Consumers' Uses of Fashion Discourses and the Appropriation of Countervailing Cultural Meanings."

 

 

 

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