During the hectic exam month, I decided to take a break and watch a new Korean fashion show. It’s called “Sold Out,” hosted by two of Korea’s top supermodels, Lee Hyun Yi and Han Hye Jin. Eight designers participate in the competition, divided into two teams, to create an item of clothing based on the week’s theme, which will be presented on a runway in front of 100 audience who will decide if they want the item or not. The audience tap on their smartphones “sold-out” if they want/like the clothing as the model walks down the runway, and if 51+ people tapped, the clothing is considered “sold-out”. The team with the most “sold-out” clothing wins.
First of all, I was very excited for this show. Not only for two of my favourite models, but because it’s a great source to learn more about some of the upcoming, contemporary Korean fashion designers. The group consists of variety of talents like those who have started out from Project Runway Korea (Yoon Choon Ho of ARCHE and Lee Ji Seung), or those who are already taking over Seoul Fashion Week like J KOO, or even those who have their own small independent brand and reaching out to smaller group of audience.
While watching the designers arguing with each other and the models in an intense competition, I started to think about the purpose of the show and what it is intending to portray about the fashion culture of today. The sole goal for the designers is to create designs that would immediately appeal to the consumers, which emphasizes the importance of viewing fashion through the business point of view. To create designs that would be commercially successful, therefore wearable, approachable and can be worn to portray various styles (i.e. two models walk down the runway wearing the same clothing item, but styled in two different ways to show its versatility). The designers work around the only goal to create clothes that would sell the most (“가장 많이 팔리수있는 옷을 만들자”). Even the television show name emphasizes the idea of fashion ‘to sell’ and ‘to buy.’ Some designers even mentioned how they set aside their personal style and brand image, but to focus more on creating a design that would appeal to everyday fashion consumers, to evoke a desire for them to want to buy and wear in that few minutes on the runway.
This idea is where the competition comes from and where the new television show came from, but I cannot but think of how it further goes along with the idea of fashion as a “profit-making business” (of course, not for all designers, but Ghesquiere’s conflict with Kering is a good example). The idea of “designing for money” and for the mass consumer market, sometimes without compromising with the brand’s image. It relates to the growing phenomenon of street fashion and, as Bertie Brandes puts it, the increasing trend of “immediacy [as] the new exclusive and patience [as] unequivocally out of style.” Even the fact that the audience members have to make an immediate decision at their first encounter of the clothing item in the short period of time on the runway, by just tapping on their smartphones exemplifies the current obsession with speed and insta-everything (and Jeremy Scott’s offering consumers able to purchase items immediately after the Moschino show).