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K-Fashion Odyssey at Korean Cultural Centre UK

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by Chris Henniker (subscribe)
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When you are a country in the cutting edge of culture, Lady Gaga is bound to claiming asylum at one of your embassies, but Miss Germanotta is not North Korean.

What she would do is go shopping in Seoul in Chloe Kim's ethereal shredded lace dresses inspired by Dickens' Mrs Havisham, in "Great Expectations", where she becomes one with the forest. Miss Kim's work is exhibited in a manner that makes them look like shaggy monsters, but they really come to life with a model wearing them.

Their shredded lace is straight out of both Dickensian fiction and punk's deconstructionist aesthetic, yet recalls Korean traditions of drawing with their pastel colours and evocation of nature that Mrs Havisham becomes one with.

Cutting edge, under the radar
Gigi's work is severs the ties to the past to show childhood is eternal.

All the designers exhibited draw upon their Korean heritage in ways not expected by outsiders, such as Gigi Jeehyun Jung's witty exploration of childhood through her use of found items, such as children's toys in her Pee-Wee Herman inspired 2013 collection.

Jung takes the toy as childhood motif and incorporates the cutesy aspects as humour, such as her giraffe handles on bags. While it resonates with the Japanese Lolita, it severs the frilly apron strings of the Rococo past and presents them in an avantgarde manner thAt touches both on childhood past and childhood yet to come. In doing so, Jung brings up interesting questions about the nature of Korean childhood under the Generals and whether postmodern society's emphasis on play infantilises people.

In marked contrast, Narae Park's inspiration from child labour explores someone not a child and not an adult, yet cheerful despite her circumstances, is shown in her use of tarpaulin and brings up questions that are relevant today. The clothing factory fire in Bangladesh is one example of how fashion affects the poorest countries and how fashion responds.

Korean Fashion
Narae Park's work is inspired by child labour, without using it. Can fashion discuss public affairs?

The two designers show that childhood is fragile and plastic, open to being manipulated. Park's use of recycled fabric is directly inspired by the media images of Africa you see with the ubiquity of tarpaulin, and the crushed plastic bottles for shoe soles celebrate both the resilience of children and the ingenuity of people in the worst conditions imaginable.

Her work becomes a metaphor for the triumph of the human spirit, but I can imagine if Lady Gaga wore this in purported solidarity with the people of the third world, it would be seen as patronising. Patronising for the simple reason that it trivialised economic and political inequalities at home and abroad.

More Gaga like would be Rejina Pyo, whose dresses were award winners, earning Pyo the Han Nefken Fashion Award. What makes Pyo's work Gaga for Gaga is their sculptural qualities and sometimes asymmetric designs, which are inspired by minimalism and primitive art.

Korean fashion
Asymmetric is the new metric!

A marked contrast to the deconstructionist frills of Chloe Kim, Pyo draws on her Korean heritage by being so cutting edge it hurts. The collection shown at the Korean Cultural Centre is almost a boutique for Her Seeming Wackiness, along with everything on display here.

It is only a matter of time before she graces the KCC's portal to the future, but you could easily imagine her stylists coming in and spending the whole length of the exhibition here and not needing to spend any money (yet).

Given that her tours never make a profit, she needs all the cost cutting she can do, so her record label should shop here, even though they can't take anything back to the office.
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When: February 04, 2014 ~ March 01, 2014
Where: Grand Buildings, 1-3 Strand, London WC2N 5BW, United Kingdom
Cost: Admission free
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