I had the honor of attending a Fashion Group International event is Seoul last week. The Fashion Group International is a non-profit organization of fashion industry insiders. It’s designed to help members become more effective in their careers by providing insights on major trends and networking across the globe.
In Kansas City I regularly attended events that FGI hosted as well as one of my instructors being on the committee and another being a guest speaker for an FGI event. I’m still shocked out how a small town country girl like me was able to obtain the resources and networking abilities to transition from the KC FGI scene to the large Seoul FGI arena. A long time FGI member and boutique owner in Kansas who I designed a look book for was happy to pass over any information to help me get connected out here.
I made the daring step of contacting the names and numbers I was given. I was little nervous knowing there was a 50/50 chance they would speak English. When I first sent the email I had someone translate my message so if English wasn't there native language they could at least read my message and we could take steps from there. Lo and behold the wonderful person who responded to me was bilingual! My original goal was only to get an interview with a fashion insider from Seoul to ask about Seoul Fashion Week and such but it turned into be being invited to an exclusive event where I could interview multiple people!
I was able to get the day off of work since the event was on a Wednesday so that morning I took a bus and trotted over to Yongsan Seoul.
The event was held at the breath taking Seoul Hyatt Regency on the top of Namsang mountain.
When I arrived I was greeted by Ahn Jiwon the FGI member who I connected with via email. She was beyond gracious and efficacious. She found someone who spoke English that I was able to sit and chat with. I was able to interview the kind lady and two other amazing people.
Not only did she scout them out but she stood there and translated the entire conversation for me! I was able to interview them with her translation and guidance. Thank you so much AhnJiwon!
Oum Jeong Soon of K.A.A.B.
Pak Dongjun of Pak Dongjun Fashion
Jihoon Yeom from Hyundai Department Store.
First up was the lovely woman Oum Jeong Soon of K.A.A.B (Korean Art Association for the Blind) who I spoke with throughout the event. Her young adult years were a lot like mine now. At the age of 22 she moved to Germany for 5 years. 22 was the exact same age when I came over to Korea. She applauded me for being so brave for coming out here by myself. It felt good to have someone give such a compliment when they barely knew me. It made me smile inside and out!
Interview questions asked by April Jackson
Translated by AhnJiwon
Oum Jeong Soon
What kind of organization is K.A.A.B?
K.A.A.B. stands for the Korea Art Association for the Blind. I am the director for the organization. I and other painters and sculptors teach blind and deaf children how to paint. I have had the chance to travel all over the world and teach children who otherwise would not be able to learn the arts. Sometimes the children’s arts are auctioned off but most of the time it’s on display in different centers around.
How is FGI involved with K.A.A.B?
K.A.A.P. is one of FGI’s charity organizations. They work closely with us and have been advid supporters of our mission.
|Jeong Soon accepting a check for K.A.A.B organization presented from FGI.|
The second person I interviewed was Pak Donjun.
Her credentials include the following
- President, Pakdongjun Fashion
- President, Gallery Bundo
- Co-President, Beautiful Store (Daegu-Gyong buk/Korea)
- Chairman, FGI (Fashion Group International )
- Vice-Chairman, Memory of Lee, Sang-wha Crop
- Vice-Director, Shinmyung girls high school reunion
- Member (Seoul Fashion Artist Association)
How was the success of Seoul Fashion Week 2011?
It’s definitely a work in progress. London and New York Fashion week have a way longer history than Seoul Fashion Week. They've been in the game a long time while SFW is still very new. The Korean economy is strong but right now the economy is higher than Fashion. (This statement is referring to the importance of Korean Fashion compared to the Korean Economy.) Seoul Fashion is kind of behind everything else in Korea but step by step it will grow slowly but surely.
How do you feel about the myriad amount of International retailers who have settled in Korea? Is it harming the Korean Fashion Industry?
Well there’s nothing we can do about them coming over here but the best thing to do is ride the wave with then and allow it to grow Seoul Fashion. Seoul Fashion will grow stronger from it.
Can Kpop help Seoul Fashion? Could Korean Fashion ever be a part of the Hallyu Wave?
Definitely, it’s an intricate part of promotion but more for the 2nd and 3rd generation designers. I’m a 1st generation designer who’s been out for 39 years so the Hallyu wave doesn’t apply to me but it will tremendously help Seoul Fashion.
Jihoon Yeom, Buyer for Hyundai Department Store Co., LTD
What kind of items do buy for?
I buy strickly apparel and lingerie. I purchase big international fashion brands such as Balenciaga as well as Korean brands. It’s a huge mix of both.
How do you decide on what to buy?
It all depends on the trend. Chanel is huge right now but a few years ago there weren’t even any Chanel stores. Now they’re all over so it really is solely based on trends.
What other companies have you been a buyer for? Is your degree in Fashion?
I’ve only been a buyer for Hyundai and my degree is actually in Communications.
Does Hyundai have plans to go international?
Yes, our focus right now is on China because of the huge manufacturing culture. We’ve also branched out and started selling many European brands.
After interviewing Oem, Pak, and Yeom I talked with AhnJiwon and thanked her so much for her help. She gave me a goodie bag from Este Lauder that was really cool. She said her favorite brand right now is the amazing Comme de Gargons.
In conclusion Seoul Fashion is a work in progress. Though the history is not long, the drive and ambition is present. With the Hallyu Wave Korea has been thrusted into the world spotlight. By teaming up, both Korean music and fashion can prosper and create an even more grounded industry for the generations to come.
Please check out the rest of the pictures from the event below!
And here a beautiful display that is currently in the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Seoul.