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As time passes by, it seems the world keeps getting smaller. Technology and media brings us together and turns what used to be years into days, and those things that made us different from one another, now unites us. When we talk about a certain culture different images come to mind: Language, lifestyle, food, physical appearance and a traditional outfit. But of all things, this last concept has changed, unless someone really is Cowboy, Charro or Geisha, clothing no longer divides us. World wide (with it’s exceptions) we follow the same trends: We wear jeans, t-shirts, jackets, tennis shoes, socks, and so on. And in a way, fashion has become an important part of our lives, to the point that for some people its what you wear and who you wear that defines you. That’s why the fashion industry has gained so much popularity and power. Part of what can make a country culturally important (considering it’s economical power, art, entertainment, etc.) is it’s fashion designers and the relevance they have in the industry. In the attempt to export its talents, The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism created a project to help Korean designers to globalize the Korean fashion industry and enhance its international competitiveness and image. This project is called Concept Korea.

Concept Korea’s first edition was held in February during the Fall/Winter 2010 New York Fashion Week. For this world-renowned event, Korean designs were in exhibition at the New York Public Library. The gallery showcased the collections of six South Korean designers: Sung Wan Hong of Roliat, Choon Moo Park of Parkchoonmoo, Doii Lee of Doii Paris, Junn.J, Kuho Jung of Kuho and Andy Kim and Debbie Yoon of Andy & Debb. The designs were well received by the press and fellow designers that were invited to the inauguration, one of them Diane Von Furstenberg. Concept Korea II took place this past September 9th, in the Spring/Summer New York Fashion Week and featured seven domestic brands and eight designers; four labels showcased their clothing lines all through the week, but three emerging designers got the opportunity to show their collections in the runway. The chosen ones: Lee Jean Youn, Ju Young Lee and Kwak Hyun Joo.

Lee Jean Youn had previously won the 2nd Edition of El Botón-Mango Fashion Award and designed a limited-edition collection, for the same brand and was launched this year in May in different countries and online. His designs for Concept Korea featured black and pink colors inspired by the life cycle of charcoal, with small details in alligator leather, like buttons and bows. Juyoung Lee created a collection which she called “Resurrection”, characterized by its drama and gothic theme. “When you look at trends these days, all the guys are so girlish, they’re so slim and I hate it,” she told The Korea Times. “My idea translates so that when a woman sees a guy, he can be viewed as masculine and charming.” She also tried to make clothes that were season-less and functional, considering the economic crises and the difficulty of buying a new wardrobe every season. The third designer, Kwak Hyun Joo created a line based on Pucca, the famous animated character of a ten-year old girl that longs to find a boy that will kiss her. Kwak aims for Pucca to become a fashionable character rather than just a childish cartoon. In her designs we could find the girly, fairy-tale cuts, but even if they reminded us of Little Red Riding Hood the elegance gave it a high fashion sense to it. She has designed clothes for many Korean Pop singers (like Super Junior, Rain and Daniel Henny) and other international musicians and artists.

Concept Korea was a success as it placed Korean names on the fashion industry’s select members’ list, and although it wasn’t the big event of New York Fashion Week, it did turn heads to the sometimes forgotten country that wants to come out into the light. The outstanding part is the fact that it’s the government (The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism) that promotes this project, giving the talented people in its country the opportunity to shine worldwide. And even though fashion unites us, every designer carries the essence of his or her country and it’s reflected in the clothes they make. As Concept Korea’s designer Juyoung Lee described it: “I don’t have a separate Korean aspect to my clothing, but I am a Korean. What I’m good at is my own culture, so even if I don’t go all out, my work is still Korean.” In the end, it’s in what unites us in the globalized world -fashion in this case- where cultures stand out because of its differences.

Realizadora de Delicatessen (programa de estrenos y reseñas musicales de Ibero 90.9 FM), periodista de música, moda y estudiante de comunicación en la Universidad Iberoamericana.

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