Surfing the Korean Wave is never more exciting than in the spirited city of Seoul, a rising star in all things fun, fabulous, and fashionable
There seems to be no stopping the relentless onslaught of Korean lifestyle influences that have been sweeping the world since the late 1990s. Coined the “Korean Wave” in mid-1999 to describe the burgeoning appetite for Korean cultural exports, this global phenomenon is a veritable capital of its own, an immensely powerful form of soft power that is subtly impacting global lifestyles. Having reached as far as Latin America, North Africa, and the Middle East, the Korean Wave is influencing everyone from avid K-pop fans to Hallyu drama-chasers, putting increasing spotlight on cosmetic surgery and the re-writing of fashion and beauty ideals, and proliferating the growing taste for everything Korean, from traditional garb to regional cuisine.
On the cusp of everything cool and with the power to influence international trends, Seoul Fashion Week has increasingly become more scrutinised in the global fashion scene. Although previously rather insular in nature, and in fact often denying digital reporters and “bloggers” on scene for most of the shows, the event is slowly opening up to the international media, with ambitions to join the ranks of New York and Milan Fashion Weeks as global trend-setters. Particularly gaining traction are street style snaps that flood social media accounts during fashion weeks.
Some Korean designers that are slowly but surely garnering more international attention include pushBUTTON by Park Seunggun, a hot favourite to look out for especially with its multiple collaborations with international and beauty brands such as Puma and Laneige. Steve J & Yoni P’s British street style-inspired pieces feature witty and exotic twists to delight even the most jaded of fashionistas – and it certainly helps that it has a strong supporting of A-list Korean Stars like Lee Hyori to help elevate the label to international cult status. Kye by Central Saint Martins alumni Kathleen Kye will strike a particular chord amongst K-pop fans with its collection of funky outerwear, loud prints, and urban streetwear aesthetic.
The main shopping and tourist districts of Seoul can be split into two categories – North of the Han River, and South. Widely considered as the unofficial “heart” of Seoul, the City Centre is situated in the Jung district to the north, and holds some of the few remaining European-style government buildings in the country, vestiges of its Japanese imperial colonialist past. Travelling couples can enjoy a starry-eyed stroll along the picturesque Deoksugung’s Stone Wall Path, or indulge in a romantic date at the famed Namsan “love locks” bridge and N Seoul Tower (otherwise commonly referred to as Namsan Tower); marking the highest point in Seoul, this lofty peak offers panoramic views of the glittering nightscape below and houses the N Grill, a revolving restaurant that serves up western-style cuisine in a luxurious atmosphere.