Unlike previous years when the focus was on the local market, Seoul Fashion Week placed more emphasis on global competitiveness.
Korea Fashion Association chairman Won Dae-yun said the survival of the Korean fashion industry is hinged on its ability to compete with foreign brands. Many Korean designers and brands are known for their high-quality, but also for their expensive price tags.
``Most Korean garments are very expensive because they only focus on the local market. That's why they don't want to export. But the local market is already 50 percent occupied by foreign brands, so many local designers are screaming that they are having difficulty and can't survive. But they don't even try to make their prices lower,'' he said.
Won, the former CEO of Cheil Industries who was responsible for launching brands such as Bean Pole, suggested that Koreans should make their design, quality and pricing globally competitive if they want to make inroads into the international market. Or maybe even incorporate unique elements of Korean culture to make them stand out from the rest.
``If we do Western clothing, we should add some Korean aspects to it such as Korean colors or fabrics to make it different. Otherwise, why would they buy from us … Western people don't know much about Korean culture or lifestyle, so we should try to make them understand and recognize Korea. Maybe in five years or later, we can have a world class Korean designer or fashion brand,'' he said.
Interestingly, the government is pushing Korean fashion designers more aggressively into the international markets through fashion shows and events.
The ``Concept Korea: Fashion Collective 2010'' will introduce several Korean designers during New York Fashion Week in February. Organized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Culture & Contents Agency, the project involves opening a Korean showroom at the New York Public Library from Feb. 12 to 14.
Six Korean designers have been chosen to showcase their collection: Park Choon-moo (DEMOO), Jung Wook-juun (JUUN.J), Chung Ku-ho (KUHO), Kim Suk-won and Yoon Won-jung (Andy & Debb), Hong Seung-wan (ROLIAT) and Lee Doii (Doii Paris).
Lee, who has worked for Christian Dior and Kenzo in Paris, says that Korean designers are very talented, but some haven't quite embraced the idea of going global.
``I think Korean designers haven't yet recognized the importance of being international yet because Korea has a tradition that Korean people stay together. But in the last few years, people have been more aware of the international market. But with the help of the government, I think it will start happening,'' Lee said.