For over a decade, South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Creative Content Agency have given Korean designers the chance to showcase their talents outside the peninsula through Concept Korea. Returning to physical events for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the multi-brand fashion show graced New York Fashion Week on September 13. It showcased collections by BESFXXK, Cahiers, and ul:kin.
BESFXXK, created by Kim Bona and Im Jaehyeok, exists at the intersection of experimental and utilitarian. The brand, whose name is a combination of the words ‘bespoke’ and ‘fucked up,’ stays true to its name as it tailors classic items, fabrics, and silhouettes with unique construction twists. BESFXXK releases feature many playful iterations of the trench coat, tailoring the autumn staple into tops and dresses, combining various types of fabrics, and alternating between textures.
For its Spring/Summer 2023 collection, the label put its own spin on period clothing, reimagining historical fashion through a modern lens. An on-theme, classical piano tune played to open the show. Pieces from the collection made use of decorative bows, ruffles, ruches, and tiered skirts.
At the same time, Kim and Im applied elements of 16th-century fashion to modern-day essentials. Think: a trench coat reimagined with a ruched bodice, blazers constructed of multiple layers of fabric, and flowing trains resembling old-time dress skirts. Button-up shirts, leather tops, and biker shorts stood in stark contrast with vintage detailing, creating a memorable cross-temporal experience.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 13: Models walk the runway for BESFXXK during the Concept Korea Spring/Summer 2023 fashion show during September 2022 New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Gallery at Spring Studios on September 13, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Concept Korea)
Cahiers’ Creative Director Kim A-Young takes inspiration from European fashion to create elegant, feminine clothing. More specifically, ruffles in dresses and skirts hint at a clear Spanish influence.
Summed up, the label’s image is soft, feminine, and chic. Subdued pastel and neutral tones make up the Cahiers Spring/Summer 2023 color palette while flowing skirts create sophisticated, regal silhouettes. In comparison to their Fall/Winter 2022 lookbook, which was shown at Seoul Fashion Week earlier this year, this collection is much brighter and reflects the uplifting and hopeful energy of the spring season.
On the runway, bold, gold accessories completed the collection’s fairy-like aesthetic. From draping earrings to intricate statement sunglasses, every component of the show looked to be carefully planned to convey beauty and grace.
Cahiers’ refined yet warm nature has attracted the likes of former IZ*ONE member Minju, Brave Girls member Minyoung, and actress Choi Yeojin. Styling teams of Korean dramas like Miss Monte-cristo (2021) and Eve (2022) have also sourced the label’s items for some of their classy female characters.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 13: Models walk the runway for Cthe Concept Korea Spring/Summer 2023 fashion show during September 2022 New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Gallery at Spring Studios on September 13, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Concept Korea)
Socially conscious brand ul:kin is reimagining streetwear with a sustainable approach. Designer Lee Seong Dong draws from real-world environments, prioritizes sustainability, and often collaborates with South Korean celebrities. To showcase the label’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection, ul:kin invited K-pop boy-group IKON’s DK, who made his NYFW runway debut wearing a shirt he designed for the collection.
ul:kin’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection contained both Y2K elements and ocean-inspired motifs. Shades of blue and white, paired with detailing resembling fishing nets had a clear presence on the runway. As ocean pollution and sustainable fishing are two prominent issues, it’s no surprise that Lee found a way to incorporate environmental awareness into the catwalk.
It’s no surprise that, as a fashion-forward, star-favorite brand, trending Y2K items appeared in ul:kin’s newest collection. The fashion industry cycles through trends quickly, but the vintage revival and love for all things early 2000s is seemingly here to stay. ul:kin added its own touch to the trend, bringing fingerless gloves, low-rise mini skirts, and leg warmers to the runway.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 13: Models walk the runway for ULKIN during the Concept Korea Spring/Summer 2023 fashion show during September 2022 New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Gallery at Spring Studios on September 13, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Concept Korea)
Want to see more of South Korea at NYFW? Read about TWICE’s Dahyun’s trip to New York with Michael Kors here.