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Seoul Fashion Week S/S2013 off to a Running…Fumble

In Uncategorized on October 23, 2012 at 2:38 am



Seoul Fashion Week S/S 2013 has gotten off to an ambitious, if shaky, start. As is our wont  here at Yahae! Magazine, we’ll dispense with the pleasantries from the beginning and get right to the point. I, in my incarnation as the first street fashion blogger in Korea, Feetmanseoul.com, and was the 1st non-Korean photographer to regularly do street fashion in Korea, and then start covering Seoul Fashion Week on a professional basis, offering complete coverage of runway shows from as far back as 2008, while also covering the event for major foreign media outlets such as CNNgo.com and The Japan Times, not to mention countless pictures and stories published in domestic Korean English language publications ranging from the Korea Times and Korea Herald to both 10 Magazine and Groove magazine, along with Eloquence and several others. We’ve covered Seoul Fashion Week for around 10 seasons now, and have done our part to promote both Korean culture and Korean fashion abroad, and that work is part of what got me nominated to the Presidential Commission for Nation Branding. and from around 2 years ago, that work evolved from a personal fashion blog into an online magazine trying to engage in more collaborative projects in fashion based here in Korea. and despite the fact that this magazine has been functioning in Seoul fashion week from at least 4 seasons ago, this season we were denied press coverage outright. I guess the hard work that we’ve done doesn’t mean much to the SFW planners.

We were told that this year thatbecause of the change in venue as well as the increase in interest in Korean fashion ( which we can help but think we were somehow part of), there were more press people to fit into a smaller space. While this is an excuse I can understand, it is still a question of priorities. For some reason, now that SFW has gotten big in the britches, we are just not important anymore. I fondly and probably remember when we 1st did coverage of SFW for CNNGo.com, the PR representative actually jumped up and down and clapped her hands in glee because they were so happy that SFW was getting treatment in a major international media venue. will now that that is all part of the past, it seems that bloggers and other smaller media outlets that have actually done the bulk of the work of giving the word out there about  SFW back when nobody cared about it have essentially been kicked to the curb.

But this isn’t just about me and my bitterness at being treated like a redheaded stepchild now that SFW has gotten big enough to think they don’t need us anymore. Press access this year was difficult in general for many media outlets, and I’m compiling a list of the ones that haven’t been able to get in this year.  another near casualty of SFW use overzealousness this year was the Huffington Post, for which I am preparing a story on Seoul fashion week. usually, I register under our Yahae! Magazine name, but since our application was turned down outright, despite the fact that we had been in touch with Peopleworks Inc. (the PR company tasked with handling press registration for this season and last)  from 2 weeks before press registration began, when the SFW website still lay without updates and full of information from the previous season.  none of the numbers listed on the website were working, so I had to look up people works Inc. on the Korean Internet and find phone numbers into the company, from where I played a huge, cyclical game of phone tag, only to be told that press registration would not begin for another week, a mere 2 weeks before SFW was slated to begin. in any case, despite being one of the loyal and doggedly persistent few who wanted to start press registration as it had always been started—namely, around one month before the beginning of SFW—we were turned down outright as domestic Korean press. As part of my application, I informed the PR people that our content would be turned into a major story on the Huffington Post, which would probably be the largest single media outlet to ever cover SFW to date. However, since the-frog-in-the-well folks at PeopleWorks Inc. had never heard of the Huffington Post—nor could they be pressed to actually look it up and figure out what it was, even after I had told them—the working assumption seemed to be that if they had never heard of it, it probably wasn’t important, anyway. it seems that the PR folks could only be impressed by Anna Wintour herself showing up all decked out like the character she inspired from The Devil Wears Prada, with sycophantic entourage in hand, along with the entire starring cast from Sex and the City, which ain’t going to happen any time this century. Perhaps the employees at people Works Inc. have heard of The New York Times? Of course, I’m being facetious asshole here, since I know that all Koreans know about that venerated newspaper, both online and off. However, since the verdict is still out as to whether The Huffington Post has surpassed the New York Times online newspaper in daily hits, one wonders whether a competent PR company—Korean or not—should know, or least look up if they don’t, a major media force such as the Huffington Post. I mean, they’re not just the average Korean workers here. They’re in the field of public relations. one would think that they should do their homework, especially when a foreign member of the domestic press who has been covering Korean fashion for years is insisting they do so.

What is completely unprofessional and unbelievable about my dealings with SFW, and what worries me as the blind continue to lead the blind in the ongoing quest to place Korean fashion in a broader international spotlight, is how my interaction with these people in PeopleWorks Inc. went down. since I was actually medically unable to cover SFW last season, the first season that people work Inc. started work as the PR company for SFW, making my personage unknown to the staff as I would have never directly met any of them, I decided to apply for foreign press as a foreigner, one who did not speak Korean. My phone call  that I placed on the last business day before the beginning of Seoul fashion week in order to inquire about my status ( which had gone continuously unanswered throughout the week) was passed like a hot potato laced with the Ebola virus from giggling peopleworks, Inc. employee  2 giggling people works Inc. employee. the fact that a foreigner was on the phone requiring one of the apparently incompetent employees to speak English seemed to be a point of great embarrassed humor and tittering laughter, along the same lines as one might imagine and embarrassed secretary from the 1950s who had just committed some horrible social faux pas and reacted by covering her mouth to stifle her nervous laughter. it was pretty much the same reaction as one would get while giggling and passing a note in class in front of the teacher who has already caught on. in other words, it was immature, completely unprofessional, and enraging. if I had actually been an overseas member of the press calling into Korea ( at 3 in the morning, no less, because of the time difference) to get some answers, I would probably be at least utterly there will did at such unprofessional behavior and hang up the phone.  However,  I was subjected to this juvenile type of handling during at least 3 phone passes from non-English speaking employee to other non-English-speaking employees.

This was the proof in the pudding and the point of my little experiment. Since I am fluent in Korean, I have often started to forget how foreigners are treated here who do not have domestic knowledge of the language and the way things work. After reverting to Korean, and being told by the person on the phone that if I got my editor from the Huffington Post is to write an e-mail requesting press access I could be granted a pass, I promptly shot off an e-mail to said editor, who apparently sent off an e-mail as soon as she turned on her computer in the morning. the people Works Inc. person originally told me that the and are had to fill out a press application form from her end and even give a phone call, at which point I reminded her that it was the last business day before SFW and that the time difference would pretty much require that this be done in the dead of night by New York time. I reminded her that not only was this unreasonable a request to make on the last possible day before the weekend and before the 1st show on Monday, but that no one even spoke any English at the company to warrant such and extreme attempt on the part of my editor.

needless to say, I worked my wily ways and massaged old connections to get myself into SFW through a local fashion industry newspaper for which I had freelanced before, and would now be entering as an employee for the purposes of SFW. while this story is mostly a personal one, of my arduous journey to get into SFW although I had covered it for nearly 5 years prior, it is also emblematic of how deeply unprofessional the handling of SFW is by the rotating monkey houses that pass as domestic PR firms here. the original policy of the sSeoul city government, which had handled SFW through the government body of the Seoul fashion Association ( also called the Seoul business Association/SBA), was to rotate the Hadley and of SFW every 2 seasons 2 different domestic PR firms, which the extensive reason of preventing cronyism and corruption. This is a pretty standard Korean policy, actually, often used in public institutions and schools.  However, it’s a recipe for disaster when it comes to u handling and implementing SFW from year-to-year. what it does his nearly guarantee inefficiency and reinventing the wheel every here, while ensuring that no learning from past mistakes would ever take place, and destroying any chance at building the institutional memory that leads to improvement of the event over time. for long time, the main complaint about SFW was that the handling of the show was left in the hands of unmotivated and this uninterested civil servants (the SBA) and a rotating menagerie of inexperienced and incompetent domestic PR firms. but now, after a political falling out between the SBA and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, in which the SBA was dissolved and the city’s  official support for SFW weakened, all that is left is the rotating train of PR firm incompetents, along with the idea that The Huffington Post is either not worthy of offering press coverage to, or the complete ignorance as to what that new and powerful media outlet is.

really, if the fate of SFW is left to the level of PR firms that don’t even know enough to see the importance of offering press access 2 not just me, one of SFW’s longest standing media workers and promoters, but to a press outlet as powerful an influential as the Huffington Post, I really wonder about their ability to make any important decisions or improvements on previous seasons and make any progress towards their stated goal of getting SFW into the pantheon of the world’s top 7 fashion week events.

I’m not pointing even complain about the step backwards in terms of no longer catering the SFW events, or even the change to a far superior venue this year from the perfectly adequate SETEC convention halls in deepest Gangnam. what I’m most concerned about here is the basic ability to promote and publicize SFW by domestic companies that purport to be about doing so.  In any case, u the rumor I heard today was that there is a lot of talk about privatizing SFW along the lines that many other fashion weeks across the world have major corporate sponsorship. perhaps if it is managed by the private sector, the profit motive well improve the level of competence across the board. The rumor I heard being passed around the pressroom today was that LG is very interested in becoming the official SFW sponsor.  Well, just about anything would be better than what it is now, since SFW seems to keep getting worse, even as it sometimes growth spurts a bit in the direction of better from time to time.  The overall constant u downward force of incompetent domestic Korea and PR firms seems to  SFW’s consistent downfall.

but that’s the bad news.  The good news  is that the most important thing—the designers—our live and kicking , as strong as ever. And despite u the negative start that was my day today, covering the shows was a delight, and I was happy 2C familiar faces of many of the designers I have covered over the years, and to see strong showings from the designers whom one expects to be strong.

Designer Lee Juyoung’s “Resurrection” show kicked off the 1st day’s festivities and SFW’s first day of all men’s shows.

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High expectations were also held for Song Hyemyung’s bold and ballsy show style, this time with gangster-raggae music and aggressive urban looks (and runway acting) by tatted, cut male models.

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Kim Seo Ryong was also a crowd favorite — I asked a Thai reporter and Korean reporter for GQ Korea who were their fav shows of the day, and both responded with this designer — and brought out some classy formal wear that was colorful and fun to shoot.

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Of course, we ran across some folks in the crowd, now constantly being pestered by street fashion shooters hovering at the entrance, a marked change from just a few years ago, when street fashion photography was not the thing, and even SFW had no attendee shooters -in fact, I usually got weird looks when first starting to do crowd shots at SFW back in around 2008 and 09). I’ve been shooting korean redheads for years, since the trend started going redder and more realistic a few years ago, resulting shocks of red hair even the Irish could be proud of. I always shoot a gread red perm if I see one.

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And, of course, the usuals suspects  — the highly fashionable — were on the scene.

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But the week must go on — along with more consistent coverage — runway sets will be uploaded and reports posted from tomorrow.This was just the first report and frank insider’s insight of many to come.

  1. […] Seoul Fashion Week S/S2013 off to a Running…Fumble (Yahae!; Scene […]

  2. […] the PR firm Peopleworks, Inc., and was an event roundly criticized by the domestic fashion press as having been poorly carried out and which marked a step backwards for both SFW and the stature of Korean fashion designers […]

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