Before writing about the Korea Now exhibition, I would like to share a few personal words as it would have felt quite strange, coming back here and speaking about fashion, like that, out of the blue. You obviously know I live in Paris where we have faced terrible terrorist attacks on the 13th November. I must admit I had planned to skip my post today because since these sad events in which I have lost two friends at the Bataclan concert, I have been living like a zombie: working, seeing friends and family, taking care of my dog just as usual but in a kind of automatic mode, feeling very sad and numb…But most of all, I hadn’t planned to post because I had nothing to post. After the attacks, I had become very afraid of going into public spaces and thus didn’t feel like going to museums at all but I finally did. It’s quite symbolic the first exhibition I decided to visit is the Arts Décoratifs’ Korea Now exhibition because getting to know the world that surrounds us, cultures that differ from ours is surely the best way of respecting the other…
This year, Paris is celebrating a France/Korea year and thus the Arts Décoratifs museum has decided to focus on Korean design, crafts and fashion within a monumental and beautiful scenography. I will only write about the fashion section here that presents more than a hundred silhouettes and accessories that mingle traditional inspirations with contemporary pop concepts.
Rather than a chronological presentation, the display has been organized according to the Obangsaek system, Korea’s five traditional colors: yellow, blue, red, white and black. Each color is thus associated to a designer whose palette and aesthetic reflects it. Red is represented by LIE Sang bong whose theatrical and playful work evokes spiritual and shamanic rites as well as femininity via ceremonials linked to virginity and marriage but also masculinity because of its powerful identity. For the blue section, the museum has chosen Juun.J who proposes masculine garments inspired by Western designs reworked with ample Korean forms and much elegant simplicity. In the white section, is highlighted JIN Te-ok’s work who, inspired from one of her brother’s shirt drying in the sun, during her childhood, creates luminous and delicate pieces that ressemble toiles that reconstruct the body’s shape. Black is affiliated to contemporary design that reinterprets pop Western codes while André KIM’s pieces of clothing perfectly fit the yellow section with their opulent martial aesthetic inspired by military parades.
Interestingly, the display presents, here and there, series or unique two-dimensional arrangements of traditional costumes, the Hanbok (I think I may have a thing with Hanboks – if you remember my November post!) that remains an essential source of inspiration for Korean contemporary designers with its voluminous style and light textiles.
The exhibition that privileges minimalist mannequins placed within glass cases that enable a total observation of the garments delivers a poetic and conceptual feel that reflects how diverse and consistent fashion creation is today in Korea. It was mostly during the 1990s that Korean designers came to light in Western countries with their minimalist, androgynous and ethnic creations that suited the aesthetic favored during the decade. Today, Korea counts as a major fashion consumer and luxury brands have established themselves in the country seducing a stylish clientele: Chanel proposed its 2016 Resort collection in Seoul, in May 2015 with silhouettes reinterpreting the Hanbok and symbolic motifs and colors, thus leading to a composite creation uniting Western and Eastern inspirations. Korean fashion ressembles a manifesto that while it pays tribute to ancestral rites also desires to redefine its traditions and propose an emancipated contemporary aesthetic.
Oh, and by the way, I’m going to a concert this evening: what better use of music as therapy!