Fashion terrorists, the lot of them. They were all fashion terrorists…I was overwhelmingly told, often from people with little-to-no style, that I would be so bored in South Korea. Even at Seoul Fashion Week, I was assured I would be unbelievably and unforgivably bored.
Because, they’ve simply got no style.
I wasn’t sure how to take it, why was everyone so focused on reassuring me of my imminent boredom? Perhaps it’s because I can’t hide from my fashion persona. No matter who I met in South Korea, be they native, foreign or just passing through, made vocal assumptions about my having a fashion career. Clearly, I was one of those Fashion People. Clearly, I needed to be warned. Even some of the Korean locals I met asked me, in my professional opinion, if I thought all Koreans just tried to look the same?
Even by the time Seoul Fashion Week rolled around, some of the international press (that stayed on the ground for approximately 1-2 days) made bold assumptions about how they lacked style and they have no subcultures, often comparing it to the nearby island nation which has made waves in the fashion industry (Japan, if you hadn’t caught my drift).
What was this all about? Here’s my response to the whole “They All Look Alike” Camp:
Plenty of foreigners come from countries and communities where “they all look alike too”, the difference being less noticeable because of physical differences in racial spectrum, not because the lot of them are actually dressing vastly differently. It’s that tribalism that we lean to as humans, in hyper-diverse cities, however, this tribalism may simply have more striking visual differences, but take out the varying racial features, plenty of people still look very much the same. People stick to their uniforms, whatever those uniforms may be. The Wall Streeters have their own uniform, sure one may have faded hair, one may have blonde straight hair, one may have brown wavy hair, but rest assured, there’s still a uniform that is relatively easy to spot. In other words, these self-appointed fashion critics are missing a lot of the bigger point, simply because they are looking at a more homogenous major city. Funny enough, many of these foreigners who were so quick to dismiss Seoul’s fashion, dressed eerily similar themselves, they just looked a tad bit more diverse. *DRAMATIC EYEROLL* See?
“You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.”
Now that I’ve managed to insert an alarmingly accurate quote from one of my favorite books/films of all time, let’s look at some street fashion from the emerging Seoul scene, shall we? :
So, there you have it, ending with visions from the front row. The moral of the story, Seoul is still emerging and developing a sense of who it is in fashion, but it doesn’t mean fashion doesn’t exist there, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. See even more by following the story on Instagram: @FashionNeedsJesus
What would the cool kids look like a few generations after the apocalypse had ravaged civilization, and a merry band of badass survivors had managed to begin repopulating and rebuilding society? Now that you’ve got that scenario in your head, the answer is they’d look pretty dope, and dressed in MooHong. While I didn’t have the greatest seat at MooHong’s show during Seoul Fashion Week, I could see the ultra cool stroll down the runway. Frankly, I think it’s that sense of ultra cool that has to become the anchor of Seoul’s emerging fashion scene, but that’s the topic for another post.
MooHong had an ultra cool confidence that is irrefutably modern, focused on asymmetric construction, and uncommon cuts. Undoubtedly one of my favorite collections, MooHong kept a rather mild color palette, and managed to never be boring.
We saw blazers that were longer than average, and anything but normal. One blazer I was particularly fond of had lapels on the back, revealing red writing, that I can assume, spelled out the brand’s name. It was just interesting enough to catch my eye, and yet, easily sellable for the client who is still a bit shy about how daring to be when enhancing their style. There was plenty, however, for the fashionable man and woman who’s confidence and bravado already matched their style.
As if that weren’t enough, there was a pleasant androgyny, that didn’t looked forced at all. Instead, it looked sophisticated, and well thought out. It wasn’t a man in a dress, it was a man in a really cool long top with an asymmetrical hem, opting to wear no pants, and layering on a dope blazer. It was genuine, believable, and better yet, sellable. Whether it was menswear or womenswear mattered minimally at best, the traditionally masculine elements complemented the traditionally feminine. The traditionally feminine carried elements of the traditionally masculine. It just worked. Here are some of my favorite looks, from one of the best collections presented at Seoul Fashion Week!
An ode to my OOTDs, as captured by some of the photographers at Seoul Fashion Week. I went to watch shows, and observe street style, but I, in turn, was being observed. While I have not found nearly all of the photos, here are a few, be sure to click the link to check out their Instagram accounts and websites for more Seoul Street Fashion! Also, don’t forget to follow my Insta!
What was spectacular about pushBUTTON’s Spring/Summer 2017 show? I’ll admit, there was a subtle shock to see every man stroll down the runway in a pair of heels. There’s just something I can appreciate about the democratization of pain. Clever. But, really, that wasn’t the most spectacular thing. The brilliance in the collection was held really in the distance of the collection. And just what do I mean by that, after all, this girl was sitting pretty on the front row? Well, just that as a stylist, it’s easy for me to focus on pieces. I start wardrobing in my head the minute I see a piece I like. Which client would that work for, what would pair well in his closet, what could I style that with on a shoot? Immediately, my mind wonders. In fact, with several shows I saw at Seoul Fashion Week, I would get excited about some great pieces. At pushBUTTON, however, the brilliance was in the distance, I found myself getting excited about just about every look that strolled down the runway. Funky, colorful, and cohesive while maintaining an air of uniqueness. Were I a fashion buyer, I’d be in trouble. That’s what I loved about pushBUTTON. As if my word weren’t proof enough, pushBUTTON’s collection was named one of the best of the season, further establishing their global presence!
Candied stripes and colors filled the venue, with boxy cuts, and willowy drapes. The whole thing felt like a perfect summer day. The day where you hold hands with someone you love, and cruise in a drop top with the sun kissing your shoulders. Where you were headed exactly, God only knows; a music festival, a beach, a club that has you waitlisted for a month before you can even get in, or dinner at that lovely little restaurant on the coast you’ve always wanted to try, perhaps. Either way, the cozy, cool pieces from pushBUTTON would easily take you to the next level.
Gold pants? Check. Baby blue, updated, pussy-bow blouse. Check. Green jumper with just the right amount of side boob action for the ultra daring? Check. Sheer lavender midi dress you didn’t know you needed, but totally do? Check. The crimson ultra wide-leg pant that will have you sashaying down the street? Check. I could go on, but you get the idea.
The retro references, modern cuts and lovely color palette created the perfect distance. The type of woman who will wear this collection may be your very best friend, and your closest confidant, however, the minute she puts on pushBUTTON, she’s so cool that she’s practically untouchable, and miles above the rest.
Slits, slants, and structured beauty. That’s the collection that presented itself for Nohke’s Spring/Summer 2017 year, and it was positively riveting. I sat, barely contained in my seat, watching the models stroll by, easily carrying the cleverly designed pieces that elegantly draped their forms. Bold, and riveting, and undoubtedly one of the best. As if I weren’t already expert enough, Nohke’s designer, MiSun Jung, won an award for being one of the top 10 collections presenting at Seoul Fashion Week. Her inspiration was walking at night, a notion easily found in both the utter romance, and the fluid movement in her collection.
Nohke’s collection from Seoul’s most recent Fashion Week, was by far, one of my absolute favorites, especially for womenswear. The menswear collections at Seoul Fashion Week have by far dominated, in terms of innovation, silhouettes, and general fanciful colors and patterns. As such, to see such innovation in womenswear was a breath of fresh air. From the mature color palette, utilizing primary and secondary colors paired with dove neutrals helped the ready-to-wear collection feel all the more accessible to the fashion types making their presence known at Dongdaemun Design Plaza(Seoul Fashion Week’s residence).
Granted, where does one wear such a collection?
My answer? Anywhere. While we got to see sharp tailoring, boxy silhouettes, and the occasional brazen color, each piece was intimately wearable. Bold. Stylish. Unique. Really, that’s what I felt this collection was about. With the slits, we got to experience bits of femininity exposed. I thought it was wildly romantic, to flirt with what you care to show of yourself, and that which you care not to expose and share that with an ever-captive audience. After all, isn’t the world always watching? I suppose that’s a story for another day. Suffice it to say, Sphinx was impressed. And can we talk about that fabulous, boxy, modern answer to the ever classic motorcycle jacket, if I ever saw one?!!! J’adore!
With the colors, pulling from the pure strength of primary colors, as other collections this season seemed fond of doing, primary red, yellow, and blue found themselves anchoring Nohke’s collection. From a foundation of pure and unadulterated color, designer MiSun Jung was able to offer stability and subtlety in using ice white, dove gray, silver, and black, while maintaining interest by introducing shades of olive green, sun-bleached khaki.
Consistently, the Nohke collection dared to challenge traditionally feminine silhouettes with the notion of exposure. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this collection walk the runway, and can’t wait to continue watching how Nohke’s designer, MiSun Jung, develops her collections on the runway, and on the increasing international eyes watching in restless anticipation.
Tailored art. That’s the collection Songzio(송지오) that presented itself at Seoul Fashion Week, while I watched intrigued from the front row. The collection was among some of my favorites, showing primarily menswear that ventured from relaxed to tailored, and bold to subdued.
Despite the clear juxtapositions, the collection was beautifully made, complementing each outfit to stroll down the runway. Fashion designer, Zio Song, while not making particularly wild or crazy silhouettes, did manage to play with proportions, interesting details that nipped at the male waist ever-so-slightly, colors, and patterns in a way that made the show memorable, and the clothes wearable even for the less daring man or woman wanting a contemporary suit.
We saw the black, white and navy colors, ever-present and ever-resilient in menswear. Zio Song did break up the predictable palette for contemporary suiting by also incorporating lively colors such as aqua, primary blue, emerald green, and the occasional yellow. The patterns were not only striking in contemporary menswear, but also refreshingly bold for contemporary women’s suiting as well. Paint strokes, jagged lines, and a green dominated print with such brilliant strokes that it abstracted itself into spring foliage by a quick glance of the eye were a few of the several prints presented. Add to that some easy-breezy knits, the brightly splattered outwear being an answer for that transitional spring weather, and the collection has rounded itself out quite nicely.
As for silhouettes, the long mandarin collar button ups, and long flowing tunics paired nicely with the wide leg pants that found themselves strolling down the runway. I quite enjoyed how the pants were not merely cut wide, but also had such pleating details reminiscent of a school uniform skirt, the effect was different, however, given the soft and pliable nature of the summer-weight fabrics used. Also, as to further emphasize this push in the menswear in particular, the slightly sheer fabrics in some of the looks leaned towards a unisexuality almost. Fabrics and even details normally reserved for womenswear took a stand at the Songzio show, and a great one at that.
And if you haven’t done so already, Follow all the Seoul Fashion Week tidbits on our Insta: @FashionNeedsJesus!!!
It’s officially been a week since I’ve moved to Seoul. A week and I’ve been calling a new place home. Fashion Week just occurred in NYC, but I’ve been focused on calling a new place home, and reflecting on what that means. I get the feeling that I’m finally becoming the woman I’ve always wanted to be. The woman, who is still rising despite the heartbreak and tragedy. The woman who fights, triumphs and throws a haughty laugh. The woman I was destined to be. Her. I think I’m finally becoming her. Free and bold, a woman who loves extravagantly and courageously in every aspect of life.
And, God, it feels so good.
In a week’s time, I managed to almost join a cult, I’ve went on a date with KDrama Guy who saved me from said aforementioned cult, hung out at Han River solo dolo amongst all the couples, I’ve agreed to record a music cover with my host, have another date lined up with a different guy, gotten lost countless times, learned how to speak some Mandarin while drinking with the roomies and talking about boys, spoken in Korean every single day, and tackled Dongdaemun, pushing and shoving with the thousands of people and vendors to get the swatches I need to design with.
I’ve actually unpacked my room and set it up nicely so I’m not living out of a suitcase, and realized just how much I’ve committed to calling this place home for a spell. I never unpack if I don’t have to. Here, though, I did. Something about Seoul. Something about wanting to reset and refresh and explore the fullness of myself again, as a Creator, and as a woman. I look back at the things that interested me as a child, when we were free to think and dream, and as a teenager full of energy, and I’m going back to that child-like faith that anything could happen. Moreover, I’m seeing so many connections with present interests, and interests of my childhood.
It’s strange to find myself back on a road that I’d abandoned over 10 years ago, but wholly exhilarating.
I’d rather be her. Her, full of faith, her, the self-proclaimed jet-setting auntie who is gonna travel the world, her, the leader of a girl group, her, the fashion icon and mogul, her, the multi-linguist who strikes up conversations in different conversations at a moments notice, her, the model living in Tokyo, her, the story teller, her, one half of an eclectic, cool, and sexy power couple, her, the musician turned actress, her, a representative of the people later in life, her, the poet and novelist, her, the dancer who wanted to do a summer session with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, her, who was ready to drive across the country the day after graduation for an epic roadtrip, her, who had so many big dreams and hopes and a lot less fear.
Yeah, I’d rather be her.
If 7 is the number of completion, then 8 is the number of new beginnings. This 8th month of the year, this August, I saw the first anniversary of a year without my Mother. Undoubtedly the hardest year of my life. But this 8th month, is the same month that I am flying halfway across the world to begin, again. I’m headed back to Seoul, this decision is less than 60 days old, and whole heartedly full of faith.
The first time I went to Seoul, it was in desperate search of magic. The second time around, my trip to Seoul will be about restarting, resetting, and refreshing. I’ve been the better part of dead for a year. Bitter, broken, filled with despair…breathing but not living. That’s what I have been. There have been moments, where I got to feel alive. In a year without my mother, I helped style Alicia Keys, have done several styling sessions, I’ve met and interviewed some dope designers, I’ve taken street style photos in another country, I’ve started learning another language, I’ve left jobs that were too toxic, I learned to say no to things that didn’t suit or serve me, I’ve had a small community of incredible women surround me during my grief, and somewhere during this year of pain, I’ve still managed to smile and to laugh.
With grief comes catharsis.
My catharsis left my creative soul questioning what was in my heart, and why I wasn’t following it? I know the dreams in my heart, dreams that were largely on hold as I grieved. I kept trying to make things work by my own hands, the normal way, the usual way, and it kept not “working”. At least, not “working” how I meant it to. But, when I stopped measuring myself against a standard that wasn’t native to me anyway, the corporate rather than the creative, I started to live again, and dare to make bold decisions.
So that’s where we are. 57 days ago, I decided to give up my dope studio in Williamsburg that was killing me in rent, and had become a prison of my grief. 57 days ago, I decided suddenly, and with encouragement from a bestie, to just follow what was in my heart. After a lil talk with Jesus, and a few months before the decision of pointed prayer and mediation, and the culmination of such emotions and faith made the decision easy. 57 days ago, I starting measuring myself against a standard all my own. 57 days ago, I decided to head back to Seoul.
So, who do you tell you’re moving overseas? Outside of my sisters, and the bestie that helped me make the decision, I told one person initially, Ariane, the designer for Yhaniqua Lopes. Well, interestingly, at the end of Spring, I met Ariane Fonseca at a #JustDoItCrew meeting(a bi-weekly event run by a mother-daughter duo from Hillsong NYC that helps you foster and follow your God-given dreams). She is this gorgeous woman, huge smile, doll-like eyes, and gorgeous Angolan accent. She was persistent about wanting to get to know me and work with me, she could tell I was in fashion and felt I had a beautiful spirit. I was super #TeamNONewFriends. I didn’t want to meet new people, and explain why I could possibly burst into tears at any given moment. But here she was, smiling. She eventually convinced me to style her line, and God did the rest. She was encouraging, warm, and immensely powerful. She’s gonna take the world by storm, no doubt about it. We talked about these foreign places where we felt a connection, for me, Seoul, for her, Paris, we talked about our singleness, we talked about our struggles in NYC, we talked about my grief, and we promised to meet up for coffee.
On July 30th, we did meet up. She was moving, and before she told me where she was moving to, I asked if she was moving to Paris. She sported a gorgeous smile, and said yes, by way of Miami first. I told her I was moving, and she asked without batting an eye, if I was moving to Seoul (a decision I made the day before). I told her yes, by way of New Jersey (but I’m staying with an awesome family in Brooklyn, another extension of God’s love!). We were finally leaving NYC, and as different women than we came. Zero plan, all faith, and a belief that this was what God put in our hearts. So, there we sat, in that coffee shop, encouraging each other for 2+ hours, while others might think we were crazy, already finding kindred spirit and feeling God’s presence.
So, 27 days ago, I moved out of my studio, I was surrounded by beautiful people who poured into me, and helped me when I literally could not help myself. People who demonstrated what it meant to be the Body of Christ, and to pour into someone and love someone. Throughout this time, I’ve connected with beautiful people, woken up from my grief and started to feel alive again. 22 days ago, I mourned the year anniversary without my mom. 5 days from now, I’m flying to Seoul. Countless people have blessed me, told me I’ve inspired them, or both. Either way, I’m believing for great things, my creativity is resurfacing, and I’m becoming the woman I’ve always wanted to, a woman of relentless faith. I’ve meditated on God being able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all I have every hoped for wished for and imagined for. I’ve meditated on plumbing the depths and testing the heights of God’s love. That meditation and that prayer has given me the strength.
Reset. Refresh. Restore.
There is so much more to follow as the best is yet to come.
“You’re a Christian woman, you have to be strong. And, sometimes, God allows us to go through a situation to become the woman that He wants us to be…”
-Ariane, encouraging me.
This is a very special edition of Let’s Convo, while I got the opportunity to chat with Ariane, Fashion Designer for the elegant AfroCentric brand Yhaniqua Lopes, many beautiful changes have occurred. Ariane was involved in a Shoot-A-Thon with a plethora of models, photographers and creative directors, and her beautiful line of swimwear and accessories ended up in a spread for Creativ Modern Magazine! For now, Let’s Convo!
S: So, first, you are preparing for a Shoot-A-Thon to be a featured designer, how did you come to design for shoot.
A: I got involved…since the first time I met Jolaina, I knew I was gonna work with her somehow.
S: Really, instantly?
Yeah because she is the type of woman that I am, we have a lot of things in common.
S: So what type of woman are YOU?
A: A go-getter! She knows that I love to see women of God working for their purpose and helping others. You know, just being whatever God wants them to be in life. I’m in love with women like that! So, when I saw her speaking on that night, at the Bible study (#JustDoItCrew, Hillsong NYC) I knew I was going to do something with her. So when she brought up that she was interested, actually I said to her, “Let’s do something NOW!” There was not a lot of mystery, it was straight to the point.
S: That’s beautiful. So let us a know a little bit about how long you have been designing. You design for the line Yhaniqua Lopes, which is a beautiful name! Why don’t you also tell us a little about the name?
A: So, Lopes is one of my last names, it is Portuguese. Yhaniqua comes from my first name, Ariane, and Yhani is my nickname, and the Qua comes from the African-American names like Shaniqua, LiQua, and names like that. So, I my friend put together my nickname, Yhani and Qua, and I loved it! I felt it was very African-American, and I am African, so the Lopes coming from Europe, added to that made it a good combination.
S: It’s very global! So what’s the inspiration for your line and how long have you been designing?
A: So I’ve been designing for 3 years, almost 4 years now. unbelievable. I started in Miami and I love a Chanel vintage look, and I try to design all my collections based on that. A chic, elegant, feminine look, as well as my country [Angola], and my continent, Africa. I use a lot of African and African inspired fabrics, that’s the majority of the fabrics that I use. So basically a symbiosis of African inspiration and vintage Chanel.
S: That’s a beautiful combination, you do design very elegant pieces, I’ve had the opportunity to look at your collections and I look forward to getting to style some of your pieces!
With your inspiration coming stemming from Africa and vintage Chanel, how do you feel your line and your brand go in line with your purpose with what God has for you?
A: Besides just designing clothes, I also promote Proverbs 31:30, which talks about the beauty of a woman. That beauty passes away, but if you are a woman of God, you shall be praised. So, I believe that God put me in the fashion industry not only to to dress women, but also to empower them to be whatever God wants them to be in life. So, that’s basically what I do with my clothing line. I design them and promote them, but at the same time if people go to my website, they will somehow see the Proverbs 31 passage, and I hope that they get inspired by that.
S: That is absolutely beautiful! Do you just focus on womenswear?
A: Yes, that’s the purpose that God put in my heart.
S: So, you’re also developing a streetwear line! So tell us a little about that. What’s the purpose and the goal of your new line? (I had the opportunity to style her new motivational streetwear!)
A: So, basically the streetwear line will convey the message that God has put in my heart for those women. Whatever He tells me, whenever He talks to me in my meditation time or the vision and instructions that He gives to me, I believe that by having a streetwear line, allows me to share the message. Rather than just Proverbs 31, I can tell them how to be that woman, and become that woman of God. So, in all my business, I have messages, and phrases that teaches women something, or tells them how to get to their purpose.
S: That’s extremely uplifting, I love that you are empowering and motivating and with your brand! Thanks so much for sharing and we can’t wait to see what more you have in store!
But wait, loves, there’s so much more to this story and how I connected with this designer and what’s next for us! Follow along to Part Deux! In the meantime, you can follow Ariane’s incredible brand, Yhaniqua Lopes, on Facebook and Instagram!