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!
Question: What do you do when the shoes you want don’t exist in your size? Answer: Start a label that seeks to remedy that, boldly at that. Emerging shoe designer, NiK Kacy, just worked their way into the scene with a stunning line of shoes that scream sexy, cool, and confident, and speaks across the sexes and gender norms, presenting at Rainbow Fashion Week, and took a moment to speak with me!
S: So, NiK, I’m seeing gorgeous shoes that you’ve designed, so far only flats? Is that your niche?
N: The first collection is masculine centered and inspired. Basically, I started with what I’ve always wanted. What I’ve always wanted were more masculine shoes that fit my feet. But, spending all of my life going to stores and being told they don’t have my size, because I’m always one size too small for the male shoe, just made me realize how under represented we were, as a community, as a people, and how we identify.
S: Who is someone you draw inspiration from?
N: There are many people I draw inspiration from on a daily basis, and general basis. In life, love and all I do, I draw from my family who raised me – mainly my grandmother, mom and (step)father. They instilled in me the belief in working hard, never cutting corners and to always
strive for excellence in everything I do. They also taught me to treat others with love, kindness and generosity.
I also draw a lot of my personal and professional inspiration from the wonderful friends in my life. Friends like dapperQ’s 2016 top 100 Most Dapper fashionista Mindy Dawn Friedman and androgynous model Mack Dihle who are so genuine in their approach to their respective crafts while using their influence to help increase visibility for our community. Of course, being a queer designer and passionately active in my community, I am surrounded by many peers who inspire me each day who work in all sorts of fields that make up our beautiful community. I feel very blessed to be part of the movement we are in right now. We’ve come a long way and we have much more to go but I believe in us and together we will make a positive impact and create positive change.
S: So, how did you get started?
N: I went to Europe, I set out to learn how to get into the shoe industry.
S: That’s incredible! You, just went after it.
N: Yeah, I went to shoe factories, and tanneries, and all different manufacturers of all the different places that make shoes. Then I found myself an agent, and I started designing.
N: So, when I sat down to first design, I designed every shoe I’ve ever wanted.
S: I feel like that’s what we do as designers, we design from what we’ve always wanted, the voids we’ve seen.
S: So, that’s beautiful. I totally identify. It’s hard to find a good pair of flats that are more masculine, or dressy in way that’s not overtly “feminine.” Or, even a nice pair of oxfords, because God knows, I’ve looked.
N: The whole concept is about making something for everybody. Not just masculine presenting, but everyone. All of my sizing is for everyone. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, or how you identify, you should be able to fit in my shoes. I started with a size US 3 1/2 Women’s, all the way to a US Men’s 14. That’s the range I’m going with. As I can develop more, I’ll do a wider range, but for now, that’s a very big range already. No other shoe company, I believe, does that range.
S: Had you done any [fashion] design work before you decided to start designing shoes?
N: No. My background is in art, fine arts. I was a painter and sculptor, and I did graphic design. So, I’ve definitely always been a creative. But, I knew nothing about fashion design. I knew what I liked, so I just drew whatever I liked. And now, I’m actually working on my next collection, which is feminine centered. It will be high heels, also flats. The masculine styles that I will be making will have more height in the heel with more of a feminine touch…
S: Will it be similar to creepers, that have added height to menswear shoes the past few seasons?
N: It will be more about the heel. Like flamenco dancers. Very sexy and sensual, but androgynous. They will be very gender equal, very gender neutral, and very androgynous. And the high heels are going to be inspired by this concept of combining the gender identities and making something that you should be able to wear no matter who you are.
S: I noticed your show employed models of varying sexualities, races, and genders. It was very refreshing to see such diversity on a runway, and lack of diversity and underrepresentation in the Fashion Industry is something I stress on my blog. As a Person of Color, did you cast your models with the intention of representing so many spectrums of people?
N: Absolutely! As a triple-threat minority (as I like to call it), being Asian-female born-trans/queer person, I have always felt it was important to represent all different types of people. my footwear line is the epitome of this belief as I created a gender-equal line for all identities. On the runway, I wanted my shoes to be worn by human beings from all across the spectrum – whether it be age, color, gender, body shape and size, sexuality – it’s all about body positivity and how we need to remember to celebrate all that makes us beautiful in our own unique way. Our tagline – walk your way – means exactly that… we want everyone to be able to walk their own way in our shoes. Together, I believe we can all walk together and make a positive change in our world.
S: With your stress on beautiful and inclusion-centered design, do you find yourself evolving or restructuring ideas of masculinity, femininity and gender-fluidity as you interact with and get responses from clients about their needs as well?
N: as I build my business, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many people who, like me, have also lived their lives feeling under-represented by the fashion industry. Because of these relationships I’ve built along the way, I have also evolved in the way I want to create my brand and products. In truth, I’ve actually also experienced a shift in my own identity, and what makes me most authentic. A lot of it has to do with my own transition and growth into my authentic body. In the beginning there was a lot of pressure to choose a pronoun. I felt a bit forced to have to take on a specific gender or have to leave behind a former one. However, having been exposed to so many different shades of queers, I learned that its ok to allow myself to push back from the peer and societal pressures and be comfortable being all the various parts that make up who I am. I will never leave behind my lesbian community because that is a huge part of my herstory and make up the person that I am today. I love how the Queer community has grown into so many colors of the spectrum, although sometimes I feel it can be confusing and stressful for folks to understand. And though I am a strong proponent of diminishing the segregation that exists in the LGBTQ community, I also respect all the various groups within the community. I believe that ultimately the greatest part of who we are is that we are all humans. Making my shoes and accessories allows people of all identities to not only choose how they can best express themselves authentically but also to feel that they matter.
Seriously, my loves, I am drooling over these shoes and the courage that came from the designer that created them. Brands that go beyond design, and seek to represent the underrepresented. I love it, and can’t wait to see this designer grow. NiK Kacy is definitely a designer to watch. You can buy their shoes at NikKacy.com, and follow the shoe journey on Insta: @NiKKacyFootwear
There’s the slightest chill in the air in New York, and after Summer’s brutal Hail Mary in her last days, Fall is finally here. And why, exactly, does that matter? Well, aside from the obvious Pumpkin Spice Fanatics trolling around The City, it also means NYFW has come, and gone. Now that endless fashion parties have jumped continents, and the countless sponsors have followed, there’s finally time to really dwell on the shows of the season. And while there is a sea of opinion amongst mag editors, newspaper journalists and bloggers still raving about their favs from NYFW, I’d rather discuss the underdogs. Actually, the underdogs of the typical underdogs. Instead of the new kids on the block, I’d rather discuss the ones who came to the block with a little help from their friends, and generous tuition payments.
Academy of Art University celebrated it’s 10th year anniversary for their appearance at New York Fashion Week, showcasing the latest talent the college has to offer. While there were some great pieces in every capsule collection presented, I fell for the clean details, and immaculate presentation of Merzhad Hemati’s graduate collection.
I’ve worked in fashion long enough to get bored all too easily. Hyper-commercialization has dampened the span of creativity in many an artist. However, that’s a rant for another day. Suffice it to say, that this monochrome collection offers mature structure and order, to a season typically marked by youthful frivolity. Hemati’s eye for design is evident, as captures all 3 dimensions and hangs them harmoniously on the female form. In a collection marked by lines that pull the eye away from said female form, Hemati manages to still imply femininity and movement by expertly draping and manipulating the form. Echoes of menswear bounce throughout the collection, and still, Hemati’s use of menswear elements seems to imply that, though inspired, women still do it better. The clothing is easily wearable, broken down into parts for that Wall Street Darling looking for a bit of structured badass in her wardrobe, or worn together for a woman who seeks to unapologetically draw the eye. Either way, I’m sold.