Does Seoul Have Seoul?

Maisie

How do you solve a problem like Tokyo?

How do catch a fashion wave and pin it down to your city?

These lyrical questions were ones asked in Seoul last week, as Se-Hoon Oh, the city’s handsome mayor–who is often considered the country’s most powerful man–presided over a press conference and asked a panel of Fashion Week attendees like trend-spotter Diane Pernet, Korean designers Steve J & Yoni P, and Style.com contributor Ana Finel Honigman, for recommendations on how to make Seoul the fifth fashion capitol city, after New York, London, Milan and Paris.

Seoul Metropolitan Government is capitalizing on its mayor’s platform of making Seoul a “clean and attractive global city” (and its designation as a World Design Capital, an award meant to honor cities that use design to revitalize and reinvent their urban environment) by trying to assert itself as the fifth global fashion city.

While it may be a stretch to think Seoul can add itself to the list of every buyer’s must-attend fashion week, there is certainly room for the Asian capital to stake its claim on the market.

Reasons why Seoul might have a shot:

Location: In between China and Japan, and equidistant from Europe and North America, it’s a great Asian epicenter

Resources: The country has existing, vast production and manufacturing resources that can be tapped

Technology: South Korea is the worlds most wired country. (Personal anecdotes illustrating this: the technology is so advanced, my Blackberry Curve wasn’t sophisticated enough to work there; practically every cell phone, even the crappy ones, have video phone on them.) If there is one thing the fashion world NEEDS to have, it’s ubiquitous high-speed internet connections.

Cultural heritage: Korea’s rich traditions are perfect fodder to stoke the creative fires behind today’s designers who need to contribute to an aesthetic that can be identified as uniquely Korean.

Korea’s intra-Asian popularity: The rest of Asia tends to look to Korea for inspiration in pop culture, especially to their celebrities and musicians.

Tokyo’s stubbornness: Tokyo is arguably the most obvious choice as Asia’s biggest fashion capitol, but with the show dates of Tokyo Fashion Week continue to conflict with those of New York City. Between the two, it is unlikely that a majority of editors and buyers will ever skip NYC in favor of Tokyo.

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