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A New Generation of Beautiful Loners Is Changing Seoul Fashion for the Better

It is just after midnight in Seoul, and the streets in Itaewon have flooded with local kids hopping between clubs. Shots of flavored vodka and soju are passed around, tossed down throats and into tumblers of beer, and everyone dances together until sunrise in concrete rooms that smell of sweat. It is this carefree image of Korean youth culture that has persisted until now. Yet 20 minutes away in Yeonnam-dong, a quieter picture of rebellion has emerged: of 20-somethings, sitting alone in a café with a glass of wine and finding freedom in ordinary solitude. “Nae mam daero” has become their rallying cry—“my way”—and it is one reason why Seoul fashion is on the cusp of a new creative high.

2017 was the year that the honjok, or loner, movement fully took root in Seoul; there are now more Koreans living alone than in couples or families. Already an alien concept (it is standard to live with parents until marriage), the communal city has been shaken by so much more. There is honsul (drinking alone) and honbap (eating alone) and a slew of little wine bars and hole-in-the-wall diners have popped up in Yeonnam-dong to cater to them—one can sit in a tidy cubicle with a private grill, turning single servings of short rib in front of a personal TV set. Last fall, a popular TV drama called Honsul, or Drinking Solo, riffed on the trend, and there is an entire magazine called Singles: “a fashion and lifestyle magazine that helps single people to be happy and proud in their choice.”

As with all things in Korea, it is impossible to separate this new independence movement from politics. It began last summer at Ewha Women’s University with the young women who launched peaceful protests against a corrupt official with ties to then–President Park Geun-hye. They had always lived by the book, yet those same rules never applied to those in power. Fed up with the status quo, their voices grew so loud that they ultimately toppled her government. Then there’s the looming presence of North Korea, whose threatening existence is so deeply embedded in daily life. But the rise of Donald Trump caused a shift: When things could collapse at any moment, the kids seemed to say, Why waste another second toeing the line?

It takes shape in small ways: a solo trip to the movies, skipping the office happy hour for a night at home. There is some concern among the older generation that the youths have become too focused on the self by moving away from community and family. There is always some danger in too much isolation. It’s one reason why many honjok have joined up, creating common kitchens and cooking collectives to thrive together, yet apart. Ultimately, it’s about taking time for yourself. It’s about letting go of society’s pressures—to get married by a certain age, to work for a steady salary, to never ask questions—and caring less what others think.

This spirit pulses through the artistic heart of Seoul. It is in model Ahreum Ahn, one of the coolest girls in the city, who chose to buck tradition and move out of her family home and into a cozy Cheongdam studio to further her dreams. She is shot here by Young Jun Koo, himself a self-made photographer living on his own in Hannam-dong, shooting street editorials by day and zipping off on a motorbike to a gaming café by night.

It can be found at Rare Market, a concept shop whose owners, Jessica Jung and Dami Kwon, have the most rebellious buy in the city, including the sorts of covetable labels (Attico, Facetasm, Eckhaus Latta) that local department stores would have never stocked. Now, they guide the trends. At Parc, a restaurant and hub for the fashion crowd, owner Pak Mogua set up a raw, intimate space—so unlike the chichi bistros of the time—to deliver the simple home cooking that singles might miss from their mother’s kitchens. Tucked into a corner with a bottle of soju and a bowl of stewed beef, it is the perfect spot to be alone.

More importantly, this new feeling is guiding the country’s most promising designers—Bajowoo of 99%IS-, Hyein Seo, Goen Jong of Goen.J, Sarah Cho of Scho Studio, and so many more, who refuse to work within set boundaries. They are paving their own way, and so their designs stand strong beside the best emerging talent from around the world. Breaking free is a beautiful thing.Read more at:uk prom dresses | formal dresses


Here’s the Best Street Style From Afropunk Festival in London

Rhythm, color, curiosity and rawness. Take a cursory glance over the Afropunk Festival mission statement and from those four words alone it’s easy enough to gauge a sartorial insight into those who patron the yearly event.

2016 Elegant Long Champagne Tailor Made Evening Prom Dresses (LFNDB0013)

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Since its inception back in 2005, Afropunk has mushroomed from a one-off music festival in New York into an indispensable component of contemporary African-American culture: its significance acutely amplified in 2016 thanks to the modern political and social climate.

Despite being ostensibly incompatible, fashion and music festivals have become inextricably linked in recent years, with the likes of Coachella and Glastonbury now viewed by celebrities as a window for posturing on par with any fashion week. Yet while Afropunk is not exempt from its share of paparazzo, the festival’s core values of anti-homophobia, sexism, ageism and, of course, racism, sets it apart from its peers in that such freedom for self-expression is tempered by rich values and tolerance, rather than empty vanity. Or, as organizers themselves put it: “In a world where it can feel unsafe to have black skin, the amazement from onlookers made you remember the beauty in your carefree blackness.”

With the likes of Grace Jones, Young Fathers, Goldlink and SZA all slated to perform, Afropunk London was primed to TU. And one doesn’t TU fully if one isn’t wearing one’s best garms.

Check our shots of the best street style from the weekend in the gallery above, and then let us know in the comments who you think had more steeze. London or New York?

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Denim and the City

Local designer Vanessa Froehling has denim on the brain. Stonewashed, herringbone print, chambray, stretch and black denim, to be sure.

In her home studio, Froehling flips through hangers of designs, including sailor-style high-waisted women’s shorts, a men’s blazer and a women’s jumpsuit.

Vanessa Froehling, left, auditioning for FashioNXT in July. Photo courtesy Jeff Wong.

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“It’s something that’s in everyone’s closet and it will never go out of style,” says Froehling of the French-born fabric (denim’s etymology comes from “de Nîmes,” the French town where Levis Strauss first procured the tough cotton twill for your 501s). But, she adds, “people are stuck on what denim can do.”

The line is called Carpe Denim and it’s Froehling’s entry into FashioNXT (self-described as “Portland’s Official Fashion Week”) — not to be confused with Portland Fashion Week — three days and nights of runway shows in early October. She will present Carpe Denim in the UpNXT competition, the “emerging designers accelerator,” alongside four other Pacific Northwest designers the evening of Oct. 5.

The fashion week has a cozy relationship with Project Runway, the fashion-designer reality show running since 2004, and, in fact, two of the judges assessing the competition are Seth Aaron (winner of Project Runway season 7) and Michelle Lesniak (winner of season 11).

In 2015, Froehling applied to both Portland Fashion Week and FashioNXT, but was only accepted by the former that time. She says auditioning in front of the FashioNXT judges was intimidating.

“My nerves were like, ‘What do I do with my hands?’” Froehling says, shaking her hands by her sides and laughing. The judges were tough, she recalls, and they recommended that she develop the marketability and cohesion of her line.

Over the past year, she took their advice to heart and decided she would try out again, this time with a denim ready-to-wear line, a departure from the couture gowns that have distinguished her style. She took inspiration from the city — recalling watching the denizens of Portland walk by, falling in love with their street-wear style — and the layers of people, buildings and traffic.

Eight jean looks — five for women and three for men — will walk the runway, but rest assured, this will be no orgy of Canadian tuxedos. Although denim is the common thread, the designs feature smart juxtapositions against black leather and a colorful textile that looks like a cross between gas puddles and graffiti.

The self-taught designer has also developed several innovative details: a woman’s denim peplum jacket that unzips at the waist, transforming it into a more casual cropped jacket; women’s stretch leather pants that zip open at the knee, a nod to ripped jeans; and a men’s chambray shirt with the illusion of a double collar creating a fresh origami effect.

This summer, the judges welcomed Froehling on the FashioNXT train.

Froehling says one judge told her that she’s the first designer to return the following year to try out again after being rejected.

“It’s the highest fashion production in Oregon,” she says.

The winner will be announced at the after-party Oct. 5, and the prize package secures a spot for the designer in the main runway show in 2017 and includes business mentorships, feature stories inPortland Monthly and Portland Mercury, and a strategic marketing course at Portland Fashion Institute.

Look for photos of Froehling’s Carpe Denim line from the runway on the Eugene Weekly blog after Oct. 5; the designs are under quarantine until after the runway show.

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