Seoul Fashion Week, Korea’s largest international fashion event consisting of Seoul Collection, Seoul Fashion Fair, Generation Next Festival and other events featuring menswear, womenswear and accessories from Mar. 26 through Apr. 2 ended on a strong note.

The Korean fashion collections, beginning in 2000 with 12 designers over three days, have grown into a week-strong celebration of fashion and the industry, accounting for about 17,000 visitors and more than 190 buyers (an increase of about 40% compared with last season) from 16 countries including the US, Japan, Austria, Russia, France, Kuweit, India, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

Hosted at the Seoul Trade Exhibition Center in Gangnam-Gu, about 45 catwalk shows took place at Seoul Collection, while more than 70 labels were presented in individual booths at Seoul Fashion Fair.

The overall tone of the F/W 2009 collections was set up by lots of black and toned down colors, accented with powerful contrasts in bold, vivid shades, either in make up or details. Wintery fabrics including wool and cashmere were mainly applied with shiny silk, transparent chiffon or lace. In addition, practical, synthetic fabrics were mixed in, creating textural contrasts. Relaxed fluid silhouettes, classic blazers and military looks dominated the mix-and-match overall styling. Dresses and pants appeared in big numbers while sensual body-conscious shapes strongly highlighted femininity.

Generally, many designers tried to pursue a level of conservatism, showing a strong commerciability in their collection and wearable designs without losing their special touch. Drawing attention were looks by the Korean design duo of Andy & Debb, which recently showed at New York Fashion Week its “Butterfly”-themed collection — the wings of the butterfly were expressed in small pleats alongside butterfly motifs in prints created with an Asian handpainted touch.

“European and American Designers are much more classic and contemporary than Koreans, who work more individually and are really good in adding a little spice in terms of details into the fashion industry,” said Lisa Makabe, owner of Metro200 in San Francisco. “There is always a nostalgic sense to it, traditional elements but professionally mixed with the modern. That’s good for my business.”

Makabe continues to work with three Korean Fashion Labels and added two new labels this season, including Hee Jeong who showed her collection for the third time at Seoul Fashion Week and drew the attention of buyers with her basic design concept.

The Generation Next Fashion Festival, a special project for nurturing new fresh faces such as Johnny hates Jazz and Paul & Alice in the fashion industry, opened at Kring Cultural Center. It presented three newcomer collections every day, followed by music and party performances.

With its main objective, to continuously strengthen business opportunities and the quality of shows by tightening its concept and with “continuous investment and support by the city,” as promised by Mayor Se-Hoon Oh at the press conference, Seoul Fashion Week is certain to grow and transform Korea into a global fashion powerhouse. At the very least, this fashion week created great expectations for future collections.

—Karin Leiberg