This is the seventh and last part of a series of articles reviewing Korea's culture scene this year. - Ed.
By Kim Hoo-ran
Perhaps one of the most obvious fashion trends this year was the prevalence of denim, especially premium jeans - the high-end jeans that cost upwards of 300,000 won and more. No longer an office taboo, women in particular have embraced premium jeans as a fashion staple, dressing them up or down to suit the occasion.
The more relaxed attitude toward dressing is apparently a by-product of the expanded five-day work week. The new lifestyle afforded by the five-day work week translated into a more casual approach to dressing as people sought clothes that could carry them seamlessly from work to play mode.
No longer an office taboo, women in particular have embraced premium jeans as a fashion staple.
The adult casual wear sector has been growing steadily in the casual wear market, which accounts for 33 percent of the total clothing market, according to a recent report by the Samsung Fashion Institute. Brands and products aimed at the 40-50 age group have been on the increase, the report noted. Gone are the days when men wore their sartorial uniform of dark suit, white dress shirt and safe tie day in and day out. In fact, with more men becoming fashion conscious and willing to express their individuality through clothes, Seoul streets have lightened up somewhat.
In the latter half of the year, ubersexual replaced metrosexual as the key word in men's fashion, boosted by the meteoritic rise of Daniel Henney
, a model-came-actor, the ubersexual icon. No longer content to be just pretty men, males have taken on the strong, confident man personna with faultless style and excellent manners as their ideal. The new-found fashion confidence of men expressed itself in the popularity of velvet jackets and fur jackets and coats, previously unthinkable among fashion-timid Korean men.
For women, the year 2005 was all about romanticism. From the romantic ethnic mood in the first half of the year to the Victorian and Russian look in the second half, romance was in the air. Voluminous full skirts with romantic details in bright colors and boleros set the fashion trend. Mixed and layered look, though not the most flattering for the average Korean figure, was popular as part of the ethnic look.
The first half of the year saw pastel and vivid colors flood the streets but the mood has turned somewhat somber now with black making a very strong comeback in the latter half of the year.
Residents of Seoul on the north side of the Han River finally got high-end department stores after being treated like second-class citizens for years. March saw the opening of the much-anticipated Avenuel, the luxury department store operated by Lotte which also owns the more mass-oriented Lotte Department Store. This was followed by the opening of the expanded Shinsegae Department Store in August, giving shoppers in northern Seoul more options.
Another noticeable trend when it comes to shopping is the prevalence of independent shops that sell a variety of brands in one outlet. While earlier shops specialized in premium jeans and unfamiliar imported brands, "concept shops", as they are called, now also feature accessories as well as clothing. Even department stores now run their own concept shops with department store buyers having a bigger say in what gets carried at their stores.
Cross-promotion between the fashion sector and other industries enjoyed a boom this year. Fashion and information and technology gadgets created a synergy effect as fashion brands came up with items that exploited the popularization of technical gadgets. The IT sector, for its part, saw the partnership with fashion brands as a way of boosting the prestige appeal of their products.
Fashion shows were a venue for showcasing the latest IT products as was the case with a KUHO fashion show where the models paraded down the catwalk showing off the latest Samsung mobile phone. In some instances, fashion designers had an even bigger say in the development of IT gadgets. Designers Anna Sui, Betsey Johnson and Diane von Furstenberg, for instance, collaborated with Samsung in designing cell phones that became instant hits.
International celebrities became a fixture in fashion advertisements this year. Casual brand Beanpole signed up Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow to lend the fashion brand's luxury Collection Line a touch of glamour. Also appearing on Korean commercials are actresses Drew Barrymore and Jessica Alba.
A number of Korean celebrities also made forays into the lucrative home shopping and online shopping markets. Actress Hwang Shin-hye
launched a line of lingerie while singer Koo Jun-hyup started a casual brand "G-Limit" that is being sold on home shopping channels.