trends & subculturesFriday, December 3, 2021

Global City Style Series: Seoul


A place that seamlessly blends the ancient and the modern, Seoul is the city that never stops changing. The South Korean metropolis is a destination built on contrasts — think urban aesthetics alongside green spaces; career-driven youths brushing shoulders with those who have lived there their entire lives; eccentric buildings housing contemporary events.


It’s no surprise, then, that Seoul’s fashion is driven by the dynamic buzz of its inhabitants. Initially spearheaded by K-pop groups, heritage brands from Balenciaga to Gucci were the names on everyone’s lips. Meanwhile, homegrown talents including Gentle Monster and AMBUSH developed innovative strategies to carve a new identity. From services that were led by artificial intelligence, robots and the internet, South Korea rethinks traditional retail and propels itself into a fast-paced future.


Now a cultural zeitgeist of its own accord, Seoul is gaining momentum within fashion, music and beauty spheres. Typified by a clean, polished style, Seoulites come from a city that embraces the unknown — making them experts at adapting their clothing, bags and shoes to the environment they find themselves in.


From the city that never settles, Ines Kim talks us through their favorite designer brands right now, how Seoul shapes their style and how their personal experience as both a doctor and digital creator reflects the city’s recurring juxtapositions. 

Ines Kim (a.k.a. Chilli) (@chilli_k) (They)

Doctor of Korean Medicine and Digital Creator, based in Seoul, South Korea. They wear a LOW CLASSIC jacket and wide-leg trousers, along with Maison Margiela Tabi toe boots and a KHAITE tote bag.


Please tell us why you chose the FARFETCH piece you are wearing. What do you like about this brand?


I’m wearing a brown suit from LOW CLASSIC, an iconic Seoul-based label. Every season, the brand shows refined looks with simple yet classic designs, elegant silhouettes and witty details. I think this tailored suit displays simplicity in tone and the heavy material embodies the Seoul woman’s quintessential style.


How would you describe the fashion style of your city? How has the city influenced your style?


Most Seoulites are agile and smart. They’re quick to grasp and follow trends, and the same applies for fashion and beauty. You can easily see what’s trending by looking at the fashion of Seoulites. As much as they appreciate beautiful things, they’re also meticulous. Whether they wear street brands or designer brands (regardless of their style), they take good care of clothing. Also, they fully comprehend manners, attitudes, and TPOs (wearing clothes based on Time, Place, and Occasion).


Although there are some negative stereotypes that Koreans care too much about how others see them, I find this attitude rather fascinating as it means they always try to understand the situation and place when choosing a look/style in order to enjoy the atmosphere in an appropriate manner.

What do you love most about living in Seoul?


Seoul is a dense city that reflects the history over time, and Seoulites are used to crossing the boundaries of time. They consume the most up-to-date natural wines and music within an outdated commercial building where the hand-picked lights and chairs from designer brands harmonize. They remember the fierce history while taking a walk through the quiet historic places like Jongmyo Shrine and old palaces.


Deoksugung Palace (where the shoot took place) is one of those places. Its famous Stonewall Walkway, one of the most popular promenades for Seoulites, is a place where you can see fallen leaves in fall. Above all, there are beautiful buildings that Seoulites adore.


Where do you shop for fashion in Seoul?


Some big brands’ flagship stores have newly opened in Seoul in recent years. I prefer shopping at flagship stores rather than department stores because not only can I see more variety, but I also appreciate the space reflecting each fashion house’s philosophy. I’m inspired by these world-class architectures designed to align with each brand’s heritage. A few of the recent openings include Gucci House, Jean Nouvel’s Dolce & Gabbana, Frank Gary’s Maison Louis Vuitton, Christian de Portzamparc’s elegant House of Dior and Peter Marino’s CHANEL, which is reminiscent of Gabrielle Chanel’s apartment. 


I like shopping at boutiques that are highly curated such as 10 Corso Como Seoul, BOONTHESHOP and ADEKUVER. Also, I like pre-owned shops such as SELVAGE PROJECT where I can see the Creative Director’s authentic point of view and feel their passion toward the shop. 

Which wardrobe staples make up the foundations of a typical Seoul wardrobe by different seasons?


Although the four seasons in Seoul are not as distinct as they used to be, you can still appreciate them all. Starting with spring, I would recommend Alessandra Rich’s lovely colored cardigan for picnics at Hangang Park and Yongsan Park, and Cecilie Bahnsen’s lightweight dresses for a humid summer. As layering is essential in between seasons these days, Lemaire’s relaxed trench coat is a must-have piece in the fall. 


When Seoulites are busy working, attending parties and celebrating events, I recommend a versatile piece to wear from late fall to holiday season. For example, Jil Sander’s quality cashmere tailored coat, which can be worn not only for the office but also for parties.


What’s your favorite season to dress for in Seoul and why?


Fall is my favorite season because it is characteristic of the city. Brimming with contrasts, Seoulites also embrace this duality in their style.


Nature always co-exists in Seoul so the scenery is the most beautiful in fall. Also, I prefer fall/winter season pieces including chunky knitwear, leather skirts and trench coats.


What motivates you to do completely different jobs as a doctor and a digital creator? Does your style change when doing two different jobs?


In fact, the biggest driving force is that they have nothing in common. I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy fashion in such a fun and interesting way if the two fields weren’t completely different. 


In the practice of medicine, I definitely prefer a classic and formal style like Totême knitwear and JOSEPH trousers. Also, the occupation of a Korean medicine doctor itself portrays a conservative image.


As a digital creator, I tend to go for bolder designs, trend-driven pieces and various color palettes. From a Magda Butrym bodysuit to Jacquemus crop knitwear and CHANEL boots. It’s clearly different, but I think both are styles that express my identity well.

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