Talking to Korean fashion people in a cafe: An honest look inside the newly arising fashion scene

I take a few deep breaths and inhale the sugary warmth of the two-story Gangnam Pascucci cafe. Pulse throbbing in my ear, heartbeat racing through me, I sit in front of four models, two stylists, and a photographer. In my head I’m repeating my all-time mantra(which has never worked but I still do it anyways); keep cool, keepcool, keepcool oh forgodssakekeepcool! I have never really been a cool-looking, laid back person (type A humans I feel ya), and the situation of having these seven gorgeous, successful human beings before me, within two meters of my vicinity, is making my cheeks flush a deeper, embarrassing shade of vermillion-crimson.

And hey, no judging – being a fashion blogger doesn’t mean I don’t still get overexcited and nervous whenever I meet awesome, influential (and not to mention- major heartthrob material) people! Plus, these people aren’t your average fashionistas, they’re the new bomb of Korean fashion, and they’re already impressing people all over the country with their independent photoshoots, individual styles, and penetrating insights on the industry.

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Meet the emerging heroes of the Korean fashion scene, the popular Korean fashion group, Alexandergrupe.

I first got in contact through Facebook(duh, I’m basic like that) with the group’s photographer and leader, Lee Seung Jae(or Alex), who introduced me to everyone else. He’s done photography work at Seoul Fashion Week(2013~2015), the Sochi Olympics(2014), Korea Style Week(2014), and a whole other myriad of fashion labels and global design competitions. About two weeks ago I met Alex and the other models and stylist in the cafe, and we talked for an hour about modelling, fashion, personal style, and Korea. It was interesting because each person had their own story, which consequently shaped their views on fashion.

PHOTOGRAPHER/LEE SEUNG JAE(ALEX)

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K: Tell us a bit about Alexandergrupe!

ALEX: We’ve mostly all known each other for a while, and naturally we formed this group to work on projects and promote fashion. But we still all have individual careers going on, of course.

K: What is the key to Alexandergrupe’s success?

ALEX: “Our honesty toward each other. We tell each other everything about our work, and we encourage each other to compete in a fair, healthy way. We actually have, um, group chats online where we show each other our photos or inspirational images and I think this type of open communication really helps us bond as a group and work toward our goal.”

K: The use of SNS is becoming increasingly important in fashion in today’s world, and more brands are launching campaigns involving racy, controversial images. What do you think about this?

ALEX: I actually think it’s inevitable in the current fashion industry. It’s crucial for brands or designers to grasp people’s attention, especially while building a profile and credit in the industry. However, I think that when a label has reached a certain level of success, they should focus more on enriching the quality of their craft itself rather than try to appeal to people using shock value.


MODEL/LIM SUNG MIN/27

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“I studied electronic engineering in university, but I didn’t want to live a life full of repeated, monotonous daily routines, so I started modeling.”

(He’s modeled at Korea Style Week and for other clothing brands, one of them being Marc by Marc Jacobs.)

K:  So tell us, what’s it really like being a model in Korea?

SUNG MIN: I think in Korea, models like 안재현(Jae-hyun Ahn) with delicate, traditionally beautiful faces have the upper hand in the industry, since the ‘꽃미남(flower-boy: a Korean term which is the approximate equivalent of a ‘pretty boy’)’ image never really fails in the Korean model industry. But I do think that establishing your own image as a model is very important, through different sources to the public.

K: There’s a lot of international controversy these days over unattainable beauty standards, many being perpetuated by models. What do you think about that?

SUNG MIN: Models are becoming ‘celebrities’, people to be sought after, rather than solely members of the fashion community. As models are portrayed to the public in this manner, more people start to have certain expectations toward models. I reckon that’s why most people think models should be good-looking, handsome, and have star quality. I think it definitely does affect the public, especially the younger generation.


MODEL/CHOI JUNG IN/23

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K: Tell us about your personal style.

JUNG IN: I am all about comfort. It’s the best thing you can get. I love sweatpants and just anything comfortable.

(I was surprised. She looked so sophisticated and chic that I couldn’t imagine her wearing sweatpants.)

K: Cool. How did you start modeling? How is your career going so far?

JUNG IN: I’m actually studying childcare in university, but I don’t think what your major is really matters that much as a model. I haven’t had that many difficulties as a model. I’ve modeled for designers like 하상백 and 황재근, and lots of other designers including international designers. This year I won the ‘New Star Model Contest: Face of Korea’ so I get a free trip to Myanmar!

K: What’s important in being a model?

JUNG IN: “I think the most important thing would be… a person’s overall atmosphere. But looks are also important. I can’t deny that. You do need to be a certain height and your body needs to meet some physical standards for you to be able to be a model in the industry. “


MODEL/JANG MYEONG HUN/27

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(DEM CHEEKBONES. #bonestructureonfleek)

K: Where have you modeled?

MYEONG HUN: I’ve modeled for Jimmy Tailor, Korea style week, and more. I actually originally wanted to be an underwear model, haha.

K: What’s the most important thing in being a model?

MYEONG HUN: I think it’s the image that a person’s face and body can portray, but at the same time I do think that physique is important. Honestly speaking, I don’t want to say that ‘anyone can be a model’, because in current society, that’s not true. Physical standards do exist, at least in the industry.

K: Advice for future models?

MYEONG HUN:” You should definitely stick to your own image and style. Don’t be shaken by the misleading ways modeling is portrayed in the media. Find your own color and uniqueness! “


STYLIST/JUNG YONG WOO/26

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“The current Korean fashion scene needs someone who can bring about uniqueness and change the game up a bit.”

K: Where do you get your style inspiration?

YONG WOO: Mostly magazines. I flip through them to look at interesting designs. But I do things other people haven’t yet done. I try out new personal styles that no one else has tried before. I try to express my own individuality as well as the model’s.

(K: I love the fact that you focus on individuality, rather than try to follow existing trends.)

K: Tell us more about your career and future plans.

YONG WOO: Interesting fact-I originally studied computer technology, but I’m a stylist now and I work with other brands. I want to work abroad not as a stylist but as a designer in the future.


MODEL/NOH JIN WOOK/27

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(He’s modeled for 박항치(Park Hang Chi) at Seoul Fashion Week, 2013~2014. And also for other shows and brands. He’s currently starring in the musical ‘Mr.Show’. He offered me tickets but unfortunately, I am still underage so I can’t go.)

K: Wow, you’re both a model and an actor! Tell me, how are the two different, as forms of expression?

“They’re both similar in that they’re forms of expression. However, the runway is shorter, and as a model I need to express the image of the designer’s clothes within a limited amount of time, on my own. As an actor, I need to work with other actors to create a show which was already carefully planned. They’re both quite hard, though. “

K: Are there any prejudices that society has against models in general?

JIN WOOK: Sure: tall, hot, looks good but doesn’t earn money well, the industry being sexually corrupt… but that’s not true at all. Many people also seem to think that us models are stylish and are good at coordinating clothes, but, again, not true. I’m not even fashionable myself, haha.

(But he was. I loved the unique black zip-up coat he was wearing.)

K: Personal style?

JIN WOOK: I love being comfortable with my clothes. I’m a big fan of sweatpants. But it’s also important to consider the time, place, and situation that you’re dressing for. I mean, you can’t wear sweatpants to a wedding.


STYLIST/KANG HYO JEONG/24

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K: How did you get into the whole fashion business?

HYO JEONG: “Since middle school, I’ve been interested in beauty and I actually studied it at one point, but I soon realized that I wanted to be a stylist. The transition wasn’t that hard, though, since beauty and fashion are related. What I learned studying beauty actually helps me in my fashion career.”

K: What do you think of the current Korean fashion industry and of the effect of beauty standards?

HYO JEONG: I think the Korean fashion industry, as any other international fashion industry, holds certain standards, and these standards can affect the public, especially the younger generation. It’s understandable from the industry’s perspective, but then again there is a need for change.

K: What kind of person do you think the Korean fashion industry needs most right now?

HYO JEONG: Hmmm… I don’t think there’s a specific type of person. I don’t think I can identify one type.


THANK YOU to Alexandergrupe for sitting with me and talking. It was an amazing experience. Truly.

Visit their Facebook page HERE.

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