Korean brand pushbutton was never really conventional. But this season, the runway show that introduced the SS17 collection was peculiar – for two main reasons.
The first reason is a purely fashion-related question. I couldn’t help but feel a disconnection between the looks. Don’t get me wrong, I actually found the collection interesting and aesthetically pleasing! However, it felt like walking through a wildly curated museum exhibition. I was a little confused until I read a post on fashionseoul.com disclosing the story behind the show (it’s super hard to find relevant contents for Korean fashion shows, I swear). Designer Park Seung Geon, this season, reinterpreted her previous collections into a leisure-ish summer mood. The concept word, the title of the collection was ‘Ready-Made’. The process hiding behind this word is rather pertinent in understanding the SS17 collection of pushbutton. According to history of arts, the idea of ‘Ready-Made’ first became consistent during the 20th century – it was artist Marcel Duchamp who introduced it via two projects. These projects that Duchamp qualified of ‘Ready-Made’ were the draft to what would later become an etiquette in contemporary arts. But what is ‘Ready-Made’ exactly? It’s about the artist adding their personal touch onto an item that they didn’t create – mostly manufactured goods actually. Duchamp, for example, had just added his signature to a bottle that he had previously acquired and that became art. The topic was at the time rather controversial, it still is today, and it can roughly be considered a movement in contemporary arts although must also not be ignored.
Back to Park Seung Geon’s idea of ‘Ready-Made’-ing her work. The lack of coherence between most looks – I will give you that no collection’s coherence is obvious but there is usually a stronger narrative to it than ‘summer vibes’ – comes from the fact that she went through her archives to recreate a new, cheerful resort atmosphere via recycling. An initiative that, despite confusing at first, could easily be praised in today’s fashion (and especially Korean) industry where the thing of yesterday is tossed today to never be seen again especially not tomorrow. This problem, which used to be exclusive to fast-fashion has become more and more present inside runway fashion companies too, especially given the fact that fast-fashion had made its move towards a catwalk invasion.
The second point that was even more confusing than the collection itself, was the disparity in racial representation on the runway. There is something that I would never understand, it’s when Asian designers don’t hire Asian models. The industry currently is struggling enough with representing minorities on the catwalk for local, poorly represented populations during the four major fashion weeks to go the same wrong path. It’s been Korean tradition lately to be up-to-date if not prominent on the avant-garde scene of fashion’s social and economic changes such as reuniting womenswear and menswear into one show, or resorting to celebrities to frow and promote their products. However, they’re stepping back on racial issues. And especially pushbutton, on October 20, wasn’t able to stand for a fairer, more diverse representation of all ethnicities in fashion as they only booked up to 9 Asian models out of 41 looks! How do you want the West to book your nation’s top models if you’re not even doing it yourself? Financial aspect? I doubt it, but I am certainly wrong, I’m no pro on Korean or Asian modeling wages. With one Black model stepping on the catwalk, and more than 30 Western models, the line-up was far from being globalized.
When you want to compare pushbutton’s SS17 runway with other leaders such as Steve J & Yoni P (which we start to know better in Occident) you get a bigger picture of the exception. Steve J & Yoni P booked Asian models only, for relatively smaller collection. Beyond Closet too, is known for its shows walked by Korean super stars of modeling and acting only. Maybe pushbutton was trying to stand out from the crowd of countless designers pursuing differentiation, but the move wasn’t smooth in 2016. I am by no mean saying that any runway should be exclusive to one kind of population only! I am pointing out questions that grow in more minds every day: how and when will diversity start operating on catwalks? What message is being spread when a minority-representing brand excludes its owns from its creative process? By the way, I’m writing my thesis on the subject this year.
You can check pushbutton’s whole collection on Vogue.com, here. All photos courtesy of Indigital.tv
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