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The fashion show must go on

Sept. 19, 2020 - 16:00 By Song Seung-hyun
The second part of A.Bell’s VR fashion show explains the brand and the technology used in the show (Naver TV)

Models strutting and posing on the runway in a hall packed with celebrities and fashion industry movers and shakers. A crowded backstage where makeup artists stand tightly next to models, applying colorful eye shadow and lipstick.

This year, it may be difficult see any of these scenes unfold as the COVID-19 pandemic has halted on-site fashion shows. In their place, the fashion industry has begun to embrace online shows.

The Korea Creative Content Agency was the first to adapt to the “new normal.” The agency held KDFW 2020: Kocca Digital Fashion Week from Aug. 15 to 23 during which a total of nine participating Korean brands -- Kijun, Moon Lee, A.Bell, Vegan Tiger, The Studio K, Fayewoo, C-zann E, Mskn2nd and Sserpe -- streamed their fashion show on online platform Naver TV.

“With our aim to approach fashion as content and not just a textile business, we started a project to support 30 brands create video content this year. Around 80 brands applied for the project,” KOCCA official Lee Dong-ha said. “We found that nine of them wanted to create content in a fashion show format. So we decided to hold a fashion week event.“

Rather than holding the show in a conventional fashion show format, local brand The Studio K employed a look book video format, with the video featuring not only its clothing but also details such as the fabrics used and the available sizes.

“This season we created content that is both a runway video and stills with detailed information about the look next to them, The Studio K CEO Hong Hye-jin explained in KOCCA’s fashion show video.

A.Bell, on the other hand, showcased its collection using virtual reality technology.

“We are the first in Korea to apply this technology to fashion,” A.Bell CEO Kim Bo-min told The Korea Herald. “I have been questioning why the fashion industry is so slow in accepting new technologies even before the coronavirus broke out.”

“I think that this online show cannot replace fashion shows completely but it can be a supplementary measure,” Kim said.

Digital fashion week: the new norm?

While this year’s event was KOCCA’s first digital fashion week, the agency is looking forward to continuing with the online format.

“Since we are moving toward the ‘untact’ era, we hope to continue holding this kind of fashion show next year as well,” KOCCA official Lee said.

The fashion industry’s eyes are now on the upcoming biannual Seoul Fashion Week, which is set to begin on Oct. 20.

The organizer of the event, the Seoul Design Foundation, has waived participation fees in consideration of the financial difficulties suffered by fashion houses due to the ongoing pandemic.

In February, Seoul Design Foundation announced the cancellation of the fall/winter 2020 Seoul Fashion Week, scheduled to take place March 17-21, as the novel coronavirus spread escalated in Korea.

The sudden cancellation did not leave the organizer sufficient time to prepare an alternative event. The foundation’s choice was to promote brands by creating 49 short videos, with the foundation funding the video productions.

This time, Seoul Design Foundation is considering holding the upcoming spring/summer 2021 Seoul Fashion Week event through an online channel.

A.Bell and AIVAR CEO Kim Bo-min (A.Bell)

[INTERVIEW] A.Bell blends technology, fashion

Women’s fashion brand A.Bell is not hesitant to adapt to “new normal.” On the opening day of KDFW 2020: Kocca Digital Fashion Week, the Korean brand presented a fashion show video created using VR technology.

Although the brand only had three weeks to prepare the VR show, it was possible due to A.Bell CEO Kim Bo-min’s background as a developer at local mobile software solution company MCubeWorks. In June 2019, Kim also founded the fashion tech startup AIVAR.

A.Bell was responsible for preparing the collection and directing the show’s setting, while AIVAR developers worked on applying VR technology.

“Since we did not have sufficient time, we worried a lot. But we are quite satisfied with how our prototype turned out,” Kim said during a phone interview with The Korea Herald.

A.Bell Creative Director Choi Byoung-doo, who also directed the VR fashion show, noted that while innovative technology is important in holding online fashion shows, it is also crucial to come up with artistic details that can fascinate the audience. 

A.Bell Creative Director Choi Byoung-doo (A.Bell)

“Two weeks before the launch, I reviewed our VR fashion show and was not impressed at all. It was like a commercial movie. No matter how much capital the producers put in, if audiences do not enjoy them, it is a failure,” Choi said. He added that he had to make adjustments to a number of factors that affect the show such as running time, lights, and music.

With the two companies working together, A. Bell successfully presented 12 sets of clothing under the theme “Post-genderism.”

“Through this collection, I wanted to blur the line that divides two different genders,” Choi said. “I used ties in all sets of clothing and designed oversized jackets, which are often used in creating a man’s silhouette.”

A.Bell CEO Kim will continue to work on advancing technology used for the fashion business.

“We see Seoul Fashion Week, which takes place in October, being held without an audience. So we are preparing to present a more advanced VR fashion show that can take the world by surprise,” Kim said.

“AIVAR is also working to create a platform next year not only for A.Bell but for other fashion brands as well. On this platform, any brand will be able to easily go through the process of casting avatar models and producing and conducting a show,” he added.

By Song Seung-hyun (