Following the cancellation of Seoul’s 2020 Fall/Winter Fashion Week, October saw the transformation into an all-digital runway where Korean designers were able to showcase their collection through online video formats. For esteemed fashion house PushButton, this digital showcase represented a move towards an inclusivity of opportunity within the fashion world, opening up a universal future for designers.
Founder of the brand, Seung-Gun Park’s previous work reflects such a vision, harking a fashion that ‘everyone can get along with.’ His latest Spring/Summer 2021 collection, titled Over the Overground, entwines the aesthetics of Korea’s history with a contemporary edge. Through statement shoulders, intricate tailoring and bright colour combinations, this latest collection translates the modern beauty of Korea into wearable functional pieces for the fast-paced world. Let the creator of PushButton take you through the motions of creating a collection fit for a digital runway, the simplicity of inspiration, and staying true to oneself.
You founded PushButton in 2010, with your debut show in the same year. What were you hoping for when you began?
I’ve thought about a lot of stories, but they're just maybe all made up, and I honestly don't remember a thing at all. Just thinking about that time makes me feel dazed. It feels like a distant past like the story before I was born.
Can you tell us more about the process in getting your pieces onto the runway? Where do you begin your creative process?
Whether it's a hobby or a routine, I watch a lot of movies, listen to music a lot, and sometimes read books. Then I focus on what I see – a memorable person, phrase, or phenomenon –, and most of them make my design starts.
To take the Fall/Winter 2018 collection for example, when I saw a documentary called Minimalism on Netflix, I thought about a life that I didn't own at that time. And I was wondering if there was a way to give people a positive message while fulfilling my professional commitment as a designer to make something. So finally, we made one item – even though it looks like wearing multiple items – to complete the collection, called Maximalism Minimalist. It's not grandiose, but it's something that happens throughout our lives.
Congratulations on your Spring/Summer 2021 show at Seoul Fashion Week. The collection is made up of so many bold and playful ideas. What can you tell us about the concept behind the collection?
As mentioned, I watch many movies and listen to music as a hobby or as a routine. Even if someone is not the main character, I’m often inspired by impressive characters and musicians. This time, I was especially interested in a female rapper on a competition programme, and I decided to make clothes for her. She’s a very unique artist named Yunhway from South Korea, and now we met up and had a drink together. Hooray!
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The collection is called Over the Overground. Where did you come up with the name?
Making a title is often easier than you think. What we were trying to express this season was not native but Korean, and very contemporary at the same time. So I came up with the word ‘overground,’ which creates a feeling of a little different world. Also, there was a moment with one of my team members, where she just said, I watched Judy yesterday, you know, Over the Rainbow. How about Over the Overground? I loved it so much, and that was how we came up with the title. It’s simpler than you thought, isn’t it?
There are elements of the aesthetic traditions of Korean fashion that are reflected in your latest collection, but with a simultaneous refreshing twist that complements an array of shapes, textures and colours. What made you decide to tie together the traditional and the modern?
People living in the 21st century have similar lifestyles, especially people who live in cities. We live very similar lives, using our cellphones, enjoying movies through OTT service, and drinking coffee more often than water. In a way, the long tradition of Korea was a culture that could be unfamiliar to me with the lifestyle of the 2000s. So I thought, is it necessary to use the Korean style and colour derived from Hanbok? Everything I feel in my contemporary life, for example, whether I make a bustier or a pair of leggings, isn't it Korean?
I approached this collection with the thought of doing it about the most modern Korean beauty of the 21st century. Then it could be more wearable pieces, such as a layered jersey top, be sleeker with jewelled buckle leggings, and be more unique with heart-shaped booties. We added Korean fantasy by using various types of art pieces.
What would you say distinguishes you from the other designers who presented at Seoul Fashion Week?
What do you think it is? Would you let me know?
South Korean fashion designers have gained more and more international momentum and intrigue over recent years, what do you think it is that has encapsulated such a grand audience?
Have you ever heard of the ‘hurry, hurry’ of Korean culture? It literally means quickly, but it’s one of the most general cultures in Korean society. Koreans tend to think that dealing with everything quickly is about being considerate or good at dealing with others.
I think that kind of culture has created the current momentum in Korean fashion. Fashion is no exception because we absorb everything quickly. Koreans quickly caught on to the world's fashion trends and created a K-style that was technically and creatively unique by adding continuous effort with their natural diligence.
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Seoul Fashion Week has been the first of its kind to make the choice to present designers for an all-digital audience. What was it like to be part of an all-digital fashion week?
I felt sorry to lose some of the aspects, but at the same time, I was excited. In fact, when I do the busy physically, I can feel the loudness of the fancy audience, the chaotic situation behind the stage, and the lively atmosphere of the nervousness that I might make a mistake. It's a shame that I can't feel it for myself, but I'm excited to think that more people can enjoy my collection more comfortably. And whether it's a world's leading house brand or a brand that starts right now, it's the first time the current system is the same for everyone. It's very refreshing to start equally on the starting line of the new paradigm.
This year has seen a huge change in how we consume and interact with fashion. Did you have to consider the digital aspect of the show when designing the pieces?
No, I didn't take it into consideration at all because we were already getting ready. Since the emergence of high-pixel cameras and the huge number of social media users, we've been focusing on clothes with the capacity for good pictures, unique details, colourful patterns, and vivid colour blocks. The world of digital fashion has arrived for many reasons, and I feel PushButtion is a brand that is inherently easy to adapt to the digital fashion world.
Your clothing has often been described as ‘gender defiant,’ which is an exciting and innovative reflection of the changing world. Did you set out with the deliberate intention of defying gender boundaries in your work?
Maybe the Spring/Summer 2021 season. I remember the slogan of a t-shirt worn by a male model said ‘I'm Not Gay’ on the front and ‘But I Love My Friends’ on the back. One of my makeup artist friends went to a gay bar in New York, forgetting that she was wearing it, and many gay people smiled and shouted, thumbs up! I was laughing when I heard that there were several friends who treated her to drinks. That's my intention. It's a fashion that everyone can get along with. She bought the clothes because she thought of her gay friends, and it made her have more gay friends. Isn't it not let's all be gay but let's all live together? I never defy. One of the slogans in my first runway was World Peace (lol).
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Have you found the concept of gender within fashion hard to shake?
Many male models in Seoul still feel uncomfortable wearing skirts or tight clothes, so I ask them in advance. Can you wear heels? Can you wear a skirt? (Laughs) Isn't it funny?
Do you think the future of fashion is genderless?
Does it need a long story? The key is whether the change of mind follows the change of appearance. Ultimately, the change that fashion wants is a change of mind. For centuries, fashion has played enough of a role to incite change, and that's the real fashion power!
Do you have any tips for other young designers setting out to develop their own brand?
I'd like to tell them not to listen to anyone's advice. As the fashion industry is developing, it has lowered the access to the production and distribution system, so if they are interested and talented, then they should do whatever they want and find the answer in it. I believe that's the only way to be sure about what they do, and then their brand will last longer.
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