Seoul Fashion Week and Frieze Seoul join forces this week, with WE11DONE at the epicenter, hosting their much-anticipated runway show at the K-pop Square in Coex, where Frieze is also taking place. Although not exactly a debut, since the brand had its first runway show during the Fall/Winter 2020 menswear season in Paris, brand manager Youngjin Kim regards this as their first show post a series of internal restructurings and a soft yet decisive relaunch of the label post-pandemic.
WE11DONE’s journey has been far from ordinary. Despite having its first runway show in Paris in 2020, the brand underwent several internal changes and restructurings due to the pandemic. This led to a soft but decisive relaunch of the label. As Youngjin Kim, the brand manager, explained in a Zoom call from their Seoul studio, “we don’t even remember what it was like before 2020.”
The decision to stage their comeback show in Seoul was intentional and strategic. “Everyone is looking at Korea right now,” Kim observed, acknowledging the global interest in K-pop and the move by Western brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Bottega Veneta, Dior, Saint Laurent, and Celine to capitalize on this popularity by staging shows in South Korea or appointing its stars as ambassadors. “It’s the right time for us to do a show, and it felt right to do it here,” she added.
The theme of “home” was central to the collection. Kim described it as a celebration of their childhoods in Korea, with interpretations of their memories woven into the garments. Creative director Jessica Jung, who usually builds her collections around an art reference, chose the work of artist Do Ho Suh for this season. “He is known for creating architectural pieces that turn memories into spaces,” Kim explained. “We want to turn memories into clothes.”
This concept translated into a runway show set in an empty gallery, with art pieces represented by garments that encapsulated memories (this artistic approach is where the Frieze connection came into play). A heather gray dress, inspired by a blanket and draped around the body as a child would, linoleum wood printed flooring used as a print on jersey and on boxy tops, and a circle skirt pleated and presented without a waistband – “like when you make pleats as a kid,” were some of the standout pieces. Additionally, a series of optic white separates in crinkly fabric were playfully inventive. The designers inserted paper between the cotton outer shell and the lining, giving each crease on the material more texture. The rest of the lineup featured curvaceous yet flattened jeans and knits, giving the WE11DONE collection a paper doll-like charm, albeit slightly obscure. While it may be challenging to envision these pieces off the runway, that is part of what makes them special. As evidenced by the attendance of celebrities like rapper G-Dragon, influencer Irene Kim, and model Lee Soo-hyuk, niche is a good place to be.
Kim explained a few lovely boxy trompe l’oeil jackets and skirts with embossed details, such as a flower, pockets, a tie, a belt, as a “celebration of the mix of something real and something that will disappear, familiar things turning into memories or going away.” Each piece encapsulates a memory, but like memories, they do not always present themselves in their truest form. The proportions seem reimagined by a child: slightly off and somewhat naive. As we age and reminisce, we are bound to misremember a detail or two, but that is the charm of remembrance – there is nothing like our own version of the story.