Dazzling diplomacy: Seattle Hanbok fashion show celebrates 140 years of Korea-US relations

  • The “Runway to Partnership” Hanbok performance and fashion show took place on Oct. 29 at the University of Washington to commemorate 140 years of Korea and U.S. relations.
  • Hanbok were designed by brands Kumdanje, OUWR and #whysocerealz!, while performers included fusion gugak band Granada and dance crew Active Sona of SonarCompany and Deep Thought Dance, who also wore hanboks.
  • It was the third and final show of a series, with the two previous ones being invite-only and held at Seattle landmarks The Rainier Club and The Museum of Flight.

Wearing their hearts on their sleeves, models and performers came together for a Hanbok fashion show honoring 140 years of Korea and U.S. ties. 

On Oct. 29, the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Seattle held their “Runway to Partnership” Hanbok performance show at the University of Washington (UW), the finale in a trifecta series that week.   

The event featured a mélange of hanbok from design brands Kumdanje, OUWR and #whysocerealz!, who all helped in garbing the models as well as the performers. 

Performances were given by fusion gugak band Granada and dance crew Active Sona of SonarCompany and Deep Thought Dance. 

OUWR CEO and Kumdanje co-director Chang Ha-Eun estimated the event had been in the works for over half a year.

“We started planning around March or April,” she tells NextShark. “Then we came to Seattle in August to explore where we would like to have the fashion show.”

Two previous invite-only shows were held at Seattle landmarks The Rainier Club and The Museum of Flight.

“We were able to make these shows take place in some of the most memorable and meaningful areas of Washington. It’s an incredibly wonderful inspiration. We have a lot of gratitude for that,” Chang says.

Large events like this take many hands, and what was apparent from the show was the community and camaraderie of Koreans and Korean Americans. It was firstly a family affair as Chang’s mother Lee Il-soon is the CEO and designer for Kumdanje. One staffer was a UW alum and flew from Dallas to help. Families in attendance wore hanbok of their own. I was flagged down to invite friends to the reception afterward because they had an abundance of food like japchae, kimchi and tteokbokki. 

Seo Eun-ji, the 17th Consul General of the Republic of Korea Consulate General in Seattle ushered in the evening by first acknowledging the horrific Halloween tragedy in Itaewon, South Korea. 

She went on to express how far U.S. and Korean relations have developed over the last 140 years and noted soft power phenomena like BTS, “Parasite” and “Squid Game” as recent achievements. 

UW President Ana Marie Cauce added via video message that it was an honor for the school to host the event and boasted about its 5,000 Korean international students and Korean studies programs, one of the oldest in the country dating back to 1943.  

Granada kicked the show off with their blend of traditional Korean instruments and modern pop sounds, playing everything from Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” melody to ‘90s K-pop songs and their recently released original “Shocking.” Active Sona flexed their moves to both classic Korean numbers and hip-hop from the likes of Snoop Dogg to BTS’ “Butter.” The two acts would also swap throughout the show performing individually or together. 

Granada band and Active Sona dance crew

For Chang, their performances were crucial to the show. 

“In Korean culture, the three most important things are song, dance and clothing. We’re not purely showing you a fashion show. We always incorporate elements of traditional music and traditional dance such as drums and fan dancing” she says. 

But of course, the hanbok were the main attraction for many. While the performers wore contemporary iterations, both male and female models adorned garments across various historical eras of Korea suitable for royalty. Kumdanje’s hanbok has been showcased across television and film, possibly best known in Netflix’s zombie K-drama “Kingdom.”

“OUWR is a more modern, reimagined take on traditional Korean elements, it was important for us to also incorporate newer, more modern characteristics. It’s not just historical. Korea does not exist purely in the past but also exists in the future” Chang added.

One of the hanbok models and Miss Korea 2021 first runner-up Mina Sue Choi said their preparation was four hours of rehearsals the mornings of each show, except for the last one.

“I just arrived yesterday. I flew to the hotel to do rehearsals and then I went to the venue. They gave us a sheet where we would wear an outfit on day one, day two, but I didn’t check it out until this morning because I wanted to be surprised. They knew my tastes from a previous photoshoot I had done with the brands. I really like what they chose for me” Choi said. 

For Korean American Joseph Im, who was invited to the show by one of the models, the show was “very inspiring and fun.” 

“We’re so grateful for the incredible responses and feedback that we’ve gotten. Not only have we gotten large rounds of applause and standing ovations, people have literally come to us crying, they were so touched.” Chang says. 

 

Feature Image via: Joshua Yi

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