When I first started super-sleuthing to find out what I could about ethical fashion in Korea, I came across a design collective called WEAR GREY. This collective consists of five local Korean designers who are dedicated to prioritising sustainability in their design and production. Even the name ‘WEAR GREY’ is a nod to the fact that the colour grey is a staple and doesn’t appear to get dirty that easily, therefore requiring less washing. One of the designers from this collective, Sohyan Bhaak of Post December was kind enough to invite me to her studio in Seoul and teach me more about the vision behind her label, as well as about fashion and consumer culture in Korea.
Post December is not new to ethical fashion. Launching a whole ten years ago, Bhaak came back from studying in the UK and brought home her newfound and foreign interest in ethical fashion. She launched Post December with the philosophy that sustainability will sustain longer when ‘it’s good for me and good for others’. That is to say, you can make others better when you make yourself better. So with her determination to do and be ‘better’, Bhaak started her label and hasn’t looked back since.
Similarly to WEAR GREY, Post December’s name carries a profound thoughtfulness. ‘Post December’ refers to a 13th month of the year; a month that pushes us to consider things beyond our physical perception of time and space, as well as a space to reflect. Marrying perfectly with their philosophy, operating with a 13th month in mind provides you with the space to take care of yourself, and to grow to become better so that you can in turn benefit others. That sounds like a wonderful way to practise sustainability, and it sounds an awful lot like a fashion revolution to me.
You can see the 13th month play out in Bhaak’s designs. Each Post December piece is crafted ever so intentionally from sourcing the materials right up until the last stitch. They fill you with the feeling that time stood still to allow for the quality and details to develop just right. Then as you wear them, you can immediately sense that these pieces are going to be in your life for a long time. Art that allows you this experience really is something special.
When discussing the consumer culture in Korea, it seemed that my quick observations were correct. According to Bhaak, most Koreans consider trends and aesthetics before considering how clothes are made, or whether they actually need to purchase something at all. There was a brief spike in interest in ethical fashion after Lee Hyori, a popular Korean singer, openly vowed to stop wearing genuine animal fur. However, Bhaak knew that shifting culture and changing highly established mindsets was not the job of one person alone, which consequently led to the birth of WEAR GREY.
So then, how are Bhaak and likeminded designers tackling the mammoth task of redirecting Korea’s consumer mindset? Well, firstly, they’re being realistic and acknowledging that there is already so much noise in the world, and that it can be really difficult to filter it out in order to only hear what’s worth hearing. Secondly, they’re extending their influence the good ol’ fashioned way: by practising what they preach.
Bhaak believes that there are multiple steps in the process of achieving authentic change. The first step is to find a tribe of likeminded people and create a support network. The next step is to truly believe that what you are doing is good so that others will also come to see its merits and be inspired. And then once you’ve established these two things, the last step is to work diligently with integrity and see your vision come to pass. This process is not about influencing from afar, rather it is about inviting people to journey alongside you and grow together.
We love Post December’s approach to modelling best practice and being people of their word. Whether we’re at the top of our game or just starting out, we always need quality role models to look up to, and Post December is just that for their fellow designers. Therefore, with a decade of experience and a strong vision and philosophy, I asked Bhaak one last crucial question about what she thought the future of ethical fashion in Korea would look like. Her answer was far less predictive, and far more directive, “It must exist.“