The 16th Samsung Fashion & Design Fund (SFDF) award has been won by Choi Kang-hyuk and Shon Sang-lak of KANGHYUK. Each year since 2005 Samsung C&T Fashion Group has selected up-and-coming fashion designers for practical and systematic support in growing their talents on the global design stage.
The judging panel, which consists of creative directors and design directors from Samsung C&T Fashion Group and magazine editors, awarded KANGHYUK the highest score in originality, completeness and marketability. Its potential as a high-end designer brand was recognized.
Automobile airbags: More than just a safety device
After meeting during their Master of Arts studies at Britain’s Royal College of Arts, Choi and Shon began collaborating. Right after graduation in 2016, Choi launched the brand KANGHYUK with his graduating collection, and Shon joined the following year. The two now work together designing men’s clothing using the elements and peculiarities of automobile airbags, with concepts of artificiality, materials and balance.
Airbags are a common element that runs through all of KANGHYUK’s nine collections so far. Beyond just being the material for the clothes, the way they reuse airbags represents the brand’s unique identity.
An exhibition of the winning collection until December 21 at the BEAKER Cheongdam Flagship Store in southern Seoul shows off the processes. The thematic concept is a refrigerated butcher’s warehouse where various cuts of meat are displayed. This, Choi and Shon explain, is very similar to the way that they receive airbags via the mail, take them apart, and reshape and refine them into garments.
It was a fall/winter collection including outerwear made of automobile airbag material that attracted KANGHYUK international attention at Paris Fashion Week in 2017. Their work also earned a nomination for the 2019 LVMH Prize, ultimately finishing in the semi-finals in the top 20.
Interviewed in 2019 for global fashion website Hypebeast, which called KANGHYUK “the Korean Brand You Need to Know,” Choi and Shon explained that they can still work globally, even though they are located in Seoul, describing the city as a perfect place to open up a fashion brand. The duo produces the items themselves in their atelier using unique materials. Now they are expanding their range to include women’s clothing and accessories. KANGHYUK is currently available through 20 top multi-brand boutiques in 13 countries, including Dover Street Market, LECLAIREUR and Farfetch.
Giving young designers a head start
Over the past 16 years, the SFDF awards have given a total of USD 3.4 million to emerging Korean designers. This program set up by Samsung C&T Fashion Group has helped 24 young Korean designers so far. Winners receive USD 100,000 in support funds for design work, domestic and international promotional activities, and professional business assistance.
“Here at SFDF we have a philosophy that drives us to find designers with potential and support outstanding brands with a clear brand identity,” said Cho Hang-seok, director of the Samsung Fashion & Design Fund, adding, “We will continue to seek out designers with growth potential and take the lead in growing Korean brands that are recognized on the global stage.”