“I really love the idea of two cultures coming together.” – Sarah Kate Watson-Baik
Fashionista, photographer, stylist, fashion teacher, photographer, club owner, fashion & interior designer, K-Style host, hat designer. You name it, Sarah Kate Watson-Baik has done it and so much more.
With so many titles and achievements under her belt, Watson-Baik says that ‘Style Director’ is the best term that sums up everything that she does.
Married to Korean architect Jiwon Baik, Filipino-American and now based in Seoul, Watson-Baik held a free lecture on Korean fashion at the Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines on May 29. An enigmatic lecturer she enthralled the audience with her talk on the hottest Korean fashion trends. She also educated the crowd about how Korean designers integrate Korea’s culture and history into their fashion.
She started of by introducing herself and what she does and followed this up with the architectural works of her husband who is a respected architect in his own right. She also showed some photos from their wedding day in which she shared an interesting tidbit – the use of fans made with traditional Korean paper, ‘hanji’ (한지) from Jeonju during the ceremony. “We wanted to use something beautiful but reusable and representative of my husband’s culture.” Watson-Baik said.
“There are a lot of exciting things happening there (Korea). It’s not just K-pop, not only technology. It is now the center for fashion. If they’re first, then who’s next?” she pointed out.
When talking about how Koreans come up with their own unique style, Watson-Baik had this to say: ”It’s not that they copy per se, they curate. Koreans are amazing at curating and editing, I think they’re the best at it. Picking things from all over, from different styles, different genres, different periods of history and mixing it all together. It’s about that curation and then bringing it up to another level to make it totally Korean.” She explained that the whole thing about Korean fashion and KPOP style is that it is a blend of diverse and divergent elements. It seems like Korean fashion can be compared to a DJ, as designers are able to curate, mix and then turn the volume up really high and as the music becomes louder, like in KPOP, everything turns brighter.
Watson-Baik noted that this fusion was evident in the designs of the current crop of Korean designers. She noted designers like Steve J & Yoni P, Kye and Ko Taeyoung and of course, the renowned designer Lie Sang Bong, as the ones that are really admired by people, and not only in Korea.
Lie Sang Bong (이상봉), one of her favorite designers, incorporates a lot of Korean culture in his designs. He has integrated hangul (한글) , dancheong (단청), mugunghwa (무궁화) and hanok (한옥) which are all very representative of Korea, highlighting them as the main point in his various collections.
“I love how he takes something totally traditional and making it absolutely contemporary such that any culture would want to wear it. This is what makes his work so exciting. He is able to tell a story and rebrand Korean culture in so many ways.” She pointed out, only having high praises for him.
She emphasized Lie Sang Bong’s unique style by showing of the beautiful polyester dress she was wearing. The creation was given to her as a wedding present by the designer. The dress was inspired by dancheongs, which are colorful ornate paintings on the surface of traditional palaces.
A highpoint of Watson-Baik’s lecture was her analysis on what is currently trending in Korean fashion. Street style is one of the hottest things you will see in Korea right now, along with snapbacks, sporty pieces, see through, black and white, lettering and flower patterns.
“This season’s designers street style is especially crazy about sheer, black and white, lettering and flower pattern. Street style is not about high heels. It’s all about really easy, cool and comfortable style.” Watson-Baik said.
To those who are wary that the current fashion trend may not suit their personality, the fashion guru gave this advice, “Find what you think works for you and what you’re comfortable in. Dress the way you feel then go with it.” On the matter of clothes, Watson-Baik said that her personal favorites are natural fibers, cotton and silk. Materials that are comfortable and can breathe. She added that an individual should just try everything at least once. Yes, even the crazy or weird-looking clothing pieces because you’ll never know, it might just work for you. “Have fun and play.”
Now with a room full of people seriously interested in fashion and some even hoping to make it in the Korean fashion scene, there were a lot of fearless questions on how to become successful in the industry.
Her formula for success was simple. “Be social. Work hard, play hard. Do your thing while you’re young. Attend events, meet people, be yourself and enjoy. Dressing a little bit extravagantly also helps because fashion is a draw. Also remember that social media is the new power. Everyone can be famous with branding. It is all about networking, personally and socially through SNS.”
She also reiterated to other aspiring hopefuls is to do intense research with the things they love and keep going.
Watson-Baik also discussed her advocacy of promoting Asian style through an exciting project – ‘East Of What’, a web magazine that will showcase her multi-cultural background. “I think we should start being more local about design & fashion. I always try to inspire my students to think creatively, to think about things with a cultural perspective. I think fashion is moving to Asia. I’m interested in promoting Asian emerging style and fashion, not just in Korea.” Her interest in Asian fashion is one of the reasons why she is visiting the Philippines which is currently celebrating Fashion Week.
At the end of the event, Korean Cultural Center of the Philippine’s Director Oh Choong-suk thanked Sarah Kate Watson-Baik for sharing her time and for giving such an enlightening talk. He admitted that after listening to her even he learned a lot about Korean fashion. Director Oh also announced that because of her outstanding reputation in the world of fashion and in recognition of her achievements in her field, Watson-Baik was appointed as the (fashion) ambassador of the Korean Cultural Center in Manila. Watson-Baik said that this was an unexpected honor as she humbly accepted the award.
Of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk to Watson-Baik even if it was just for a brief moment. It was really great meeting her in person. She was a real sweetheart, granting everyone who attended a picture as well as writing down a personal message along with her signature. I personally learned a lot from her about not only Korean fashion but even more importantly about how to boldly pursue my dreams.
“Whatever you love, whatever you like, do it! Do it passionately.”
Sarah Kate Watson-Baik’s website -> www.urbanwit.com/
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*Quoted from Sarah Kate Watson-Baik are not verbatim.