For every fashion gal, attending fashion week is the ultimate dream. Imagine: You’re surrounded by beautiful clothes from highly-acclaimed designers, and you might even get the chance to meet your style idols or come across your favorite celebrities.
Gaining access is pretty complicated, though, much less access to international fashion weeks. Well, one Filipina blogger was able to experience all that—and in Korea nonetheless! Maria Theresa So, fondly known as Therese, is a 22-year-old vlogger who hails from Pampanga. She attended Seoul Fashion Week, not once but twice in the span of one year!
We were able to catch up with her to find out how exactly she pulled this off:
How It Happened
Therese’s entry into the Korean fashion scene was a chance happening. When she first visited the land of K-drama and K-pop back in 2018, she fell in love with their culture and ended up returning a couple more times to learn more about the country. While she was vlogging during one of these visits, a talent scout approached her and asked if she would be interested in vlogging her experience of the K-drama tour, “MBC World.”
Upon discussing things over coffee, he eventually offered her a spot in one of Korea’s radio stations! Therese, who was still in the middle of her pre-medicine undergraduate studies at the University of Santo Tomas at that time, politely declined, but the talent scout kept in touch and offered to help her learn more about Korea through fashion. “Binigyan niya ako ng contact sa mga designers,” ("He put me in contact with designers,") Therese explains. That marked the beginning of her Seoul fashion journey!
Her First Day
On her first day of Seoul Fashion Week for Fall/Winter 2019, Therese was surprised to find so many people around the area, even those who weren't attendees of the show. It was a scene that drew a lot of attention from passersby, and quite naturally—Seoul Fashion Week is attended by many famous style lovers and celebrities alike. As exciting as everything was, Therese’s first day turned out to be very challenging and frustrating, given the language barrier.
“The first show went well kasi the ticket was already with me, pero some of the shows after that, wala pa yung ticket sakin,” she says. ("The first show went well because the ticket was with me, but for some of the other shows after that, the tickets were not in my hands yet.")
Therese explains that in some shows, the designers lend clothing for bloggers or influencers to wear. But it was difficult for Therese to do so. “I had to contact my friend para maging translator pero mahirap pa rin. Ang hirap ng language barrier. Ang daming shows na namiss kasi nakakahiya na kailangang kong i-contact pa yung friend ko to translate. Super nangangapa pa ako on my first day.” ("I had to contact my friend to act as a translator, but it was difficult. The language barrier was difficult for me. I missed a lot of shows because I felt awkward having to contact my friend each time to translate. I was really feeling my way through on my first day.")
Despite the many struggles she experienced, one silver lining was getting to expand her network by meeting influencers from different countries. “Kasi when you get there, you’ll find mga laging mong makakatabi and they’re mostly Americans, and it’s really easy to talk to them. So more into building connections yung first fashion week ko.” (When you get there, you'll find people who are regularly beside you, and they're mostly Americans, and it's really easy to talk to them. So my first fashion week was more about building connections.")
Every culture has their own kind of fashion. If you haven’t visited Korea yet, there are major differences between Filipino street style and Korean street style. First of all, Therese says that Koreans are more experimental. “Diverse siya kasi there are some pieces that they wear that don’t really work pero dahil accepting yung culture nila, depende na lang sa pagdala mo.” ("Style is diverse there. There are some pieces that they wear that don't really work but because the culture is very accepting, it becomes all about how you carry it.") She also says that exposing too much skin is uncommon, but she likes how they adhere to these norms whilst being creative with fashion. Good examples of their taste in fashion would be Therese’s favorite Korean brands, Elnore (her fave F/W 2019 collection) dewe dewe, and Graphiste man.G (her fave during the S/S 2020 shows), that are all characterized by vibrant colors and outrageous silhouettes.
Therese’s first fashion week spanned six days and covered 18 shows. Fashion week attendees typically wear one unique outfit per day. In Therese’s case, she wore two different outfits each day! Therese says that Filipino vloggers rarely attend Seoul Fashion Week (she was the only Filipino attendee there), and so she wanted to wave our national flag by donning pieces from local designers. These included ensembles by Pampanga-born designer Philip Torres, and on her second fashion week, pieces from Yves Camingue, Justin Villanueva, and Patrick Lazol, among others.
It sounds expensive, right? But there’s a system to how influencers get dressed during fashion week. When she doesn’t pull out from local designers before flying to Korea, Therese collaborates with English, Korea-based magazines, and she uses the money she earns to ease her expenses during the trip. The hard part was dressing up in between shows—she would rent a locker at the subway station and get dressed in the public bathroom. “Sabi ko nga everything was a dream for me but looking back at what happened in between, di ko ma-imagine na gagawin ko lahat yun.” ("I said that everything was a dream for me but looking back at what happened in betwee, I can't imagine I did all that.")
Her second week was different though. Because she had already expanded her network, she was able to wear clothes given by the designers themselves. Instead of doing all the leg work herself, she had a friend assist her in dressing up between shows to make things easier. “Kumuha na talaga ako ng kasama kasi ang hirap magbihis ng magisa,” she says. ("I brought someone with me because it's really hard to do an outfit change alone.")
Her second fashion week, which took place last October 2019 for S/S 2020, only lasted for a weekend because she had an ongoing internship here in Manila. However, she was able to take home some pieces from the designers (as giveaways!), something that’s apparently common during fashion week.
Aside from the obstacles brought about by her first Seoul Fashion Week experience, one of the most memorable things during her experience was encountering celebrities.
“May isang time, na-shock ako tapos super nawawala ako tapos when I entered the show, ang daming nagpi-picture. I thought, ‘Bakit ganun?’ Tapos kasabay ko pala pumasok si Sehun ng EXO… Eh, I really didn’t know them, so parang nawawala ako! Then, sinabi sakin ‘Are you crazy? That’s Sehun from EXO!’ Fun experience siya kasi I was going in and out of shows with celebrities na hindi ko kilala. I also saw Lee Dong Wook from Goblin!"
("One time, I got shocked and felt lost, and when I entered the show, so many people were taking my photo. I thought, 'Why were they doing that?' I found out I had come in together with Sehun of EXO. I really didn't know the boy band, so I felt a little lost! Then someone told me, 'Are you crazy? That's Sehun from EXO!' It was a fun experience because I was going in and out of shows with celebrities I didn't know. I also saw Lee Dong Wook from Goblin!"
Therese says that celebs are mostly from boy bands or girl groups.
Tips for Those Who Want to Get into Fashion
Therese’s pre-medicine program in UST is Speech Language Pathology, which deals with the development of human communications and its possible disorders. The unexpected opportunities she had during that fateful trip to Korea opened so many doors to the fashion world, which couldn’t have happened if she wasn’t open to them in the first place.
Her tip for those who want to get into the fashion scene starts with taking chances. “Don’t be afraid to go stray away from your path. It’s okay kapag may dumating na opportunity. (It's okay when an opportunity arises.) Don’t be afraid to take it,” she says.