Korean Hanbok with an Expat Twist

by Valerie Pergay and Marcie Garinger, 31/05/2008

Back in April this year, Cotton USA announced a hanbok design contest for expats. Korea4Expats posted the information in our What’s Going On section, which is where some of the participants found out about this unique opportunity. Two of the contestants, Valerie Pergay and Marcie Garinger have written about the experience. Following are their comments about their participation and the Big Day in May - when they got to show off their creation!!

From Valerie - In celebration of Cotton Day last Tuesday, Cotton USA held a cotton-made hanbok design contest for expats residing in Korea. From the many applicants, 10 finalists who successfully demonstrated the event's theme of cultural diversity were chosen to participate in a fashion show. The finalists hailed from South Africa, China, Canada, Australia, the United States, France, Chile, Japan and Ireland. Pamela Munoz, a Canadian-Chilean participant, said: "There should be more events like this that combine the Korean traditional elements with the foreign community." As one of the chosen finalists, I was very excited. I imagined strutting down the runway in my elegant hanbok, posing with my supermodel pout to the blinding flashes of photographers. This was going to be a fabulous experience. It all began two weeks prior at our first fitting in Yega Hanbok's boutique. The chaos resembled a scene out of "Project Runway," a popular American reality TV show. Some were desperately vying for the designer's attention while others ruffled through a mountain of fabric samples. The rest (including myself) sat quietly looking lost in translation wondering what we gotten ourselves into.

At 8:30 AM on the day of the event, we arrived backstage at the Grand Intercontinental ballroom. Panic and confusion already lingered in the air. With no dressing room in sight, everyone got dressed in the shadows. Our numbers were dictated and were lined up for rehearsal. After two hours of practicing on the catwalk, the show was finally about to begin. The jolting sound of the Korean drums shocked through the silence of the crowd. Like a battle scene, everyone stood lined up in the still darkness, clasping their hands in fearful reflection hoping and praying that all will go well.

Being a runway virgin, I did not know what to expect. I had practiced my walk enough times, I figured, how hard could this be? Although I was wearing 3-inch stilettos, my floor-length gown was still a lot longer than I had expected. I was about to embark on my catwalk debut -- when someone stepped on my dress. What other disasters might unfold?

Robert Shepard, an American contestant, has an attack of stage fright and tells me that he hates being in the public eye. With over a hundred people staring, a lineup of photographers and even a film crew, he succeeds in surviving the runway plank and returns backstage a more confident man.

Stephanie Senechal, a French contestant on her way backstage was blinded when the lights went out during the interim performance. She missed a step and fell to the ground. In the real world, when you fall on your feet, you get back up. Like a role model, she did so with grace.

Feian Downing, a Chinese-British national, waited nervously while rehearsing her answers for the interview at hand. She enchants the audience with her innocent charm and obtains a second-place victory.

In the end, Jenine Lindeque, a South African English teacher, won first prize. In explaining her design, she said, "Both Korean and African traditional wear use vivid colors in a celebration of the visual aesthetic, and as a reflection of the warmth in the characters of both peoples." When asked about her life in Korea, she said, "I have learnt about such a foreign culture, while at the same time, have taught about my own; the chance to be enlightened while enlightening."
Valerie Pergay
This article appeared in the Korea Herald on 21 May.

From Marcie -  The design itself took a mere half-hour to draw. I know what colors suit me (from studying to become an image consultant) and wanted the same shades that I have on the my duvet cover, custom- made curtains and pillow covers. I had purchased the fabric at the fabric market in Dongdaemun last year, shortly after my arrival. I also know what type of pants and tops flatter my body shape.

Initially, I had designed a long gown but was asked if I was willing to change the design a little. I eagerly agreed as I really think that the Hanbok can become more modernized by wearing it as elegant, wide legged palazzo pants. I still want to have more embroidery work done on the pants. There’s wasn’t enough time before the contest.

I was shocked when I heard my name. That is, when I finally figured
out what the MC of the event was saying, as initially I couldn't understand him.
I think he had to repeat my name about three times.
Marcie Garinger

The winners of the US Cotton Expat Hanbok Design Contest were:
1st prize - Jenine Lindeque (South Africa)
2nd place - Feian Downing (China)
3rd place - Marcie Garinger (Canada)

Photo by David Smeaton
Pictured: In the front row (from left) are Jenine Lindeque (1st place Winner), guest models Bronwyn and Christina, Rachel Mooney. In the back row (from left) are Feian Downing (2nd place Winner), Stephanie Senechal, Valerie Pergay, Jamie Morse, Mizuno Mio, Pamela Munoz, Marcie Garinger (3rd Place Winner).

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