Fashion people is an expression that is widely used among Korean youths lately. Although it can mean anyone who is interested in fashion, the term seems most fitting for members of Otgeori—Korea University (KU)’s fashion business club. In fact, fashion geeks might be a better way to describe the club. For them, fashion entails much more than just trendy clothes. They pour their hearts and souls into fashion, as they contemplate on its philosophical meaning and analyze the latest trends.
As the very first college fashion business club in Korea, Otgeori is, first and foremost, a gathering for people who love fashion. Lee Ju Seong (’10, Public Administration), the chairman of Otgeori, says that their interest in fashion does not simply mean going on shopping sprees and splurging on clothes. He explained that they strive to “study fashion from the perspective of manufacturers and merchandisers,” rather than just as consumers who follow the trend.
First founded in 2011, Otgeori has now entered its 10th semester. It consists of roughly 20 members in total, which are further broken down into board members, seniors, and juniors. Members are obligated to stay on board at least for two consecutive semesters. Though Otgeori is technically under the Department of Home Economics Education, it still recruits new members every semester, regardless of major and age.
One of the defining characteristics of Otgeori is its emphasis on approaching fashion from an academic point of view. Weekly sessions and field works are held as their main activities throughout the semester. More specifically, members are given different topics about fashion every week, after which they gather as a team to do research and a presentation, followed by further discussion. Lee said, “We stay up all night to prepare for these sessions. To be honest, I don’t think I could do another semester of these weekly sessions, because it’s just too intense and requires a lot of elbow grease.”
The topics range from fundamental to practical, such as delving into the essence of fashion and looking at the dynamics of the fashion business. For instance, they ask themselves “What is fashion?” and discuss the centuries-old dilemma of the fine line between creativity and imitation. At the same time, they learn what it means to be a fashion merchandiser (MD) who oversees production, distribution, and sales.
In addition to these academic endeavors within Otgeori, the club collaborates with several companies, most notably Customellow and Common Ground under KOLON Industries. These companies assign projects to Otgeori, and members get to have a taste of what it means to work in the fashion industry. One project they did recently was analyzing the consumption pattern of Chinese tourists, also known as youke, and devising a marketing strategy. In 2014, Otgeori had a fashion shoot with Customellow featuring uniforms of KU’s athletes during the Ko-Yon Games.
On top of this, Otgeori hosts a flea market during the KU May Festival Week every year. A lot of planning goes into it, as members have to recruit roughly 80 groups of sellers. Meanwhile, Otgeori members produce their own items for sale. “Although it might not seem like much, it was a huge learning opportunity, as we were in charge of everything from pricing to promotion,” Lee said as he reminisced on his experiences.
Lee went on to say that this year’s flea market was particularly rewarding. They sold scarves that they made themselves during this year’s festival, which ended up being sold out.
It must be clear by now that Otgeori takes fashion much more seriously than most people would assume. However, they are not just a bunch of fashionable nerds who are all about studying. Besides Membership Trainings (MT), the club holds workshops and year-end parties on a regular basis just to have fun. They rent a fancy resort and drink the night away, just like any other tightknit clubs of KU. Meanwhile, many former members, who have already entered the fashion business, also join these gatherings. In turn, this serves as valuable networking opportunities, since most Otgeori members are aspiring fashion entrepreneurs themselves.
▲ Otgeori X Customellow. Provided by Otgeori.
▲ Chairman of Otgeori Lee Ju Seong. Photographed by Kim Seung Hyun.
▲ Otgeori X Customellow. Provided by Otgeori.
So what kinds of people are in Otgeori? According to Lee, all sorts of students from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and personalities have come together to make up the club. “Despite the differences in our personalities and sense of style, we are all close to one another. Most of all, we all share one thing in common—our love for fashion,” he said. “You don’t even have to be well-dressed. We all have a different sense of style, and we respect individual taste.”
All in all, Otgeori is a quintessential case that shows how misleading first impressions can be. Contrary to popular belief, appearance does not matter as much as commitment to fashion. They are a creative group of people who celebrate differences and diversity. Last but not least, being a part of Otgeori not only means gaining more insight into fashion, but it also ultimately paves the way for a potential career in that industry.