“Time has come for Korean Models”

February 5, 2014

Model-in-chief promotes globalization

Participants in the ninth “Asia Model Festival Awards” are seen on stage at the opening show of French designer Castel Bajac, at the Olympic Hall in Jamsil, southern Seoul on Jan. 17. (Courtesy of KMA)

Participants in the ninth “Asia Model Festival Awards” are seen on stage at the opening show of French designer Castel Bajac, at the Olympic Hall in
Jamsil, southern Seoul on Jan. 17. (Courtesy of KMA)

Yang Eui-sig, Chairman of Korea Model Association

Yang Eui-sig, Chairman of Korea Model Association

By Park Jin-hai

No one knows better about the ins and outs of the local model industry than Yang Eui-sig who chairs the Korea Model Association (KMA), one of the largest grouping of models with its 7,000 members.

“Now is the right time for more Korean models to stand on foreign catwalks, becoming another locomotive of the Korean wave,” said Yang, 47, a former model who has been in the industry for more than 20 years.

“Korean models are regarded as trendy and having a posture and expression that stands out from those of other Asian models,” he said. “On the back of the Korean wave as well as the fast growth of Asian fashion industry, fashion people are starting to look at Korea differently.”

Eleven young KMA models recently signed five-year contracts with the French branch of the prestigious modeling agency Elite Model Management.

“Last year, male models outshone the females. The recruiters of Elite picked seven male models out of 11, which was pretty rare. They said that they liked the models expression on stage, natural but brimming with confidence,” he said.

Some 10 years ago, when he was actively working as a model, he said foreign designers barely looked for Asian models. Korean models, even if they appeared on runways overseas, only did so for local designer’s showcases at best.

“Now their Oriental looks are praised as something hot, just like Afro Americans and Hispanic models were a couple of decades ago,” said Yang.

Nowadays young models dream of working Paris Fashion Week and New York Collections, with some having made their names as seen in the cases of Hye Park and Han Hye-jin.

“Coupled with the rise of the Korean fashion industry, the demand for local models has increased, too. What lacked was a venue that showcased talented local models and connected them to overseas agencies,” he said.

Yang, who is leading one of the biggest agencies with more than 7,000 models signed up, has organized the “Asia Model Festival Awards” since 2006.

The three-day event, sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Korea Tourism Organization, comprises of the Asia Beauty Festival that showcases each participating country’s makeup and fashion, and its highlight, the Asia Model Awards, that selects top male and female faces of Asia.

Four thousand people including K-pop idols and actors and actresses participated in the ceremony.

“At the very beginning, the event wasn’t like this. Then over years participating countries have expanded from four to 15. Starting from June last year, we have organized preliminaries in each Asian country, and they were a great success,” said Yang.

In China, some 30 provinces held preliminaries, before holding the local finals in nine provinces. And the final competition in Beijing was held with 1,500 spectators working for the fashion and model industry.

He said that he aims to provide a platform where Korean fashion, beauty products and related industries can go hand in hand.

Yang, who doubles as the chair of the Associated Clubs for Korea Popular Culture and Arts Industry said that “without a solid platform, the Korea wave has its own limitations, reduced to one-off events.”

Using the strength of our industry, that promotes Korean popular culture in a package with other related industries such as fashion and even cosmetics surgery clinics, is the way to go, he added.

Last year, he invited the internationally renowned designer Jimmy Choo who gave a lecture, while this year Castel Bajac, better known as a designer for Lady Gaga’s costumes, became an honorary ambassador for the event and graced the opening show of the award-giving ceremony.

The Korean market that was once neglected is now a test shop for famous fashion designers, Yang said. “When they launch a fashion line, they begin to think that if it works for Korea, it will work in other Asian countries.”

Asked upon his final goal he said, “Prada and Giorgio Armani shows are in themselves global events, where fashion people and industries flock for business opportunities. That is what I want to make the Asia Model Awards.”

Since his debut in 1984 in a Doturak ice cream commercial, Yang has appeared in more than 150 television advertisements as well as on major local catwalks.

Yang is the first model to earn a doctorate, studying model fields and has written four books including “Top Model Making” and “Model Strategy.” He is also a professor teaching modeling at Seo Kyeong University, one of the two universities offering a four-year modeling course.