Here we recap and discuss episode 1 of Fashion King. Caution, spoilers below. Do not read if you don’t want to know what happens.
We start our first episode in a fashion show where we see our protagonist Kang Young Gul watching the runway models and drawing a design for a dress he just saw. We then see him reproducing it and selling it in his little store. Quick bit of trivia: this scene was actually filmed in New York during their fashion week.
Next we see several foreign executives gushing over a design book for a new applicant: our female lead Lee Ga Young. We then see her hard at work using a machine to sew on a design when she notices that the mail has been delivered. Hoping for news of her application, Ga Young quickly goes down to check the mail, but her boss has beaten her to it.
This is why you don’t have things mailed to work. Her boss spots a suspicious envelope addressed to Ga Young and quickly opens it to find out that she’s been accepted. Ga Young comes in at this point and asks her boss if she’s seen any mail for her because she applied to a fashion design school in the United States. On top of that, Ga Young asks her boss if she might be able to lend her money for the flight and first semester’s tuition. Her boss says she’s busy and to go away, of course, without mentioning the letter. As soon as Ga Young leaves, surprise surprise, her boss rips up the letter.
Later that night, Ga Young’s boss’ daughter bring some guys back to the store and start having a party. Meanwhile, she’s asleep on top of a book in her room in the factory. I guess work is home for her so my previous statement is retracted. One of the couples decides to break away for a make-out session and inadvertently drops a lit cigarette in the room with their fabrics. Why a guy would have a lit cigarette in this situation, I have no idea, but it’s the first episode so we’ll let that slide. Ga Young wakes up from the smoke and immediately tries to put out the fire, but it’s too little too late.
Looks like the fire department made it in time to save the store, but most of their inventory is gone. Big bad boss lady comes in and immediately suspects Ga Young of setting fire to the store, despite her coworker trying to say otherwise. Seems boss lady is Ga Young’s adoptive parent, but after this incident, she’s kicking her out on her own now. Before she leaves, however, Ga Young says that since this was her parents store before, she’s entitled to some of the money that it’s earned. Of course she’s an orphan, seems to be a theme for dramas lately. Her boss counters that Ga Young owes her money since she paid off her parent’s debt and that she should be grateful she’s not reporting her to the police.
A now homeless Ga Young now wanders the streets with nothing but the clothes on her back and a suitcase. Lucky for her, she spots an ad for a shop looking for an experienced seamstress and will provide room and board. How convenient. She goes to the address listed on the ad and asks to talk to the boss, who is of course Young Gul. He gives her a quick look over, and without any questions, puts her to work. Ga Young confirms that she’ll have room and board and tries to ask about the pay, but he is evasive and says how much she earns depends on how she does. As Ga Young starts on the project the manager gives her, her other coworkers crowd around her, impressed at her skill. Young Gul comes out of his office and is impressed as well.
Young Gul goes to a spa where he meets with one of his friends, a rather large man with tattoos all over his body. Guess the producers wanted to draw in his fan girls quick. Seems Young Gul owes his friend’s boss some money and because his friend is the one who introduced him he’s been taking the heat for it. As Young Gul complains about his lack of money, his friend suggests someone who might be able to help: Jung Jae Hyuk.
Jae Hyuk apparently is doing much better than Young Gul and we see him observing a pretty upscale photo-shoot. He decides that he doesn’t like what he sees and tells the designer to start over, even though the designer’s spent 2 years working on these outfits. After Jang Hyuk leaves, his assistant tries to convince him to change his mind since their president personally approved of the designs and even was the one who recruited the designer.
As he reaches his office, he finds Young Gul waiting for him. Young Gul says they were classmates, but Jae Hyuk doesn’t remember him. Young Gul is embarrassed at first to ask about the money, but when Jae Hyuk says he’s busy and just tells him that he’ll introduce him to someone else in the company, Young Gul overcomes it and asks him directly. Jae Hyuk, of course, refuses. After Young Gul leaves the building, he looks up at it and swears he’ll buy it one day as revenge.
Pissed off at his meeting, Jae Hyuk comes back to the factory and wants nothing more than to relax with a beer in hand. As he sits down on his bed, he hears a scream and we see Ga Young emerge from the blankets. He didn’t think she actually wanted to stay in the factory, but rather than argue with her, decides to just let her have the bed and to sleep in his office. Ga Young is suspicious of him staying there as well and so picks up a large piece of wood that just randomly happens to be around to protect her while she sleeps.
Next we see Ga Young’s former foster mother talking with one of her clients or a benefactor about what happened to the store, who they seem to imply is Jae Hyuk’s mother. The client mentions that Ga Young must be talented if she applied to the same fashion school as boss lady’s daughter, who apparently didn’t make it since she’s still hanging out. One of the workers then comes in and tells the boss that she has a call. She then learns that her daughter was in fact the cause of the fire and immediately goes home to confront her. After Yoo Ah In’s half naked scene for the girls, the producer kindly decided to make the male viewers happy as the daughter is taking a bubble bath. As they argue, the daughter says it doesn’t matter if Ga Young applied to the school anyway since she doesn’t have the money to go without a scholarship. When she hears this, her mom gets a curious look on her face.
Ga Young apparently doesn’t feel comfortable with making fakes of designer clothing, and Young Gul is lecturing her to just listen to what he says and just make the knockoffs. She then asks him if they’re doing this, why bother saying otherwise in the ad. He says he just wrote that as a draw for people and that if she complains again, he’s docking her pay. Our young fashion designer is upset at him, and storms out of the office without a word. She does seem to have triggered something in him though as we see him stare at her through the window shades of his office.
One of Young Gul’s clients is impressed with one of his knockoff designs and offers to completely pay off his debt if he tells him the designer. Young Gul refuses, but after a bit of bargaining agrees to sell him the design. We then see a series of cut scenes showing the new design getting made and being sold in the stores. We also see a brief scene in which Ga Young carefully places a blanket over Young Gul, who has fallen asleep at his desk while working.
Apparently the design was a huge success as he’s able to pay off his debt in full. The loan shark he borrowed the money from is pleased to get his money, and even gives him back a little as a token of appreciation for being a “good man”. Meanwhile, back at the factory, the ahjummas that work for him are gossiping about how good-looking he is. They ask Ga Young if she saw his body since they spent the night together in the factory, but she says nothing and just blushes. Fortunately for her, they don’t press the issue and just leave.
Now that everyone has left, Ga Young decides to take this opportunity to clean up the store. As she’s cleaning his office, she decides to take this opportunity to check her email to see if she got in. It is then that she sees the email informing her that she got into the school. Young Gul comes in and thinks she’s an industrial spy and forces her to open her email and translate it since it’s in English. As she does, she starts to cry but manages to finish. Young Gul, of course, feels bad about it and makes small talk with her to ease the awkwardness. As he glasses at her name, we have a flashback of the two meeting when they were younger. Her parents had just died and was being mistreated by her foster mom. To cheer her up, he performs a few magic tricks.
Jae Hyuk’s boss, who is also his father, was not pleased about him making a scene with the designer and tells him to go abroad for a few years to gain experience. Jae Hyuk is against it, but his father insists. At this point, the designer walks in and his father tells him that Jae Hyuk will be leaving as he suggested. He also says that Jae Hyuk wants to apologize. He half-asses an apology and we next see him already on the plane to NY with his assistant.
As his assistant walks back to the economy class section of the plane, we see that he’s sitting next to Ga Young. She then happens to see the design that Young Gul copied and smiles. We then have a quick flashback showing Young Gul giving her the money for the plane ticket. It’s just a loan, though, and despite him actually wanting to give her the money he jokes around and pretends that it was a tough choice for him. Ga Young is touched by this and tears up again as she thanks him.
Speaking of Young Gul, we see him now in bed with an unknown woman saying that she has a boyfriend already. He’s sleepy though and says he doesn’t care. Next thing we know, gangsters are at his store tearing the place apart. He sees receives a call from store telling him about this and it is then he finds out that the girl he’s with is the girlfriend of the loan shark he just paid off, Hwang Tae San. He immediately panics and gets dressed as quickly as he can to escape. He has nowhere to go and decides to hide by hanging on the windowsill outside his room. The gangsters catch him however and rather than face him, he decides to take his chance and jump to the ground below, his fall cushioned by some boxes right outside.
Our unfortunate henchman now has to report back to his boss that he let both Young Gul and his girlfriend escape. Tae San just happens to be opening mail when he’s being told the news and hurls it at him, narrowly missing his henchman’s face and in a calm voice tells him to take care of it. His henchman is freaked out, of course, and immediately heads out.
Young Gul’s friend, who is camping out his store with his other gangsters, calls him and tells him that he needs to lay low for a while. Young Gul is hiding right outside the store and when he makes a break for it, the gangsters see him and immediately give chase. He manages to lose them, and immediately heads to his aunt’s house. He overhears her and her husband arguing and hears him beat her. He can’t turn to family and the store’s gone, so where is our protagonist to go?
We then cut to Ga Young who is staring in amazement in the middle of Times Square. We see her taking in the sites and jotting things down in her notebook. She finally gets to the school, and we find out why her foster mother was surprised at the word scholarship earlier. Apparently, the wicked witch of the east sent a letter to the school saying that Ga Young decided to turn down the offer. Ga Young is obviously shocked by this and can’t believe it until she sees the letter. As the episode ends, we see Young Gul working on what looks like a fishing ship of some kind that I’m sure will lead him to New York to eventually meet up with Ga Young. How that’ll happen, considering that logically he’d land on the west coast, I don’t know but I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.
All in all, it wasn’t bad for a first episode. We jumped right into the storyline, the main characters and their basic relationships are setup; what more can you ask for? If you really wanted to nitpick I guess you can question their less than creative backstories. For example, Ga Young being an orphan is something that’s been done in at least 3 dramas that I’ve seen in the last year: City Hunter, Man of Honor, and Dream High 2. Having the leads meet as a child is something we’ve seen in Man of Honor and Baker King Kim Tak Gu. At this point though, it’s hard to be that creative about these things and as long as they develop it well and throw a few curves, I’m not going to hold it against them.
One thing I was mildly surprised about was that Young Gul isn’t a jerk like most male leads are. Okay, maybe jerk is too strong a word. Let’s just say generally the male leads have a less than cheery exterior that eventually melts to the charms of the idealistic female lead, which is rather well played by Shin Se Kyung I might add. While he’s clearly not the pushover nice guy type either, Young Gul’s character doesn’t fit the typical rom-com male lead description. His character is usually the other love interest that doesn’t get the girl, i.e. Jung Yong Hwa’s character in ‘You’re Beautiful’ or Jang Geun Suk is ‘Beethoven Virus’. I guess the nice main character isn’t that uncommon, but it’s definitely the minority.
It’s hard to tell as this is, after all, just the first episode, but so far this seems like a fairly standard romantic comedy. I’m impressed so far with the acting of the three leads that we’ve seen so far, so that’s always a plus. Hopefully, Yuri is better than fellow member Yoona or miss A’s Suzy was in their acting debuts so as to not detract from the story itself. I just hope it’s not a jumbled mess like Dream High 2 was. It’s also interesting to see Yoo Ah In play a completely new character compared to his last one in ‘Sungkyunkwan Scandal’. Too often I feel actors/actresses get typecast into playing the same basic role in every drama they’re in.