South Korea has quietly become Hollywood’s biggest competitor, producing wildly popular music, TV series, and beauty and fashion trends with global appeal. This week SHE celebrates the K-World we all live in.
You could say that South Korea had an influence on global pop culture, but that would be a massive understatement. In fact, the nation’s pop culture ascendancy has been so historic that there is even a unique term that describes its impact on so many areas of our way of life today: Hallyu– also known as the Korean wave. If you have taken note of the boom in Korean beauty, film, television and music, you have already felt the Hallyu effect, which further strengthens the East Asian country’s position in as a world power. Names like Bong Joon Ho and BTS are at the forefront of the entertainment industry, while brands like Soko Glam lead the beauty world. And with these examples as benchmarks, it feels like Korean culture is leaving in its wake a golden path of merging modern culture and viral popularity. As the world turns its eyes more and more to the country, there is another area where it puts its Midas touch: fashion.
As Korea continues to be a leading source for the Next Big Thing and contributes to the wider conversation around globalization, it makes sense that its designer league is among those in the industry to watch for a sneak peek. of what’s to come. Whether it’s the next round of trends or fashion commentary on cultural changes, the Korean fashion scene, which has seen an increase in public funding and programs like Korea Concept in recent years, is undoubtedly not to be ignored.
To keep you on top of your fashion game, Laura Jung, an influencer, model and entrepreneur who divides her time between Seoul and New York, and Celine Kim, a YouTube creator in South Korea, shares his must-have Korean brands.
If you’ve watched Netflix Next in fashion, you might recognize the bold and playful aesthetic of Minju Kim’s namesake brand. According to Jung, the designer’s pieces are “avant-garde, while remaining so powerfully feminine.” Kim, who won the design competition and has dressed stars like BTS members, often uses bright colors and prints, which she creates herself. “She doesn’t follow industry trends, but rather looks at the ever-changing landscape of our world, both micro and macro, to influence her collections,” Jung tells me in an email. “She’s a designer who uses her imagination to create designs that make you feel like you are living in the world of fairy tales that she strives to create collection after collection.”
“IISE mixes street fashion and Korean culture,” Kim says in a post. As a result, his designs feel inexplicably cool and modern with a timeless and utilitarian quality about them. “They use local fabrics and design techniques and bring a blend of qualities inspired by Korean culture into their products.” The designer also loves how IISE, which offers everything from sweatshirts and t-shirts to accessories, blurs the line between the sexes, which is very different from traditional Korean culture.
For those who like a tough and sexy streetwear side in their wardrobe, Hyein Seo is a must have. “In a way, his designs are the antithesis of the ideals so valued in Korean society, where validation and external opinions are important and where conservatism still runs deep,” Jung shares. The influencer explains how Korean ideals are rooted in Confucianism, which leads many to dress more conservatively. However, she also mentions that there is a growing movement for women’s empowerment in the country and that women are determined to break patriarchal norms to be more expressive in the way they dress. Hyein Seo, with his undeniably sexy and highly conceptualized pieces, plays a big role in it. “Hyein Seo’s interpretation of the female body and clothing as a form of liberation changes the way society perceives different self-expressions. Conservatism can no longer be the norm and we can absolutely change cultural norms through the way we dress and collectively present our bodies. “
At first glance, Andersson Bell reads and looks like a cool, minimalist Scandinavian brand, according to Jung. “[It’s] in fact, a Seoul-based brand that has perfected the everyday urban and street-inspired style, ”she says. “Think Scandinavian minimalism and Korean simplicity. The genderless brand incorporates elements from both cultures to create timeless and eccentric pieces with its unconventional silhouettes. The influencer also mentions that the line is available worldwide at top retailers, allowing consumers around the world to try out the casual streetwear look for themselves. “It’s amazing that [a brand] so distinctly Korean is now recognized in all corners of the world.
With designer Rei Yoon Hong Mi at the helm of Reike Nen, the handbag and shoe brand offers styles that fall between contemporary and classic. “Their designs are very unique, but also simple,” Kim says. “[Reike Nen’s designs] pair well with various looks without being boring! I also like their color choices. Whether it’s a reimagined take on a classic wardrobe staple, like a shoulder bag or strappy sandal, Reike Nen’s pieces have something inexplicably unique, each with a unique air of delicate sophistication.
Designer Hyemee Lee has a deep love for vintage fashion, and it shows in her clothing brand EENK. Each of its collections is deeply rooted in the classics with a modern and unexpected touch. The brand’s designs draw inspiration from a variety of past eras, resulting in a wide range of styles. “She’s a designer right now making the kind of clothes that young people want to wear right now – clothes that inspire confidence and timelessness, that are really, really well designed,” Jung shares. The brand is also incredibly versatile, according to the influencer. “You can go in any direction with EENK coins,” she says. “People no longer want to subscribe to one singular fashion, but rather embrace the different trends that span so many different decades. EENK embodies that perfectly. And as one of Korea’s top designers right now, Jung says it’s only a matter of time for her clothes to head west.
Artwork by Geoff Kim