‘Hey, do you listen to K-pop?’
This is what I hear 90% of the time when I say that I’m from South Korea. When I respond that I naturally listen to Korean pop because I’m Korean, people usually reply, ‘oh, my friend is really obsessed with BTS’ or ‘I really love K-pop too’. Back home we call this international phenomenon of Korean cultural popularity the Korean wave or ‘Hallyu’. Many people attribute the beginning of the wave to PSY’s international hit ‘Gangnam Style’ in 2012. Since then numerous Korean cultural exports have been consumed around the world most notably K-pop, K- drama, and the emerging Korean fashion.
K-pop stars play a huge role in propagating Seoul as the new fashion capital. One prominent example of a Korean popstar and fashionista is Ji-Yong Kwon- better known as his stage name: G-Dragon or GD. Part of one of the biggest Korean boy bands Big Bang, GD has 14.2 million followers on Instagram, making him the most followed K-pop star. His fun, mismatched colors and bold statement pieces caught the eyes of many international fashion brands including Chanel, Gucci, and Saint Laurent. GD is also a muse of designer Karl Lagerfeld. G-Dragon represents Korean fashion- a
style constantly challenging norms. GD has been a front-runner in questioning gender norms in
the realm of fashion; in the Fall of 2017 GD created a stir by appearing to Chanel’s fashion show
wearing the women’s collection. In South Korea gender stereotypes of fashion are often broken and it is common to see men wearing more stereotypically feminine pieces and vice versa.
Not only do Korean popstars propagate the wave of fashion, but Korean clothing brands
are gaining a wider international audience as well. One of the most notable brands is Style Nanda. Founded by So Hee Kim in 2004, it started as a small online shop in Korea. It has now expanded in to a worldwide brand with a revenue of $150 million shipping to the United States, Canada,
Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and twelve other countries around the world. This year the
global brand L’Oréal has purchased the brand and hopes to make the brand and its makeup
counterpart 3CE into an international phenomenon. With internet shopping consisting of 27%
of its revenue Style Nanda hopes to expand its already global market. Thanks to brands such
as Style Nanda many East and South East Asian countries look up to Korean fashion. This
impact is especially notable in China. Many attribute the success of Korean fashion in China
to Korean drama series which often contain fashion product placements of local brands.
Although Korean fashion and culture is slowly branching out it is safe to say that it
has yet to become mainstream in western culture. Many do not understand the futuristic, androgynous styles curated by Korean culture. Hopefully, as the ‘hallyu’ phenomenon grows these ideas will break any boundaries left.