Riding the Hallyu Wave in Style
March has finally come upon us with plenty of good things in store. Spring is finally here, flowers are in bloom, and we have Seoul Fashion Week to look forward to. Held twice a year, the Spring/Summer show will take place in Seoul from March 19 to 24. Korean fashion, while not new in itself, is a newly discovered phenomenon.
Surrounded by fashion giants like China and Japan, Korea does tend to get a bit overshadowed in terms of size and sales. Regardless of being a small player in an otherwise very competitive industry, they have managed to not just stand their ground, but surpass their counterparts in terms of one thing: influence. What is it that led this march into the spotlight?
Over recent years, Korea has garnered a lot of international attention thanks to a plethora of its exports from music to beauty, hitting the sweet spots of many globally. Known more commonly as the Hallyu Wave, Korea’s pop culture exports are a pretty big deal at the moment. The most popular, of course, being K-Pop, which initially started off as a fad but has slowly moved into something of a movement. Pioneered by PSY, who took the world by storm with “Gangnam Style” in 2012, and currently led by BTS, the Hallyu wave shows the sheer growth and power that K-Pop has around the world.
THE HALLYU, THE IDOLS, AND THE WARDROBE
Of course once the portal to K-Pop is opened, it’s pretty much a freefall from there on. From one fan to another, I’m sure we can all empathize with how easy it is to get sucked in. When I heard my first K-Pop song, little did I know that it was just the beginning, and I still had a long way down the rabbit hole to go. One of the strongest aspects of the Hallyu Wave is that the different fields are so closely connected that it is impossible to be aware of one and not the other.
K-Pop created a pathway for an international audience to access different cultural areas like food, television, film, and most obviously, beauty. From the tremendous influence of Korean beauty to Korean dramas gaining a high amount of popularity—yes I’m talking about the whole Goblin rage—the Hallyu wave had become something of a global phenomenon. However, it didn’t just stop there. As a result of the growing attention and fanbase of K-Pop and dramas, another area came to light: fashion.
While K-Pop fashion is something of its own genre and at times can even put Harajuku street style to shame, it still manages to have an aesthetic that really speaks to its audience. Styling is an important part of a group’s presentation—from the music video to something as minor as their airport fashion. As a fashion student and a devout fan of the Korean media industry, stumbling upon this gold mine was an explosion of bliss.
Not far behind, dramas are another major messenger of the Korean fashion aesthetic. One of the things I love about dramas is how much thought and detail actually goes into the actors’ outfits. Whether it be to express the general atmosphere or the personality of the character, or just reflective of the trends in Korea at the time, the styling is extensive. These efforts have definitely had a significant effect on the retail industry within Korea. One popular example was the rage for the products worn by Jun Jihyun in the immensely popular drama My Love from the Star. From the luxury brands she wore right down to the lipsticks used in the show, all were highly sought out by fans—not just in Korea but also in Singapore and China.
While actors are able to hold their own weight in creating this kind of desire amongst fans, the increase in idol-inclusive dramas has definitely created a surge in both viewership and attention to products. More clothing and beauty brands are using dramas as a tool to sponsor their products, and it’s most definitely working. Korean brands like Laneige have surged in popularity through this sort of association.
With the success that K-Beauty has achieved globally, it’s safe to say that its clothing counterpart, while at a slower pace, is definitely catching up. As a regular user of the online retailer Yesstyle, I can vouch for the fact that the Korean aesthetic is definitely desired at the moment. Based on online websites that sell Korean clothing, most of the popular styles are based on trendy garments and idol-inspired clothing. However, what will be interesting to see is whether this sort of attention will turn towards the fashion industry as an element of its own as opposed to being backed by the support of Hallyu stars. Therefore, we look forward to Seoul Fashion Week with eagerness—not only to see what sort of fresh creativity comes out, but also how the designers manage to penetrate the market and establish themselves as names of their own worth.