A Music Video’s Right-Hand Man: A Look Into K-Pop’s Fashion Storytelling
Fashion is a doorway to expression, one that we use to express who we are as people. In the case of K-Pop, it’s that and much more. We already know just how important airport style is in the industry, with an idol’s short walk from their car to their airport terminal being treated as their own personal runway. In the world of K-Pop, fashion is considered to be equally as important as music in the whole equation. A lot of thought goes into choosing which member wears what, when they change outfits, how the clothes complement the scenery in a music video; in short, fashion is like its own brand of art in the K-Pop world with a lot of thought put into it where stylists manage to create visual unity while giving each member their own spark.
One thing that stylists and cinematographers manage to do that we don’t talk about as often is use styling as a way to paint a picture for viewers—and boy, do they do it well. From being very clear about the kind of story they want to tell through the clothes, to adding subtle nuances throughout to aid the progression of a music video, the list varies. We can see this very clear storytelling through DAY6’s most recent music video “Shoot Me,” where the group’s outfits reflect the message of the song. Depicting the effect of harsh words and comparing them to bullets, the band starts off in monotonous shades of achromatic colors like black, gray, and dark blue—a clear reference to the muted, negative atmosphere of the scene. At the turning point within the music video is when we get our outfit change: a complete turn into a much lighter and brighter vibe with the group dressed in whites and light blues. This seemingly simple change in wardrobe is a clear reflection of the protagonist standing up to the crowd as well as the effect of positive words expressed through colorful paint “bullets.”
Of course, when it comes to subtle details, who else to turn to but the queen of beautiful music: IU. Since taking a lot of control over her music through writing lyrics and composing her own songs, IU has managed to create a niche for herself. Getting quite personal and putting a lot of her personality into her songs, it is impossible to not recognize an IU track within the first three seconds. A lot of this is thanks to the direction of the music videos and, of course, the styling. “Palette,” for example, is one song that has IU written all over it. That may also be because it’s literally a song all about her quirks and preferences…but I digress. Almost as if to highlight the range of her personality, the music video is a palette of soft colors that fill her life. Outfits in shades of deep purple and hot pink reveal the transition of her personality as she grows up and the duality between her introverted and extroverted selves.
Fashion is also a very important factor in reflecting the vibe of the song. To put it quite simply, would “Red Flavor” be the song that it is without the refreshing outfits that remind you summer’s here in a way that only Red Velvet can? In the case of Red Velvet, their outfits do not fall in a particular category of style but instead give the group their own distinctive taste—something that reflects the unique standpoint of the group itself. What’s fascinating with Red Velvet is how their styles vary with both their “red” and “velvet” sides, but somehow still manage to have a signature look that is instantly recognizable. This is an aspect that is also very apparent with BLACKPINK, with their strong, rich, girl crush concept. While the whole girl crush approach isn’t very new on the K-Pop scene, BLACKPINK has most definitely taken it to a whole new level. Styled flawlessly down to a T, the girls manage to radiate the harmony between the “black” and “pink” sides of them, just through their clothes. Their style screams elegant women who are absolutely unapologetic about their aura, something that we’re all completely here for.
This really is just the tip of the iceberg that is the versatility of fashion in music video concepts. Despite what people might see the K-Pop industry as, it is very diverse in what it has to offer. The range of content that fans get is vast and exciting and behind all of that, there are so many people who work hard to produce the perfect, polished groups that the public sees. Artistic fantasies and intricate storylines seen through the likes of groups such as VIXX and BTS are the result of rich visuals and narratives aided by hardworking stylists. This is especially true in the case of VIXX with their recent focus on Greek mythology: their style needs to be decadent to match (something they achieve flawlessly, of course). But this flawlessness isn't just reserved for music video concepts either (case in point: BTS at award shows). Styling is quite a tough job that requires talent and a lot of work to create the effortless image seen of idols onscreen, and something that definitely needs to be appreciated, so shoutout to all the stylists out there who keep at it to give the fans just what they thirst for.