The emerging Korean fashion stars that are leaving their mark on the world

South Korea is enjoying a time in the spotlight.
That's both excellent and terrible for domestic fashion firms.

While the country has long held the title of Asia's trendsetter, thanks to an insatiable fascination with K-pop stars Blackpink and BTS and general Korean pop culture, high local and tourist demand, and government support for foreign operators, in recent years it has emerged as a particularly reliable spot in APAC, while neighbors like China continue to be affected by Covid lockdowns and store closures.
LVMH-owned Dior, Kering's Gucci, and French designer brand Ami have all targeted South Korea, organizing fashion shows, store openings, and parties.

This global desire for Korean culture raises the country's reputation on the international scene.
However, for growing local fashion firms, it means severe competition.


According to Seoul-based fashion designer Dongjoon Lim, creativity and commerciality have long been at conflict in South Korea's culturally homogenous market.
Due to their strong financial strength and huge distribution networks, chaebols, or Korean conglomerates, such as Lotte, Hyundai, and Shinsegae (who brought Acne Studios, Proenza Schouler, and Loewe to the nation in 2013, a year after launching Celine and Emilio Pucci) dominate the market.


In contrast to locations like London and Copenhagen, where new labels compete for a seat on the official fashion week program, many Korean designers avoid Seoul Fashion Week due to poor international attendance and awareness.
Buyers are uninterested as well, with many local retailers frequently choosing overseas fashion names over native labels because they believe they are "better" and cost the same.
Lim argues that the current atmosphere has made it difficult for Korean creatives to create.
"The majority of Korean fashion shoppers choose Japanese or Western brands.
They do not purchase domestic labels."


The social media starting point

Lim's creative menswear brand is gaining popularity both domestically and internationally.
In 2018, he and Sookyo Jeong co-founded Post Archive Faction (PAF), a company that creates innovative, structured shapes using sophisticated, multi-purpose textiles.
Since 2020, PAF has shown its collections to buyers directly at a showroom in Paris.
The brand was nominated for the LVMH Prize in 2021.
Ssense, H Lorenzo, and Dover Street Market are among the nearly 40 global stockists.
PAF, which has been self-funded until date, is profitable, with sales of $2 million in 2021.
According to Lim, the brand will close about $4-5 million by the end of 2022, representing a 200 percent increase in revenues.

As a result, many Korean designers, according to Lim, play it safe, focusing on economical, everyday staples.
"They don't develop experimental items or try out new designs since no one will buy them."

The K-pop effect
South Korea's star power is a significant advantage.

Miss Sohee's popularity is growing as a result of her most recent client, Blackpink.
Park clothed all four members of the band — Jennie, Rosé, Lisa, and Jisoo — for their 2022 Born Pink tour, which is an impressive effort given that the complete group is rarely worn by a single designer.
According to Park, Blackpink's stylist team at YG Entertainment contacted out ahead of the tour.
"They wanted to wear something with a Korean flair, and they also wanted them to be personalized pieces," Park explains.

Andersson Bell has also benefited from Korean celebrities' global appeal.
Jung Kook, a South Korean boy band vocalist, popularized the brand. 

While South Korea is gaining traction as a luxury destination, issues within the country's local fashion industry persist.
A new generation of Korean fashion designers is going outside its borders, gaining the attention of worldwide stockists such as Ssense and Net-a-Porter.
They've gained profitability in just a few years by giving their own distinct points of view.
New commerce platforms and celebrity endorsements are assisting with exposure and sales growth.

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