What about Korean fashion makes it so distinct from other countries? Though some trends may be unfathomable to others, it makes up a very big part of Korean culture.
South Korea is taking over the world as many people are starting to recognise it as a unique cultural powerhouse. As Korean music, movies and celebrities are gaining more recognition by mainstream Western media, it is no surprise that the people are starting to draw attention to the distinctive fashion styles and trends. Like many others, I was devastated to hear the cancellation of Seoul Fashion Week. As I forlornly looked over the previous year’s collections, I started to notice the intricacies of Korean fashion that differentiated it from the rest of the world.
Seoul Fashion Week is notably one of the most famous events known by the average person. People from all over the world visit Seoul show off their own creative flair as well as observe other individual renditions of fashionable wear. This one event goes to show that South Korean fashion is super diverse and can range from an avant-garde style to streetwear to bright neon looks.
Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, and Hypebeast, are some of the many organisations who recognise this eclectic fashion and religiously report on this prestigious event. Most importantly, this event reflects and encapsulates the unique fashion culture of Korea.
Despite being a homogenous country, South Koreans welcome the different influences of other cultures and love to accentuate it with their own Korean flair. There is no set criteria as to what will become the next, new fad but if there is one thing to expect is that it will look undeniably good. However, just as easily as the trend sweeps in, it sweeps out just as quick. Just like the country, Korean fashion is a fast-paced culture and it allows people to experience the individual quirks of a certain style, only for another fad to blaze its way through. This allows us to see a diverse range of styles within Korea.
One of the craziest examples of this quick turnover was seen with the infamous padded jacket craze. Short North Face jackets were once the it item of Korea. They were dubbed as “spine breakers” (등골브레이커) as parents had to ‘break’ their ‘spines’ in order to afford one for their children. But despite the extravagant cost – why did people continue to buy them? As outrageous as it may sound, these jackets marked social status and separated fashionistas from the fashion-incompetent. Yet this reign soon came to an end when the long padded jackets took over as the next it item. The short North Face jackets that were once used as the benchmark of top-tier fashion soon became ridiculed as cliché and unoriginal.
Celebrities culture has played a great influence in modern trends and dictate what is considered Vogue. Products as menial as neon green house slippers can sell out if worn by the right celebrity (it’s G Dragon).
Western pop culture has greatly influenced Korean culture and as a result, important cultural facets like traditional garb garner less interest. However, Koreans have seen a resurgence in traditional influences of everyday outfits. One major reason for this resurgence can be thanked to A-List celebrities like BTS. Jungkook, a beloved member of BTS, made Korean headlines last year for his Hanbok (traditional Korean wear) airport fashion. The brand’s website, Zijangsa, faced server issues due to the sudden influx of orders. This is just one of the many examples that showcase how much South Korean civilians revere and look towards celebrities for fashion influences.
Intimacy in clothing
Matching couple fashion is generally unheard of in Western countries however it is very much a big part of the culture in East Asian countries; South Korea is no exception. It is not limited to partners and can be done with both friends and family. It is an effortless way to announce your relationship status and the close bonds you hold with the other. No one is really sure when exactly couple fashion became popularised, but some theorise it was a way for partners to show romantic affection in a conservative society. Couple looks are not simply limited to cute, dandy styles and can now be seen in fierce high-end events such as Seoul Fashion Week.
In short, Korean people are fashion people. There is a heavy focus on outward appearances, and it is explicitly expected to look your best and is considered rude otherwise. Having a good sense of style and investing into fashionable pieces is not limited to the trendy but a normal cultural facet. It is easily comparable to a symbiotic relationship where one brings out the best in the other. Thanks to high profile names like BTS, Sora Choi, and Blackpink, South Korean style is no longer bounded to its own insular circle and open to a global market.
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