Let us walk you through South Korea’s fashion resurgence
BY: ALEXANDER CAO | FEATURED + LEAD IMAGES COURTESY OF ADER ERROR
South Korean influence on global cultural markets has become such an entity of its own that there’s a term for it in the Korean language: hallyu, which literally translates to, “the flow of Korea.” It all began in the ‘90s when China became one of the largest consumers of Korean culture, but over the past few years Americans have started to surf the second wave too. Think about it: What other country has their own skincare section in the hallowed shelves of Sephora? What country has amassed legions of rabid international fans in its own pop music industry, which has become a notorious niche genre of its own?
And now the country’s fashion industry is seeing an exponential increase in global interest too–just look at any .com/style forum discussion. It’d be a crude assumption to assume that new talent has taken center stage in a vacuum. Designer mainstays like Jung Wook Jun of JUUN.J and Wooyoungmi have been participating in the main fashion week circuit for a long time now (the former made his debut in 2007 at Paris Fashion Week, and the latter even earlier in 2003).
The torch for younger audiences are labels like Ader Error and STYLENANDA, whose distinct candy-coated aesthetics are a total hit commodity. Heralded as, “the Vetements of Korea,” by Vogue, Ader Error boasts unorthodox cuts, unisex design, and graphic color choices, all of which seems an elevated take on a normcore aesthetic. And for proponents of fast-fashion, there’s STYLENANDA: basically, a snazzier Forever 21, with a following so immense that it’s models are becoming celebrities of their own.
Oddly enough, South Korea’s burgeoning fashion industry is more of an asset than anything else. Propelled by trend-driven youth culture, these labels and many others are headed by and marketed to hyper-visual Gen XYZ consumers. Woo Young Mi herself admitted in an interview, “Korean Fashion is much younger than that of the rest of the world. There are no Seoul-based brands with a 100-year old fashion legacy. Today, Korean brands get to be innovators, and we have a great ability to consistently offer something new and bold.”
Like any other business, the brands that thrive are those that take advantage of current networks like social media platforms to increase brand awareness not only in their native countries, but also to international markets. For the longest time, a jacket with the face of a crying anime girl from the Pushbutton AW16 collection was the only thing visible on Tumblr feeds for that season. Ader Error and STYLENANDA also both produce imagery that garners attention not from any particular location, but to a culture that is constantly plugged into a curated visual feed. South Korea has seen immeasurable progress in industrialization and advancement across the board. Keeping that in mind, it’s no shock whatsoever that Seoul is now positioned as a new fashion capital. These designers have distilled the fast-paced dynamism and material awareness of South Korean culture into key collections not just worthy of global attention, but also as an admirable paradigm for emerging talent.