Korean Clothing Brands: The Rise Of Korean Fashion
While other cultures have fashion histories that extend as far back as the 19th century, Korea’s fashion industry is relatively new.
The first Korean person to have a fashion show in Paris was Andre Kim, who presented his work in 1966. However, it wasn’t until the 90s that Korean fashion would become well-known around the world. In 1990, designer Lee Shin Woo presented his work in the Tokyo Collection. And in 1992, several designers had their work displayed at a pret-a-porter show in Paris.
The highly positive international reception of these designers led the Korean government to start promoting local fashion, a big part of the aggressive cultural expansion that the government was undertaking in the 90s.
In the 2000s, K-pop and K-dramas began spreading all over Asia, and later on to America and Europe. The eclectic style of the characters and celebrities of Korean culture were a huge hit around the world and brought Korean fashion into international consciousness.
Today, the capital city of Seoul is a major fashion hub of Asia, and Seoul Fashion Week carries similar prestige to the Fashion Weeks of cities like Tokyo, New York, and Paris. The government is constantly searching for new designers to promote and support, while textile industries are heavily funded and regulated.
The Top Clothing Brands In Korea
Looking to get started with Korean fashion? Here are the brands you need to check out.
When huge fast fashion brands like Uniqlo and Zara started spreading around Asia, they became well-known in each new country as high-quality but affordable ways of sticking to modern trends.
In response, textile manufacturer Cheil Industries created 8Seconds in 2012, using its Samsung Group money for an aggressive marketing campaign. Today, they release new collections nearly every week, allowing you to stay on top of trends without breaking the bank.
Designer Cho Eun Ae’s brand Tibaeg counters the unisex, street fashion trends of Korean fashion, focusing on more relaxed, feminine silhouettes and less aggressive prints – a fitting fashion identity for a brand whose name is inspired by the smooth flavours and elegance of teabags. Tibaeg has since collaborated with international brands such as Disney and Louis Quatorze.
8. Lucky Chouette
Lucky Chouette is the brainchild of Kim Jae-hyun, who was a part of the ‘Seoul’s 10 Soul’ project that aimed to boost awareness of up-and-coming Korean designers. With its signature bright colours, cute prints, and unique contours, Lucky Chouette is an eclectic brand that’s popular among the younger crowd.
The style of street fashion brand Charm’s is rooted in nostalgia. Their 90s-style aesthetic has become popular with many local celebrities, and they’ve had several collaborations with fashion icons like Instagram personality Irene Kim, and K-pop stars like Key Ki-bum, who actually became fashion director of the brand.
6. The Studio K
While most fashion brands love to emphasise the human form, Studio K prefers to relish in high technology and industrial looks, making it one of the most unique-looking brands on our list.
Designer Lee Chung Chung might have cut his teeth in the Korean menswear industry, but today he’s better-known for his women’s brand Lie. His label is highlighted by a tendency to mix different hues and patterns, and for some uniquely androgynous-looking women’s clothes that have elements taken from men’s fashion.
4. Hyein Seo
Designer Hyein Seo has led a charmed life in the industry. While still in school, she was invited to present her work at New York Fashion Week. She was later on honoured with Best Designer at the International Fashion Showcase of the British Fashion Council. Rihanna has even worn her work!
Today, Hyein Seo’s innovative streetwear label continues to impress, eschewing bright colours in favour of monochromatic patterns and textures, while presenting uniquely oversized silhouettes that manage to maintain their femininity.
Detroit-based designer Kathleen Hanhee Kye studied at the prestigious London design school, Central Saint Martins. She graduated in 2011 and started her own self-titled label, KYE, later that year. Kye has since bagged a number of awards and nods in the global fashion industry, including the LVMH (Louis Vuitton) Prize for Young Fashion Designers, and the International Woolmark Prize Asia regional finals for womenswear.
Today, KYE is a rising brand that’s well known for its street fashion pieces and having been worn by celebrities like Khloe Kardashian and Rihanna.
2. Beyond Closet
Taeyong Ko created Beyond Closet in 2008 to appeal to young men looking for a more casual, vibrant look that challenges the traditionally muted palettes of menswear. They’ve got college jerseys, sweaters, coats, parkas, and they even have a women’s lineup.
Taeyong Ko was the costume designer on the set of the hit K-drama Boys Over Flowers, and if you liked the outfits on the show, you can expect a spiritually similar theme from Beyond Closet.
1. Style Nanda
Style Nanda was started in 2004 by Kim So-hee as an online secondhand clothes reseller. Today, it’s one of the most popular makeup and fashion brands in Korea, with a 2017 revenue of $152 million. With 1.3 million Instagram followers, it’s one of the best-known Korean fashion brands around the world and is among the top go-to brands for foreign Korean fashion enthusiasts who’ve just started exploring.
To top it all off, in 2018, L’Oreal bought a controlling stake in the company, indicating international confidence in the quality and innovation of its products.