Fashion in Korea

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In recent years, fashion in Korea has evolved due to inspirations from Western culture, wealth, and social media practices, as well as the country's developing economy.

Despite these influences, South Korean fashion has maintained a unique style which has influenced worldwide trends.[1] South Korea's style is known for being expressive and reflecting a sense of individuality, which are absent from the style of its northern counterpart, North Korea.[2]

In addition, the Korean Wave (the spread of appreciation for South Korean culture) is beginning to affect the fashion world. For example, some pop stars from Korea have recently been making appearances in large cities such as New York, widely known as one of the world's fashion capitals.[3] Euny Hong, journalist and author, predicts that this fashion phenomenon will soon reach across the world.[4]


Antiquity and the pre-modern era[edit]

Winter clothes were typically made using soft cotton stuffed between layers of silk or cotton. Clothes worn in the summer were made from hemp and ramie.[5] Components of these clothes helped to form the look and style of the traditional Korean dress, hanbok. Historically, Koreans have preferred to wear white clothing, a tradition believed to have stemmed from the Three Kingdoms period.[6] To Koreans, white traditionally symbolizes simplicity, integrity, innocence and nobility.[7]

Fashion trends[edit]

  • 1950s–60s: Introduction of Western clothing into Korean culture.
  • 1970s–80s: Development of ready-made clothes industry (factory-made clothing, off-the-peg).
  • 1980s–90s: Organization of SFA; increased popularity of designer brands.
  • Present: Internationalization of fashion; overseas expansion of Korean designer clothes.[8]

Fashion industry overview[edit]

  • 1917–1919: Textile industry opens; Joseon Textile Corporation and Kangsung Textiles are established and a labor-intensive industry with inexpensive workforce begins.
  • 1960: Labor-intensive industry changes when the first mass-producing corporations appear.
  • 1970: Beginning of the women's clothing industry; minority designers make female ready-made suits in small boutiques.[9]
  • 1972–1977: Major companies participate in making ready-made clothes (there is an automatic increase in the quality of clothing).
  • After 1970s: Because of increased GNP and the social debut of women, more diverse women's clothing begins to appear.
  • 1980–1982: Advent of color TV;[10] school uniform and hairstyle regulations impact fashion in South Korea.
  • 1986–1988: Hosting of Asian Games and 1988 Summer Olympics increases development of sport clothing brands.
  • 1997: Fashion industry declines in the IMF.[11]
  • 1999: Fashion industry recovers (high class materials with famous brands increasingly noticeable).[12]
  • Present: Government support and public attention leads to growth of designer fashion; Korean fashion industry is establishing its position in the world.[13]

Fashion shows[edit]

  • 1955: An official name-designer was used primarily in South Korea; authorized designers are Norano Soo-kyung Seo, Young-ae Kim (kor : 노라노, 서수경, 김영애).[14]
  • 1958: First fashion contest opens.[15]
  • 1962: First international fashion show.
  • 1964: Second fashion contest opens.
  • 1966: Korean fashion show opens in South-East Asia expo.
  • 1969: KAFDA (Korean Designers in New York Association) is established.[16]
  • 1970: Korean fashion show opens in Japan at Expo '70.
  • 1972: Farmer fashion show opens in the community development research society and KPD (Busan Designer Association) is established.
  • 1983: First competitive exhibition for textile and fashion design opens.
  • 1987: Ssangbangul (kor: 쌍방울) opens; first multidisciplinary cloth fashion show.
  • 1990: S.F.A.A collection openshttps[17], and designer Sin-woo Lee participates in Tokyo collection; fashion in South Korea becomes widely known thanks to the Tokyo collection.
  • 1992: Daejeon expo uniform festival opens and Korean designers go overseas.
  • 1993: Korean designers participate in prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear fashion) in Paris.
  • Present: South Korean designers hold Korean fashion shows in many countries, often showcasing Korean styles.[18]
  • 2011: Hanbok fashion show was held in Seoul, South Korean. Hanbok is as considered the traditional clothing for Korean custom.[19]


In the early 1990s, designer Lee Shin Woo participated in the Tokyo Collection.[citation needed] Lee Shin Woo, Lee Young Hee, Jin Tea Ok, Hong Mi Wha, and others participated in the pret-a-porter in Paris. Korean designers appeared actively on the global stage, with their designs being shown all over the world. The Korean government started to encourage talented designers. By the end of the 1990s, the encouragement of talented designers declined due to the currency crisis. Lately, the government has supported designers, and also ones who are less successful in the domestic economy are beginning to advance abroad.[20]

  • Moon Young Hee is a designer who expresses Korean ideas in a modernistic way. The world can share her designs. By the end of the 1960s, she had worked as a designer in Wha Shin Renaun, and founded the 'Moon boutique' ready-made clothing brand in 1974. In 1992, she founded the 'Moon Young Hee' designer brand.[21]
Andre Kim
  • Andre Kim (24 August 1935 (Gyeonggi-do Goyang-si) – 12 August 2010) was a South Korean fashion designer based in Seoul, South Korea. He was known predominantly for his evening and wedding gown collections. He is survived by his adopted son, Kim Jung-do.[22]
  • Lie Sang-Bong is a major fashion designer who shows Korean fashions in pret-a-porter, which is the core of the global fashion industry. Lie graduated from the Seoul Institute of the Arts. He made his first debut as a fashion designer in 1983 when he won a prize in the Central Design Contest. In 1993, he gained attention from the Korean fashion community by presenting his first collection, 'The Reincarnation', at Seoul Fashion Week. Furthermore, in 1999 he was nominated as "Best Designer of the Year" by the Mayor of Seoul. Finally, in 2002 he made his debut in Paris and launched his first title, 'The Lost Memoir'. In 2006, Lie Sang-Bong held his place as a global designer, showing hangeul design clothes for the first time. In 2010, he provided custom designs for Yuna Kim. His appearance in Muhandojeon in 2006 contributed to his popularity.[23] Lie Sang-Bong is emerging as an 'influential designer' since the death of Andre Kim.[24]
  • Steve J & Yoni Pare married designers. They make witty and characteristic clothes.[25] They held their 2013 FW Collection on 27 March 2013 (4:00 pm) in Yeuido IFC. The theme of Steve J & Yoni P's 2013 FW collection is 'Classic Meet Punk'. They make Punk a symbol of rebellion and youth, reborn at length as Rock Couture.[26]
  • Designer Lee Suk Tae graduated at L'ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne and L'ecole de studio berco in Paris. He was selected in a young French designers' contest in Paris. He also had the opportunity to work in the Paris headquarters of the designing team of Sonia Rykiel and the Christian Dior Paris headquarters. 1997 was the year when he launched his own brand under the name of Kaal E. Suctae. The same year he was selected by the Korean Fashion Association and invited to present a collection at Hong Kong Fashion Week. A year later, in 1998, Lee Suk Tae inaugurated his own store, Galleria Department Store in Apgujungdong in Gangnam, and the brand entered the Collected (Seoul) multi-shop. Lee Suc Tae was selected as one of Seoul's "10 Soul Designers".[27]


  • Modern Creation Munich (MCM) is a luxury brand of leather goods, apparel, and footwear, owned by Sungjoo Design Tech & Distribution. The brand was founded by Michael Cromer in Munich in 1975 as 'Michael Cromer Munich' (MCM).[28] In 2005 the brand was acquired by Sungjoo Design, which had been the German brand's exclusive licensee and distributor in Korea since 1994. Sungjoo Design is also the official licensee for Marks & Spencer, Lulu Guinness bags and Billy Bag.[29]
  • Bean Pole is a fashion brand belonging to Cheil Industries (of the Samsung Group). The Bean Pole brand has been successfully developed into one that can compete with the likes of Ralph Lauren. The brand differentiated itself by departing from the model used by its domestic competitors and dedicating itself to providing high-end, high quality casual apparel. Bean Pole's "Total Family Brand Strategy" has allowed it to expand into new demographics, and it is set to enjoy overseas success.[30]
  • Who.A.U. is a popular clothing brand, pronounced "who are You", owned by E-Land, that sells clothes at relatively cheaper prices than its competitors. Their main marketing strategy is to imitate the California and exotic look.
  • Hazzys and Darks are fashion brands belonging to the LG Corporation.[31]
  • Teenie Weenie is an adult clothing store and SPA brand of the E-Land group.
  • BangBang caters to the teen and young adult demographic and carries a casual line of clothing. Prices are moderate and styles are ever-changing, following trends in the current society. Celebrity model Ha Ji-won endorses the brand.
  • Beyond Closet specializes in youth clothing from high school to funky street style.[32]


Seoul Fashion Week[edit]

The Seoul Fashion Week[33] is a global fashion event held twice a year in the Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter seasons. It is sponsored by the city of Seoul and conducted by Inotion World Wide. The Fashion Weeks are held in March and October in South Korea, and are followed by shows in New York City, Paris, London and Milan. The event is marked with inclusivity and diversity, combining high fashion with street style.[34] The Seoul Fashion Week is split into three parts:[35]

  1. The Seoul Collection: A high-end Korean fashion event. The collection is among some of the biggest in Korean fashion.
  2. Generation Next is an upcoming fashion design program for Korean designers. It concentrates on designers with fewer than 5 years of experience. Unique appearance and creative thinking are emphasized in this section.
  3. The Seoul Fashion Fair is an exhibition showcasing Korean fashion companies. Its mission is to grow Korean fashion companies by helping to build business partnerships to compete in the global fashion market. It is easy for companies to get a spot at the fair.

Korea Fashion Design Contest[edit]

The Korea Fashion Design Contest looks for fresh and rising design talent in Korea. This contest began in 1983, and it has been supported by the Korean government since 2004 for its promotion of new designers.[36] The contest aims to:

  1. Find promising new Korean designers.
  2. Provide strategic and systematic mentoring, advertising and marketing support to these designers.
  3. Showcase Korean fashion on an international scale, to show the world that Korean fashion is a high-value industry.[37]

Korea Style Week 2013[edit]

Korea Style Week was an exhibition at COEX in Korea in 2013.[38] It combined a fashion show format with that of a fair for the first time in Korea. This was done to make it easy to find new designers and fashion online. Korea Style Week was an opportunity for companies to introduce the public to their products. This was done by creating events like styling classes, runways, flea markets, etc.

K-Pop: K-Collection in Seoul Fashion Concert[edit]

The K-Collection was last held on 11 March 2012, at the Olympic Stadium in Seoul.[39] The event was hosted by the Korea Tourism Organization, and featured performances by K-Pop artists such as MBLAQ, Infinite, Big Bang, IU, Girls’ Generation , and Miss A. The fashion show featured (among others) collections by 2PLACEBO, 8seconds, Kappa,and Skin Food.

K-pop and The Fashion World[edit]

With the Korean Wave sweeping over many countries in East Asia, the Middle East, Europe, North America and Oceania, the cultural influence of Korea has reached the global fashion world, as well. Fashion plays an integral role in many aspects of Korean culture, such as in Korean Popular Music, also known as K-pop. This attention to fashion is evident in the outfits worn by artists, who are partnering up with major fashion houses to showcase their work.

Many K-pop fans closely follow popular artists' or groups' activities, with fashion playing both an integral and important role in the trends set by their idols. In turn, those fans replicate their style to fit their own lifestyle. For example, 2NE1 introduced high-end fashion labels such as Givenchy and Balmain to the Korean audience. According to Harper's Bazaar, "Korean style is a mix of streetwear and luxury".[40] They further highlight that the trend is combining European brands and streetwear brands together.

Blackpink and Mulberry[edit]

Lisa and Rose, members of the popular girl group Blackpink, were featured on the September issue of Dazed Korea. Their ensemble was created from pieces from Mulberry's 2018 Fall/Winter collection. In addition, they sat in the front row at this year's Mulberry Show in Seoul. The objective of Johnny Coca, the creative director of the major British fashion house, was not only to make Mulberry a prominent brand in the UK but also to garner international recognition in places such as South Korea. In an article by Vogue, Coca states that "Korea was the second (biggest) country in terms of revenue so it was important to be part of that expansion and to communicate more about the brand and its heritage to the Korean customer".[41] Targeting Korea not only expands the brand's reach but also helps it gain high exposure due to the fashion-forward audience by inviting popular K-Pop idols with a wide reach of fandom.

Winner and Burberry[edit]

Another famous British fashion house, Burberry, was featured by Mino and Hoony, two members of the popular K-pop group Winner. They were dressed in the Burberry Spring/Summer 2018 collection for the brand's show. Furthermore, they received early access to the Spring 2018 collection as soon as they landed in England. According to an article in Vogue, "The two wore full looks while enjoying their time around London, sharing multiple images of themselves in pieces that are sure to be among the seasons most coveted. While sharing snapshots of tartan tote bags and classic trenches, the pair also managed to squeeze in a little sightseeing..."[42] This creates a mutually beneficial relationship between the brand and the artists. The artists promote the brand's clothing by sharing their fashion insight with their fans.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


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