From beauty to music to television, the Koreans are now starting to dominate the fashion scene. Like in the other industries, Korean culture have a distinct and individualistic image of their own but it’s still attractive to an international audience because of its uniqueness and universal appeal.
Getting into a whole new set of trends and culture is too overwhelming on its own, more so in fashion for its wide variety. This list should get you acquainted with the Korean designer brands that will put you closer to the center of what’s in in the fashion world on the other side of the globe.
Rihanna is killing it in the music scene, but her fashion sense steals the show too. Hyein Seo is the lucky designer whose pieces Rihanna wore from head to toe for her performance at the 2014 MTV Movie Awards, which catapulted her into the fashion industry. Despite the light hue and femininity of the outfit, the pieces that came from the collection Fear Eats the Soul still embodied Rihanna’s innate swag and enhanced it for the stage.
Having studied in Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Seo adopts avant-garde inspirations from the place and turns them into wearable pieces for all kinds of women. The brand sticks to the types of clothes that women of different styles could feel comfortable about wearing but it keeps up a challenge through high-fashion presentation and styling in their shoots and lookbooks. With collections named Don’t Deliver Us From Evil and Lady Vengeance, Hyein Seo markets itself as the brand you go to when you want to exude toughness without losing your feminine side.
SJYP is a Korean streetwear brand that has captured both Korean and international stars’ hearts. Behind the brand is the powerhouse couple, Steve Jung and Yoni Pai, who first caught people’s attention through their denim dresses in their debut line.
The denim-centric brand takes advantage of the versatile fabric to create either timeless classics or trend-appropriate pieces. The young and young-at-heart today will love it most for the denim dresses, patched jackets, distressed skirts, two-tone shorts, and frayed-edge jeans that are reminiscent of iconic ‘90s style. Beyond the trends, SJYP also produces sweatshirts, hoodies, and tees using other textiles that go with the cozy sporty aesthetic.
Blindness, from its name to its collections, have deeper meanings behind the brand than it initially allows people to see. This label is run by the humble designer couple, Shin Kyu Yong and Ji Sun, whose intentions about challenging male and female stereotypes in Korea are deeply yet discreetly ingrained into their non-gender designs.
In this way, the name Blindness means letting go of prejudices and letting people express their masculinity and femininity however the way it shows up in their manner of dressing, regardless of their sexuality. The clothes themselves are influenced by modern artistry and minimalism but the progressive attitudes of the brand makes it easier for men and women to find a connection.
D.Gnak is the reversed version of its designer’s name, Kang Dong Jun. This play on letters is reflective of the menswear label’s experimental and explorative approach towards designing clothes through unexpected details and silhouettes and a monochromatic color palette, all made with flawless tailoring.
There’s a certain amount of sleekness in the clothes but for some, it’s paired with effortless and nonchalant deconstruction. Some of their chain details remind us of the fierceness of Alexander Wang’s aesthetics, but pared down to fit into Korea’s urban style. D.Gnak isn’t for men who conform to trends and, in itself, does not conform to what most would consider “normal” clothes in less-liberated places. However, the brand has the ability to adapt into any man’s style and then elevate it.
“Street tailoring” is what Juun.J would use to describe his approach to his eponymous menswear label. Having worked in multiple fashion houses since the ‘90s, Juun.J’s 2007 launch was met with positive feedback that soon earned him the status of being the most innovative designer for menswear.
Looking at the brand’s current designs, it has a Yeezy-esque vibe going about its hoodies, bomber jackets, tees, coats, sweatshirts and sweatpants, but what differentiates it from the rest of street style brands is the silhouettes and shapes implemented on traditional clothes. The lazy aesthetic is exaggerated in elongated sleeves, wide-leg lounge pants and cargo pants, and the general oversized look of all their clothes. The brand doesn’t just go with Korean fashion culture but has the potential to become relevant internationally, which is already what’s happening as artists like Rihanna, G-Dragon, and designer Karl Lagerfeld all show support for the brand.
Kuho reinvents the concept of workwear for the career women in Korea and the world. Having just expanded to international grounds via online shops like Nordstrom and SSENSE, the brand is on its way to being recognized worldwide. It’s bound to happen as women always try to look for clothes that transform office uniforms into chic after-work outfits.
The clothes target several of women’s fashion desires through neutral and experimental colors, plenty of blouse style options like peplum and wrap-around, and comfortable bottoms like the classic trousers and trendy culottes. All of their clothes are also made in Korea in their own fabric mills, so all doubts about its ethical standing is clear. There’s nothing better than knowing you can look good and not contribute to destructive corporate practices especially when it comes to fashion.
Kye epitomizes the modern style of a millennial woman with its combination of bold colors and prints, and sporty, street, and youthful aesthetics. Run by its highly-passionate designer, Kathleen Kye, the brand has dressed the likes of Dara and CL from the former K-pop group 2NE1, Rihanna, Rita Ora, Kourtney Kardashian, and G-Dragon.
This is telling of the brand’s worldly appeal because it produces clothes that doesn’t fit into the style of only one place. Their clothes are the kind that you can get multiple pieces of, play around with, and never run out of mix-and-matched outfits for a long time. The element of fun is never missing but at the same time, the clothes reflect maturity and strength to exude a strong, independent woman underneath the layers.
Nohant is a Seoul-based unisex label that applies French nonchalance in its clothes. They produce style staples that are not too showy in presentation but are casual, modern, and simple enough that they look especially elegant when worn. Designer Noah Nam believes in comfort as the defining characteristic of luxury, and it manifests in the loose fit of all the brand’s pieces, whether it’s shorts, sweatshirt, or tees, and the knit and fleece materials in other pieces. Nohant also has intense appeal to the younger generation for their primary color palette, pastels, and bold prints like the flannel suit it offers.
R.Shemiste clothes are easily recognizable for their boldness. It combines all our modern favorite colors and prints in single pieces. Button downs are made extremely individualistic by combining plaids and gingham in the bodice and sleeves, sometimes in contrasting colors, but most times in complementary ones using different hues of the same shade. R.Shemiste has its origins from the word alchemist, which means making something out of scratch and their pieces definitely exude of their own identity that can’t be copied from anywhere. More than it already captures people through its uniqueness, the brand’s latest Fall 2017 unisex collection attracts a new set of audience through its interpretations of gender equality.
What attracts us to Kimmy J is its unpredictability. There’s no way to know what the brand would do next because it doesn’t have the tendency to conform and it never ceases to surprise in every collection. One moment it’s all about grunge and edginess, the next it’s light and airy. However, in all the brand’s pieces, it doesn’t miss the opportunity to present a different iteration of youthful attitudes. Street wear is combined with classic and clean cuts, so whatever your style is, there’s something from one collection by Kimmy J that will relate to your preferences.
Leesle Hwang was born in Jeonju, a city with heavy roots of Korea’s traditional hanbok dress. She also grew up surrounded by this culture – her mother made hanboks while her father sold fabrics – which now inspires her eponymous brand and makes it a pride of their heritage and distinguishable from other Korean designer brands. This original and traditional influence is transformed and reinvented to fit into contemporary styles that can be worn on a normal day-to-day basis. The structure of the hanbok proves to be complementary to the relaxed style of dresses and tops that are more common in Western countries, so when joined together, Leesle’s clothes could become closet classics with an interesting Korean background.
The-Sirius gets its name from the brightest star in the sky at night, and it’s also a befitting metaphor for the brand’s slow rise to stardom in the fashion world. Designer Younchan Chung does not exhibit any trait of mediocrity as he won the International Fashion Showcase Designer award from the British Fashion Council just two seasons after his graduation. It’s also because his futuristic vision in his designs leave everyone, mostly international editors who witness his shows, with jaw-dropping impression.
There’s no talk about current trends and traditional roots when it comes to The-Sirius’ clothes, only of what the future of fashion can become. There’s a little high-fashion feel to his pieces that makes it look like it’s a little out-there for a regular day, but the pieces all contribute something to the fashion world – in influencing people’s everyday style, moving the bar higher for other brands, and the industry forward in terms of innovation.
With the rise of Korean culture in tv, music, and fashion, everyone all over the world is starting to covet their looks and attitudes. Coming from someone who came from K-pop stardom herself, pushBUTTON is a streetwear label from former K-pop idol Park Seung Gun. This brand has all the authority to determine which clothes are Korean-style approved and which are not fitting. It produces girly apparel that K-pop idols from recent years wear themselves and endorse on the brand’s Instagram page. Their muses include Sandara Park, formerly from 2NE1 and Yubin from Wondergirls.
Bourie is characterized by elegant tailoring that’s evident in their loose silk suits, dresses, and matching sets. With the mature design and office-appropriate cuts and construction, Bourie’s clothes are fitting both for casual weekenders and weekdays at work. The latest SS2018 collection, for instance, employs lots of white in dresses, blouses, and skirts, pinstriped patterns, neutral grays, blues, and blacks, and details like asymmetric collars, flared edges on skirts, and oversized skirt suits. he designer Eun-hye Jo is inspired by musical geniuses like Mick Jagger and, for that or other, the brand has expanded to global recognition and distribution as London’s Selfridges carries the brand under their Seoul Spotlight.
General Idea’s Bumsuk Choi’s personal style informs the brand’s menswear designs. It’s directed towards men with street-inspired styles. Avant-garde prints and details are embedded on simple garments like a faux leather t-shirt, ashy gray sweatshirts that have the same look as static on television, color-blocking patterns on sweatshirts, and monochromatic checked pattern on bomber jackets.
Moohong’s appeal is not only brought by its clothes but also its founder’s personal story. Moohong Kim has a prestigious educational background with a PhD in politics, but it turns out a passion for clothes will bring in more success that the other profession ever would. Moohong Kim’s first experience in the fashion world is the launching of his own brand, which is telling of his natural talent for the craft. Monochrome colors are dominant in Moohong’s clothes and for both menswear and womenswear, the designer employs minimalist tailoring, cuts, and construction with extra details like drapes for movement and flow of fabrics.
Moon J can be considered a representative brand for women because in each collection, it tries to incorporate storytelling from women’s perspectives through artistic graphics, colors, textures, and feminine silhouettes. The brand is most impressionable for its smart use of color combinations that, though common, are partnered with sleek lines or drapes that infuse the clothes with electric female energy, especially when worn and delivered with a natural and effortless panache.
Human Potential or HUPOT delivers an important message just with their name. It means to say that humans have unlimited potential and that anyone with a vision can reach their dream. This philosophy is probably what got the brand international success, apart from its dedication to quality and its own individualistic prints on sporty apparel. The brand is most appealing for their matching monochromatic sweatpants and sweatshirts or hoodies that exude the perfect balance between coziness and comfort and hip hop.
Lee Jean Youn
Targeting the western high fashion market, Lee Jean Youn is a leading modern brand that incorporates Korean inspiration on its collections. Its founder and main designer, Lee Jean Youn, proudly takes inspiration from traditional Korean fashion and tweak them to capture a worldwide audience. The brand’s pieces celebrate boldness, colors, textures and volume, resulting to mind-blowing looks that give off a rather theatrical look. With styles mixing the Western rocker-look and the simplicity of Asian fashion, Lee Jean Youn’s following ranges from classic avant-garde lovers to the hip and cool younger generation.
Lie Sang Bong
Owned by a designer often called the “Korean McQueen”, the eponymous label Lie Sang Bong has a reputation for being flamboyantly innovative. The brand was established mid-80s and earned national recognition 14 years later. By 2000s, the brand’s collections have debuted in Paris, and it has spread like wildfire even in the world of celebrities. Among its famous clientele are Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Kim Yuna, Juliette Binoche, and many others impressed by the architectural silhouettes of the brand’s clothes, entrenched with the essence of Asian tradition and the modern style of the West.
Lee Yoon-jung combines ready-to-wear with haute couture in its pieces, earning its prestige in fashion by coming up with magnificent pieces that speaks to a wide-range of fashion-lovers. A part of the brand’s aesthetics is the beautiful coexistence of tradition and modernism in its style, complete with unique details that make every piece eye-catching without being tacky. It’s a brand that’s on its way to global breakthrough, and with the luxury pieces it continues to create, surely its worldwide fame isn’t too far ahead.
Korean designers are on a roll in the fashion industry. Many of these brands are recently established with no more than a few decades of existence, but many Koreans prove to have the natural potential to become great designers, if this list is any indication. Whether you want to channel your K-drama or K-pop idols, these brands are the best places to start as far as mainstream and indie Korean styles are concerned.
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