Why K-pop will dominate Fashion in 2023
Why Take Note?
BLACKPINK First K-pop Group to Headline Coachella
Making history in 2019 as the first female K-pop group to perform at Coachella, BLACKPINK is returning to headline the festival in 2023. The band will also appear at London’s British Summer Time ball in July. However, the UK festival scene is yet to fully embrace K-pop acts, unlike in the US, where BTS member J-Hope performed at Lollapalooza in 2022, making him the first South Korean singer to headline a major US festival.
Becoming Global Brand Ambassadors
A flurry of designers has been appointing K-pop stars to help brands generate a social buzz online and activate consumers on a global level. Most recently, Valentino appointed SUGA and Dior has named Jimin as global brand ambassadors, both from BTS. Social media posts about K-pop celebrities during fashion week also generate huge value for brands. At Chanel’s Fall 2022 show, BLACKPINK member Jennie’s front row appearance single-handedly generated the luxury house $3.6mn in media impact value1FW22: Fashion Week’s Top Performers – Launchmetrics – a proprietary algorithm developed by LaunchMetrics. At the most recent Men’s Spring 2023 shows, 13% of the top 100 influencers in attendance were South Korean and they generated almost 60% of the season’s overall earned media value, equating to over $62mn.2The Power of K-pop – Lefty x Karla Otto
Unlocking South Korea Spending Power
As China’s economy recovers following COVID lockdowns and store closures, designers are targeting South Korea as their next opportunity to tap into the Asia market. In May, Gucci will stage its Cruise 2024 show in the country to mark the 25th anniversary of its first flagship in Seoul, and Saint Laurent is reportedly planning a show there this year too. Spending on luxury goods in South Korea grew by 24% in 2022 to $16.8bn,[reference reference=”1″]South Koreans are the world’s biggest spenders on luxury goods – Morgan Stanley via CNBC[/reference] outpacing Chinese and American counterparts, so it’s no surprise that large designer houses have tapped major K-pop celebrities to be the faces of their brands.
Women’s Key Trends
BLACKPINK’s Jennie has contributed to the rise of Balletcore – which has over 218,000 views on China’s lifestyle platform Xiaohongshu3Decoding 2023’s Balletcore Aesthetic Trending On Chinese Social Media – Jing Daily – by wearing various outfits fitting the theme during the band’s recent BORN PINK World Tour. In particular, her stage costumes included wrap skirts, leg warmers and corsets in various colors. Known for regularly selling out outfits, dubbed ‘The Jennie Effect,’ a lavender lace corset from Urban Outfitters saw a full majority SKU sell out in the UK after the singer was seen wearing it on stage at The O2 in London.
K-pop stars are frequently spotted in pleated skirts as the Preppy aesthetic is already big in Korean street fashion, and the library girl subculture is on the rise for 2023. Girl group TWICE also back this trend, with member Mina having recently worn a plaid pleated skirt, cropped shirt and tie in a photo on Instagram. In the UK, boohoo placed the biggest investment in pleated mini skirts between July 1st, 2022 – January 22nd, 2023, while in the US it was Forever 21. In line with Plazacore themes, tweed jackets and mini skirts are also popular and are worn regularly by Jennie from BLACKPINK as part of her Chanel contract.
Known for her edgy style, BLACKPINK’s Rosé is often seen wearing chunky black platform boots from brands such as Dr. Martens and Dolls Kill. Other key Grunge-inspired pieces include oversized leather jackets, fishnet tights, denim shorts and plaid shirts. In late December 2022, fast fashion retailer Romwe dropped a range of “grunge punk kpop” pieces, including graphic band tees and lace-up mini skirts. The entry-level price is occupied by a safety pin chain at $2, while the exit-level price is $57 for a pair of lace-up combat boots.
In contrast to the popular Grunge aesthetic, K-pop girl groups often champion a Hyperfeminine aesthetic on stage, wearing sequinned tops and hotpants. Most recently, Lisa from BLACKPINK has been wearing heart-shaped tops and motifs on the band’s European tour. A new, emerging trend on the Spring 2023 runways, heart-shaped motifs sold well for FW22 and are an easy update to tried-and-tested silhouettes, including heart-shaped cut-outs on skirts and embellished heart accents on tops.
Men’s Key Trends
K-pop idols have contributed to the return of preppy in menswear, wearing plaid sweaters, Harrington jackets and ties on stage. In the recent menswear Fall 2023 shows, designers refreshed their sports-influenced apparel for spring by reviving the prep-school narrative, showing that this trend still has fuel for future assortments. Key apparel silhouettes include varsity bombers, with boohooMAN, Fashion Nova and Zara having invested over the past six months.
Grunge themes are prevalent within male K-pop groups as well, most typically seen on graphic/slogan T-shirts and leather jackets as 90s nostalgia stories continue to reign. In retail, graphics made up 85% of all patterned T-shirts, with Abercrombie & Fitch investing in vintage-wash band tees. boohooMAN and Zara were the top investors of leather biker jackets, with the latter investing in a vintage leather jacket that saw a first majority sell out ten days after arriving online, despite commanding a full price of $229.
Male K-pop groups are often seen wearing suits, from classic, slim-fit styles to oversized, vintage pieces that have a nostalgic feel, both on stage and on the red carpet. For trouser suits that arrived between July 1st, 2022 and January 22nd, 2023, slim fit remained the most popular silhouette, featured in 40% of all product names. As for blazers, Top Movers that arrived during the same period included a faux leather blazer from Pull & Bear, which saw a majority SKU sell out six days after arriving online, and a blazer with a belt from Bershka, which came as part of a matching set and saw three replenishments, drawing similarities in design to Givenchy’s U-lock blazer.
Male K-pop idols are known for blurring gender lines and redefining masculinity in Korea through their use of makeup and fashion choices – RM, from the popular boy group BTS, is known for wearing lace fabrics and skirts. Retailers dropped the majority of sequinned products in November 2022 in partywear lines. Although the majority were seen on suit blazers and bomber jackets, H&M landed an oversized sheer sequinned top, priced at £69.99, as part of its metaverse design story.
EDITED tracks the first BLACKPINK licensed products as having landed at H&M in December 2020. H&M then officially collaborated with the band on a “Y2K-inspired” merchandised collection in mid-2021, featuring a range of streetwear-inspired pieces, such as biker shorts, bucket hats and oversized blazers – hoodies, sweatshirts and T-shirts were among the products that saw a full sell out. In 2022, H&M released another collection, which is currently still available for consumers to shop on its website.
Instead of a licensed collection, the HYBE team (BTS’s label) collaborated with Nordstrom allowing it to sell official BTS merchandise. Going live in February 2022, this was the first time a US-based retailer had sold the band’s merch in store and online. The retailer offered a selection of genderless clothing, as well as home items and more accessibly-priced key chains and trading cards.
Rising K-pop Groups
The seven-member group, from JYP Entertainment, debuted in February 2022 with their single O.O and were recently named as global ambassadors for Loewe, starring in the brand’s Pre-Spring 2023 collection. The group will be performing at Music Bank in Paris on April 8th along with other K-pop bands.
Known for their Y2K style, this five-member girl band – formed by ADOR – debuted in July 2022 with their single Attention. Despite only having six songs to their name, NME named their single Hype Boy the best K-pop song of 2022. The band is only set to grow in 2023, with their latest single Ditto having already garnered over ten million views on YouTube.
2023 Performance Dates
|Feb 14 – The Rose, London|
|Apr 8 – KBS Music Bank, Paris|
|Apr 15 & 22 – BLACKPINK, Coachella|
|Jun 8 – Red Velvet, Primavera Sound Festival|
|Jun 16 – 17 – BLACKPINK, Sydney|
|Jul 2 – BLACKPINK, London BST Festival|
Products new in Jul 1, 2022 – Jan 22, 2023
US & UK retailers considered
Womenswear: Abercrombie & Fitch, Aritzia, Bershka, boohoo, Eloquii, Fashion Nova, Forever 21, H&M, Mango, Monki, NA-KD, Nasty Gal, PrettyLittleThing, Pull&Bear, Weekday, Zara
Menswear: Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle Outfitters, Aéropostale, Bershka, boohooMAN, Fashion Nova, Forever 21, Mango, Pull&Bear, River Island, Weekday, Zara