As pop culture continues to evolve, the outside influences that impact pop culture continue to change with it. A major international influence on Western pop culture has been the South Korean music genre, K-pop. The genre first began to truly make a name for itself in America back in 2012 with PSY’s hit song, “Gangnam Style”. The music video made history by surpassing a billion views on the Internet. While it was more well known for its catchy beat and dance moves than the fashion involved, it opened a lot of doors for future K-pop groups to enter the Western market.
Something that makes K-pop stars continuously stand out is their ability to create appealing visuals. Their music videos are always flashy and their dance moves are eye catching and creative. They continue to push boundaries in the music and entertainment industry. Furthermore, K-pop fashion is always on point. The best part is that no one K-pop group dresses the same. Each artist brings something new and exciting to the table resulting in something intriguing for all the fans to look forward to.
In our social media dominating era, South Korea has risen as a top fashion destination. Their obvious strength in streetwear chic has caught the eye of millions of people around the world, especially in America. As K-pop continues to make a name for itself in the West, they have brought their strong sense of style with them. In an interview with Cathay Pacific, fashion insider Kim Eun-jeung speaks about how K-pop stars have helped give K-fashion an international presence.
“When K-pop or K-drama stars wear something, no matter the origin of the label, people suddenly believe that’s the style of K-fashion,” Eun-jeung said. “That’s the power some of these Korean artists have, who absorb global influences, redefine them and create the image that South Korea is a cool fashion destination to the rest of the world.”
Kim Eun-jeung was completely right. As America has seen some beloved K-pop artists, we have certainly taken a liking to their fashion sense as well. When the fashion industry saw the impact K-pop stars were having on their fans, that’s when designers started to hop on the K-fashion bandwagon. Designer brands like Moschino saw a huge increase in sales after a few K-pop idols like 2NE1’s CL, Dara and SHINee’s Key were seen wearing some of the collection. The art of imitation has been one of the most important things when it comes to K-pop stars’ influence in fashion. Shelley Li, contributor to K-Style Files, speaks of the connectedness fans feel when they shop the same look as their K-pop idols in an interview with Vox.
“Many of them aspire to imitate their favorite K-pop idols by dressing like them, so they use fashion search engines to buy or seek inspiration from the exact pieces their idols are wearing,” Li said.
K-pop stars are now seen sporting very well known brands, which subsequently brings awareness and increase in sales to those respective brands. Just think of rapper Suga who wore an OFF-WHITE checkered button down shirt — Google searches for that exact shirt increased the same day.
Their outfits aren’t just appealing as individual looks, but are creating complete fashion trends. Blackpink’s Rosé added sexy professionalism on last year’s trend report after attending the S/S 20 Saint Laurent fashion show in a sleek black blazer dress with matching black heels. The Blackpink girl group as a whole has played a role as fashion influencers in general. Their edgy aesthetic has set several trends. They put utilitarian style clothing back in business after wearing military and tech inspired outfits in their Kill This Love music video. Blackpink also puts the luxe in luxury where they adorn very glamorous jewelry and over the top accessories.
Male group and current heartthrobs, BTS, have also played their role in influencing the fashion industry. Their tendency to wear gender fluid outfits has caused all fashion lovers to look in their direction. On and off the stage they have normalized fashion fluidity between masculinity and femininity. They have consistently worn chokers, earrings and very loose fitting silhouettes. Perhaps Western cultures rave about BTS’s gender fluid fashion aesthetic because it is extremely fashion forward compared to artists here in the US. Beyond performers like Harry Styles or Billy Porter, gender fluidity isn’t embraced in Western culture as much as it is in places like South Korea.
When K-pop idols wear what they want, such as male idols wearing chokers and makeup and female idols wearing dress suits, it creates a huge impact in our expectation of where fashion should be heading. K-pop has certainly marked their place as fashion icons in this country. Their unmatched ability to increase sales, set new trends and push fashion boundaries can expand the industry’s horizon on where the future of fashion is headed.
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