K-pop's growing fashion industry influence

Miss A attend the Gaon Chart K-pop Awards at Olympic Park on February 12, 2014 in Seoul, South Korea.

Miss A attend the Gaon Chart K-pop Awards at Olympic Park on February 12, 2014 in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Choi Soo-Young

LVMH is gearing up to enter the K-pop market. The company behind Fendi baguettes and Givenchy gowns, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, is about to invest a whopping $80 million into YG Entertainment, the talent company that represents a stable of K-pop (Korean pop music) performers, including our favourite oppa Psy.

According to Reuters, the deal will help the hip-hop centric YG Entertainment expand into the luxury fashion market, as the two companies hope to form a strategic partnership.

LVMH’s private equity branch L. Capital Asia will buy shares worth $60 million. The fashion colossus also have plans to purchase another $20 million worth of shares from YG founder and former K-pop sensation Yang Hyun-suk.

This investment marks one of the biggest bets by a global fund in the new wave of pop culture coming out of South Korea known as hallyu. (You may have noticed the onslaught of catchy tunes, addictive beauty products, KFC (Korean Fried Chicken), imitable street style and stronghold in tech. Yes, South Korea has been absolutely killing it lately.)


Want to get in on the hallyu action? We thought we’d give you a bit of a primer in the form of this K-pop cheat sheet.

Miss A

Why should you care: Despite their penchant for itsy-bitsy outfits, their music’s core message is about self-empowerment. Take their hit single ‘Goodbye Baby’, which comments on the insidious way the media consumes women in its portrayal of female gender roles and unattainable ideals of perfection. ‘I Don’t Need A Man’ is K-pop’s answer to Destiny Child’s ‘Independent Woman’.

Their wardrobe: Their look is ultra sexy, with risqué black thigh-highs, crop tops, miniskirts and booty shorts worn with sky-high heels. Hey, if you’ve got the stems, you may as well flaunt ‘em.


Why should you care: f(x) were the first K-pop act to perform SXSW in 2013 and they recently “welcomed” Anna Kendrick as their newest member in a Pitch Perfect-inspired skit for Funny or Die.

Their wardrobe: They shake up K-pop’s cookie-cutter beauty standard, wearing eclectic street wear, sporty-chic gear and masculine-inspired separates. There’s nothing girly-girl about it.


Why should you care: EXO consists of two separate units: Exo-K perform in Korean and Exo-M perform in Mandarin. As the legend goes, each member is a force that nurtures the tree of life, but an evil force split the tree in two, which explains why there are two sects. And, like in Captain Planet, each member has his own special power, including telepathy, frost and healing. We’ll let the monastic chanting in ‘Mama’ – which sounds like the opening crawl of a video game – fill you in with the deets.

Their wardrobe: The baby-faced boppers wear sharp suits or distressed denim, or schoolboy blazers with statement shoulders.


Why should you care: 2NE1 is made up of Park Bom, Lee Chaerin (CL), Gong Minji (Minzy) and Sandara Park (Dara). Leading the K-pop wave abroad, their second album, Crush, hit the top ten on the American iTunes chart earlier this year.

Their wardrobe: With their fearless sense of fashion, the quartet kick it on stage in Jeremy Scott’s winged sneakers, neon blue hair extensions and that blinged-out dental accessory loved by RiRi, Bey and Miley, custom-fit grills. Check out leader singer CL’s video for ‘The Baddest Female’. An exercise in fashion one-uppery, it features over ten costume changes courtesy of Adidas, Hermés, Versace and Tom Ford, among others.


Why should you care: Since breaking away from boy band Big Bang, G-Dragon has carved out his own experimental sound, fusing traditional K-pop with American rap and Middle Eastern music and joining musical forces with Missy Elliot, Diplo and Skrillex. Canadian singer and producer Grimes has sung his praises, writing on Twitter: “G Dragon i love you” and “G-Dragon is definitely the pinnacle of pop for me”.

The wardrobe: The current King of K-pop, G-Dragon is a model, designer, front-row fixture and is frequently dressed in high-octane gear by Balmain, Comme des Garcons and Givenchy. Gaga’s former stylist Nicola Formichetti is such a fan that he had G-Dragon soundtrack his entire catwalk show for Thierry Mugler.


Why should you care: This six-man strong boy group combine American hip-hop with traditional pop. Their razor-sharp dance moves in this rather epic video clip for ‘One Shot’ give JT a run for his money. Or try a more relaxed, R&B slow burner in the form of ‘Coffee Shop’.

Their wardrobe: Stylistically, B.A.P favour side-swept bangs and black on black, with lots of stud-adorned leather and bicep-baring tank tops thrown in for good measure.