“These Italian kids are already learning Korean!” exclaimed Perfect magazine editor-in-chief Brian Yambaw as he climbed into the car after the show.
A few years ago, such a scene would have been rare: most shows attracted only small groups of fans watching the arrival of the celebrities. But at a time when South Korean pop music has become an increasingly global obsession, and with major luxury brands signing more and more deals with their superstars, the die-hard followers of young K-pop groups have become a staple.
Jisoo wears Dior during Paris Fashion Week on September 27, 2022 in Paris, France. credit: Jeremy Mueller/Getty Images
The rise of K-Pop mega-groups—whose influence swept across Asia in the 2010s before catching on in Europe and the Americas—coincided with Korean cultural breakthroughs in other media, such as Squid Game broadcasts and blockbusters like “Parasite” and “Minari.” The audience for Korean talents, which brands have long had a level of their near-fanatical following to share on social media, has only grown in recent years, both domestically and abroad.
“We’re at this tipping point where Korean influence is at the epicenter of the cultural zeitgeist,” said Alison Bringye, chief marketing officer of fashion consulting firm Launchmetrics. “Brands are looking for ways to activate on a global level, and Korean talent is delivering on that.”
The influence of Korean online stars can transcend even the most digitally savvy and popular Western talent: for example, a partnership between Kim Kardashian and Dolce & Gabbana, in which the reality TV star and mega-influencer helped “orchestrate” and style the brand’s September 2022 show, winning Online news and visibility headlines worth $4.6 million, according to Launchmetrics. Blackpink star Jisoo created $7 million in buzz for Dior’s show in Paris that same season, but mostly just by showing up.
From South Korea to the world
Last year, South Korea was a bright spot for luxury brands among Asian markets as sales jumped to a record high. A recent Morgan Stanley report found that the market has grown by about 40 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels for 2019. South Koreans are now the world’s largest spenders on luxury goods per capita, and “relative to a number of leading brands, such as Prada, Moncler or Bottega Veneta Or Burberry, we think Korean nationals now account for 10 percent or more of all retail sales, analyst Edward Obin wrote.
But the increasing pace of luxury partnerships with Korean talents hasn’t been driven by their growing importance to the star’s home market alone.
In China, K-pop giants are so famous that the Chinese government has sought to crack down on what it deems to be “irrational” behavior from members of K-pop fan clubs, such as buying many album copies to sell juice for one of their favorite songs. an act. K-pop acts are also very popular in the small, but fast growing Southeast Asian market. Overall, Asian consumers — and the stars they are likely to reach — will likely remain in focus this year as growth is expected to slow sharply in the United States and Europe, which have boosted the luxury industry since the end of the pandemic.
The appeal of working K-pop stars extends beyond their reach: the artists are rigorously trained and closely monitored by a strict system of studios, which craft, control, and fiercely protect their images. This means that they take minimal reputational risk for the brands they work with.
According to fashion directors involved in the recent wave of K-Pop partnerships, deals with these stars are also seen as good investments due to the “guiding” influence they have among their audience. Many of them are less shy than Western performers about explicitly recommending brands or products to audiences. In turn, purchasing products endorsed by stars is often seen by their fans as a way to show their love for their favorite acts.
Kay and François-Henri Pinault at the Gucci show during Milan Men’s Fashion Week on January 13, 2023 in Milan, Italy. credit: Danielle Venturelli / Getty Images
However, industry sources say the deals aren’t just about boosting sales. K-Pop stars are often fashion expressives, willing to experiment with fashion as a way to differentiate themselves within their supergroups. This makes them exciting partners for brands and designers who want to create unforgettable and exciting fashion moments.
A Valentino spokesperson said Suga “understands fashion deeply,” and has become a “major inspiration and stepping stone” for designer Pierpaolo Piccioli this year.
At Fashion Week, brands seem happy to fan the flames of the local K-pop fanatics who attend their events. Dior even sent out a statement last Thursday confirming that Jimin will be attending the upcoming menswear show. The brand said the show was “an opportunity to celebrate Dior’s relationship with the member of pop group BTS in the 21st century.”
Top Photo Caption: ENHYPEN attends the Prada menswear show on January 15, 2023 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Jacopo M. Rauli/Getty Images for Prada)