Korean streetwear : The rising star of Asian fashion (+ the 10 best brands)

May 02, 2021 8 min read

Korean streetwear: The rising star of Asian fashion

South Korea is the pinnacle of Asian art and popular culture. These days, they are taking over the art scene. If you think they're content with the global feat of K-Pop groups, think again, because there's another area they want to invade: streetwear..

Indeed, Korean streetwear wants to be the new trendy branch of Asian streetwear. Even if the Japanese urban fashion is overshadowing it, this new trend is slowly becoming known. 

korean streetwear k-pop

Want to learn more about modern fashion trends in South Korea? As a good K-pop Stan, you want to know more about the evolution of Korean streetwear? We tell you everything you need to know about it

 

History point: the evolution of streetwear in South Korea

South Korea has always been considered a modern country, known for its vibrant nightlife and legendary pop culture. Those who take a closer look at the fashion industry know that it's also a veritable treasure trove of luxurious, cutting-edge stores.

Only, the storefronts have undergone a monumental shift in the space of a few years. The Asian streetwear wave has quickly invaded the country. When you analyze the situation, there is nothing surprising about the how of the why

 

The Dongdaemun style

Only 3 or 4 years ago, everyone in South Korea, including tourists, were flocking to Dongdaemun Fashion. Dongdaemun is none other than one of the biggest shopping malls in Korea, along with Myeongdong and Express Bus Terminal. The trend at that time was Dongdaemun Korean fashion, which is named after the region where it was born.

When the new millennium arrived, in the blessed era of the 2000s, this style was a hit. If we had to describe it in one sentence, it would be: excessively cute and kawaii style saturated in pastel colors. A style that we always associate with Koreans as they dress in K-Drama (if you know, you know).

Of course, Dongdaemun has evolved considerably since then. Sometimes reinvented in the tones of traditional clothing, sometimes adopted by luxury stores, it was the signature of Korean fashion par excellence. But with time, the need for change has manifested itself, hence the arrival in force of streetwear

 

The streetwear phenomenon: the new era of K-fashion

Fast forward a few years later, Koreans are starting to embrace international trends. Elsewhere, streetwear was booming in popularity. In the United States, Europe, but also in neighboring Japan, the trend was for urban fashion, loose fitting and casual looks.

What was stopping this wave from reaching South Korea? Surprisingly, it was the local politics that blocked the import of foreign clothing brands.

In other words, Supreme, Stussy, and all the other trendy brands were not crossing the borders. The authorities aimed to encourage local production, and as a result, Koreans were deprived of global novelties for a long time.

To get around this ban, a parallel market quickly developed. For many years, counterfeit products were in full swing. This is how international streetwear was introduced in South Korea.

Of course, this plan was not going to last long, especially since they were very late in terms of quality and innovation. To meet the growing need of young Koreans, local streetwear brands were born.

Inspired in large part by foreign designers, they gradually found their own ways, and developed what is now recognized as the true Korean streetwear. Moreover, it has all its particularities from this sensitive period when their style started to stand out from the crowd

 

Why has Korean streetwear become so popular ?

 Korean streetwear

The success of Korean streetwear did not happen overnight. Within a few years, it became the new fashion in, and this for several reasons. All of this is part of the Hallyu wave, where South Korean culture has had an uncommon gain in popularity.

To make a long story short, three actors have participated in the success of Korean streetwear :

  • Collaborations with K-Pop stars: the fact is, the influence of K-Pop stars extends far beyond concerts. In fact, fans are interested in the smallest details of their idols' lifestyle, and their clothing style is no exception. This is without counting the numerous collaborations of K-Pop groups with Korean and Western streetwear brands. The members of the big groups, notably BTS and Black Pink, have signed several partnerships with luxury streetwear brands.
  • K-Drama series: K-Drama series are also everywhere, which also contributed in a sense to popularize streetwear. The actors of the series have gradually changed their styles. The big figures of K-Drama like Lee Min-ho and Park Shin-hye are big public figures, even off-screen.
  • The luxury brands: the big shopping malls also started to convert to streetwear. The international customers who flocked by the thousands every year discovered the magic of Korean urban fashion. In a way, they exported this style to the world.

The particularities of Korean streetwear

Korean streetwear

Korean style has finally found its place on the streetwear spectrum. And we can say that it is a rather original trend, which differs from everything we knew before. In fact, it comes down to the large number of influences on Korean fashion.

On the one hand, we know that popular trends are strongly dictated by Western trends. Hollywood rubs off on K-Dramas, and the Billboard top 100 in the US has inspired more than one Korean production group. On the other hand, because of its geographical location, Korean streetwear has become more sober by taking on the Japanese style.

That's to say that if you ever come across a Korean streetwear brand, you will recognize it among thousands, for 3 reasons :

1. It's eye-catching

streetwear in korea

You only have to see the K-Pop music videos to understand that the Koreans have no restraint. Absolutely everything is grandiose and over the top. It is the same for streetwear clothes where they play the game every time. Bright colors, logos at will and disproportionate sizes, they take streetwear to a whole new level.

2. Unisex dominates

 Korean style

The majority of Korean brands and streetwear are neutral. It has been in their culture for a long time, and urban fashion emphasizes this trait. The designs are suitable for both men and women. As a proof, when you want to buy online, the men and women categories are not separated.

3. It is inspired by Korean styles

 Korean style

Finally, there is no denying the distinctive Korean touch that stands out on each of the designs. There are punk, Dongdaemun, K-Pop and even traditional inspirations. It's a characteristic mix that is often referred to as a minimalist style..

Top 10 Korean streetwear brands

Would you like to try Korean streetwear? Are you curious to discover the best Korean designers? We'll show you 10 must-have brands that you absolutely must know.

1. ADER Error

ADER Error

ADER Error was founded in Seoul in 2014, at the very beginning of the global streetwear boom. A brand whose simple name speaks for itself. Indeed, it can be divided into 4 parts :

  • A, for Artist;
  • D, for Design;
  • ER, the first two letters of a Korean verb that means "to draw from the aesthetic";
  • And Error, because their mark lies in the voluntary imperfection of their designs.

Let us develop this last point which is particularly interesting. In fact, in their eyes, the concept of imperfection itself is flawed. Instead of making it a weakness, it should be created as a strength. The majority of their designs are inspired by this same logic.

The creators and designers of ADER Error prefer to work in the shadows. They remain anonymous, and avoid working with celebrities and influencers. Their dazzling success attests to their singular taste.
 

2. ADLV

ADLV

Acmé De La Vie, whose acronym is ADLV, is a unique Korean streetwear brand. Founded recently in 2017, it embodies the modern spirit of urban fashion with chic. We can say that it is the new wave of Korean fashion, because it has all the above mentioned features.

Their style is so distinguished, that ADLV managed to collaborate two seasons in a row with Twice, the famous K-Pop girl group. They also signed a deal with Mino, from the group Winner and the duo MOBB. They have not escaped the international scene either, where they have worked with Disney and The Simpsons.

3. Hyein Seo

Hyein Seo

It has already been explained that the majority of Korean streetwear brands offer unisex clothing. Hyein Seo is the exception to this rule. It is one of the few women's brands in the field.

The founder, Hyein, launched the brand after her graduation collection from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in the UK made a splash. Focused on loose cuts and rich tones, her project is full of punk and urban references. Her goal is to give women a liberating and modern fashion alternative

 

4. XIDOZU

XIDOZU

XIDOZU is a brand that is particularly interested in the individual and their inner emotions. Their slogan, "Menswer for Minority", reflects their desire to create designs for everyone that reflect their personality and state of mind.

Their collections are themed in advance to capture specific inner emotions. Their refined style and unique aesthetics breathe Korean streetwear. A balance between creativity and utilitarianism

 

5. IISE KIRIN

IISE KIRIN

Another Korean brand with an unusual name. IISE, which actually means 2nd generation, is a brand that revisits urban designs by bringing a Korean touch.

All the collections are made from Korean materials, using Korean techniques, but the designs are strongly inspired by Asian and Western streetwear.

In a way, this reflects the origins of the two brothers who founded the brand, Terrence and Kevin Kim, who have mixed American and Korean backgrounds. This also explains the name, as they are 2nd generation Korean
 

6. 99 Percentis

99 Percentis

To understand the style of this Korean brand, we must trace the path of its creator, Bjowoo. In fact, this Seoul-based designer has long been interested in rock bands and the punk scene.

The international streetwear momentum hit him hard, and changed his trajectory. In 2012, while studying design art in Tokyo, he launched 99 Percentis. Since then, this project with rock and gothic inspirations is one of the most daring in Korean streetwear.

 

7. D-ANTIDOTE

D-ANTIDOTE

D-ANTIDOTE is a Korean brand that every K-Pop Stan worth his salt knows. It has had tremendous success by partnering with K-Pop bands and stars, which has brought it international recognition. It is considered the ultimate transition between streetwear and luxury brands.

Inspirations include the London style of dress, where the designer lived during his student years, and the Korean aesthetic of his home country. In fact, he anchors the slogan SEOULONDON on all his collections, as it is so important to him.

8. MISCHIEF

MISCHIEF

The MISCHIEF or MSCHF logo is well known by young Korean urban fashion enthusiasts. In addition to having a unique streetwear style, the designers bring them a retro vintage touch that gives it a certain charm. On the other hand, the brand is very open to the outside world. They have done a lot of collaborations with big names, namely Nike, Vans, and even Girls Don't Cryr.

9. OiOi

OiOi

It's not a streetwear brand in the strict sense of the word, but it deserves to be highlighted. It is an innovative concept where there is no particular style to follow, but rather a fluid genre according to the trends of the moment.

OiOi has several streetwear collections that have made the brand stand out over time. The minimalist design and warm colors characterize this Korean brand. Their 5252 branch, launched just last year, is almost entirely dedicated to urban fashion.

 

10. Thisisneverthat

Thisisneverthat

Thisisneverthat is a Korean streetwear brand well known by fashion lovers. Its emblem competes with its western equivalent, Supreme. They offer high quality urban clothing, often very simple, but extremely refined.

For some time now, the brand has started to take off outside the country. They have landed a collaboration with New Balance, which has made them known all over the world. It is one of the first major streetwear brands in South Korea.


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