Including the famous ThisisNeverThat®, AJOBYAJO and Ader Error.
South Korea, once a poor and war-torn country, is expanding its hegemony in various fields of the technology and cosmetics industry, such as Samsung products and Korean Skincare brands.
While it is easy to imagine its supremacy for personal care as a devotee for millennials, as well as in the tech industry; it might be surprising to think of South Korea as a country that is bullying its way into the global streetwear fashion market, exporting its brands all over the world.
Instead, with Fashion Week becoming increasingly popular, Korea has become a hotbed of super-creative talent in a variety of disciplines, including design, art, graphics, and architecture.
The growth of South Korean fashion is closely linked to the cultural change the country has experienced in recent years, the almost organic result of a process that began a few years ago with the export of K-Pop music, a phenomenon that has achieved planetary popularity among teenagers around the world.
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Korea began to immerse itself in the streetstyle scene through boy bands such as BTS, forging strong ties with the United States as well, opening a preferred avenue into Western lifestyle and culture. As a result, Koreans have become increasingly accustomed to streetstyle references from the West, from music to celebrity images to influencers.
During the country’s “Westernization” phase, there has been a growing popularity of brands such as Stüssy, Supreme, and Off-White, which, however, the government’s protectionist trade policy was, at least initially, concerned with curbing by limiting foreign competition through anti-import actions to explicitly favor homegrown brands.
In the face of this political barrier, Korea has had to adapt to meet the growing demand for Western streetwear. How? By opening up to the counterfeit market on the one hand; and by creating brands that in turn were Western inspired but 100% Made in South Korea, on the other.
The first solution, counterfeit products, found wide acceptance among young Koreans, as original items from American brands circulated at exorbitant prices and few could afford them.
In a sense, this counterfeit culture democratized street fashion, making it accessible to all.
At the same time, independent brands such as ThisisNeverThat®, AJOBYAJO Covernat, and Ader Error began to emerge brands with a clear reference to American style, but with an unmistakable Eastern imprinting.
Today, Korean streetstyle is experiencing exponential growth outside the country’s borders, attracting the attention of countries that had previously had an entrenched market for years, in streetwear fashion.