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The global popularization of Korean culture, often referred to as the “hallyu” wave, may have started with K-pop, K-dramas and foods like kimchi, but now that’s extending to Seoul-based clothing brands that have been spreading the country’s fashion sensibilities to a global audience.
From edgy (and affordable) street style to upscale luxury brands gracing Fashion Week runways and magazine editorial pages—and everything in between—Korean fashion brands have commanded international attention. Even the mecca of fashion events, New York Fashion Week, includes a “Concept Korea” runway where brands like KYE have seen success, signing multiple business deals with New York showrooms, per The Korea Herald.
Not to mention, fashion-forward celebrities like Rihanna have been spotted wearing brands like Gentle Monster. Plus, major global retailers like Shopbop feature Korean designers and NET-A-PORTER, which debuted their extensive “Korean Collective” last fall, are stocking Korean fashion brands online. “There is something unique coming from this youthful culture which is appealing to the global customer–whether it’s the interesting styling, the streetwear trend or the mix of high and low which are all so prevalent on the streets of Seoul,” NET-A-PORTER’s Global Buying Direct Elizabeth von der Goltz, said in a a statement.
So if you’re looking for unique pieces to add to your wardrobe, we turned to former O, The Oprah Magazine‘s Fashion Market & Accessories Director Robin Nazzaro as well as Senior Fashion & Accessories Editor Paula Lee for their favorite up-and-coming Korean fashion brands that should be on every fashionista’s radar.
Korea’s answer to popular brands like Uniqlo, 8seconds offers affordable, simple everyday-wear for both men and women that looks modern and fresh. From cute flower-knit cardigans to graphic t-shirts, this Korean brand makes casual weekend dressing that much easier.
As the winner of Netflix’s reality competition series Next in Fashion, designer Minju Kim had a chance to introduce her eponymous brand to a global market, including the opportunity to be stocked on NET-A-PORTER. Kim, who has created world tour costumes for the boy band BTS, brings a unique sense of playfulness and joy to her couture designs.
Created by CEO Hankook Kim in 2011, Gentle Monster quickly became the it sunglass brand in Korea, and from there, it expanded globally at a rapid pace. Celebrities including Rihanna, Billie Eilish, Hailey Bieber, Lil Nas X, Jennie from the K-pop group Blackpink and more, have all been spotted sporting Gentle Monster. “For statement eyewear, they hit all the trends from sleek cat eyes to translucent colored lenses,” says Lee.
“Andersson Bell is a Seoul-based label that blends Korean style with a minimalist Scandinavian sensibility,” explains Nazzaro. “This collection is crafted with beautiful, high-quality fabrics and offers silhouettes that have an unconventional twist, that are both timeless and modern.”
“High heels aren’t really practical for my lifestyle, but I prefer a little height,” notes Lee, who says she loves Yuul Yie’s shoes for their “architectural block heels and unique shapes.” If you’re looking to add a unique, fun shoe to your wardrobe, Yuul Yie’s unexpected color combinations, trendy designs, and geometric accents will definitely fit the bill.
Designer Kim Young Jin crafts ethereal, feminine, modern reimaginations inspired by traditional Korean clothing like the hanbok. Using a gorgeous array of colors—from muted pastels, to florals to bright yellows—Kim mixes modern materials and traditional fabrics to create a unique sense of emotion in her clothes.
Founded in 2013, the name IMVELY is a combination of the phrase “I’m lovely.” True to name, the brand offers a wide range of affordable clothing (as well as beauty and accessories) that will tempt you to add multiple things to your cart. “I love the mix of trendy fashion pieces—cute floral dresses, sweet cardigans, sweatshirts and jean jackets—that won’t break the bank,” says Nazzaro.
Featuring modern womenswear designs that could be worn to the office, Maison Marais is on Nazzaro’s list of Korean fashion brands to watch. Showcasing beautiful tailoring, pleated accents, a muted color palette, and menswear inspired looks, the brand designs clothing that’s fashion-forward but still easy to wear.
“This designer truly understands how to use color and prints, which is a real skill,” says Nazzaro. “Her designs are casual, but ‘street-style cool’ and she has developed a celebrity following including major K-pop stars G-Dragon and CL , along with Rihanna, Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid.”
Stocked at some of the largest luxury shopping malls in South Korea, J.Chung describes its aesthetic as the “attractiveness of imperfection.” What piqued Nazzaro’s interest in this brand is that they offer “affordable, season-less wardrobe staples that have an unconventional twist.”
One of South Korea’s most popular fashion labels and “a good brand to keep on the radar” according to Nazzaro, KUHO offers a minimalist and sleek approach to clothing, shoes, and accessories—all made in Korea using its own fabric mills. Nazzaro particularly loves how KUHO “experiments with proportion, draping techniques and layering, offering a fresh perspective on every-day pieces.”
Launched in 2012 by Korean-born designer Goen Jong, her namesake fashion line has been getting international attention—even Rihanna has sported one of her designs. “What I love about her collection is the balance of modern, structural design with a delicate, romantic sensibility,” says Nazzaro. “Her pieces truly add something special to your wardrobe.”
WE11DONE was created by lifelong friends Dami Kwon and Jessica Jung as the in-house line of Rare Market, their buzzy concept store in the Gangam neighborhood of Seoul, South Korea. Since its launch in 2016, the collection has expanded to major global retailers including NET-A-PORTER, Saks and SSENSE. “Their approach to design has been genderless,” notes Nazzaro. “I love their oversized, but not shapeless cuts. The collection draws inspiration from fashion of the past decades but reinterpreted in a modern and fashion-forward way.”
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