South Korea’s pop artists are making waves in the fashion industry. In 2019, the four members of girl group Blackpink attended Burberry, Chanel, Celine and Saint Laurent shows, while Dior’s artistic director Kim Jones designed boy band BTS’s outfits for their Love Yourself: Speak Yourself world tour. Meanwhile, Exo’s Kai became the first Korean global ambassador for Gucci and Big Bang’s G-Dragon has struck up relationships with fashion’s mightiest (including Chanel). Former 2NE1 members CL and Sandara Park are also familiar faces at fashion events across the globe.
As K-pop continues to flourish, we’re likely to see more of its highly influential and immaculately styled stars collaborating with houses and designers. Here, Vogue takes a look at the seven K-pop idols shaping fashion, right now.
Read more: How K-Pop took over the world in the 2010s
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Wong Yuk-hei (better known by his stage name, Lucas) is a member of WayV, as well as NCT’s sub-unit NCT U and supergroup SuperM, making this 21-year-old pop star very busy indeed. He’s no stranger to the catwalk having walked for Korean brands KYE and Charm’s during spring/summer 2019’s Hera Seoul Fashion Week, appeared at Burberry events in Beijing and Chengdu, and attended the brand’s spring/summer 2020 show in London.
Lucas has proved he can pull off a bold print (such as Dries van Noten’s marble or Alexander McQueen’s autumn/winter 2018 flower suits), but in real life he keeps things clean and simple. Black, white and earthy tones are frequent go-tos, and Wong relies on brands such as Wooyoungmi, Balenciaga, Converse, Supreme, Off-White and, of course, Burberry. The perfect mix of streetwear and preppy boy-next-door, you’ll usually catch his million-dollar smile emerging from a bucket hat pulled down low.
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The already popular Girl group Itzy (Yeji, Lia, Ryujin, Chaeryeong, and Yuna) only debuted in February 2019, but they’ve scooped a dozen trophies at various Asian music awards and have played a US showcase tour. Louis Vuitton has taken them under its wing—all five members attended the cruise 2020 show in New York and spring/summer 2020 in Paris—and their loud, feisty pop certainly suits Nicolas Ghesquière’s audacious catwalk statements. Much of Itzy’s stagewear revolves around pleated tartan skirts, fitted crop tops, thigh-high boots, touches of sportswear and BDSM accessories, but they’ve also been known to rock some serious glitter and gold. Youthful and versatile, their downtime wardrobe shifts from voluminous hoodies to oversized blazers and leather jackets with straight-leg jeans for student chic that always looks effortless.
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Irene (Red Velvet)
Irene (Bae Joo-hyun), the 28-year-old leader of girl group Red Velvet, stopped traffic when she arrived at Miu Miu’s autumn/winter 2019 show in Paris wearing a black and gold sequin dress from the label’s spring/summer 2019 collection, a diamanté bow choker and a black blazer draped over her shoulders. Her style frequently mirrors Miu Miu’s old-world elegance with an edge, so it’s little surprise that the house appointed her a brand ambassador in the summer of 2019.
Although Irene’s stage costumes can sometimes veer towards risqué, her personal style is refined yet youthful. She switches between coquettish (ruffles, cold-shoulder tops, gingham and delicate prints, such as the Chloé twill minidress she wore to a Byredo event) and functional (Miu Miu wool blazers, Margiela deconstructed sweaters, fine knits and straight-leg jeans). Her choice of accessories—Cartier tank watches and shoulder bags by Gucci and Bottega Veneta—are sleek and understated.
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Exo has a number of fashionistas in its boy band ranks—it’s been impossible to miss the sartorial rise of Kai, Gucci favourite and GQ’s 7th Best Dressed Man of 2020—but Sehun, the group’s youngest at 25, has found his own niche. Beloved by fashion magazine editors for his narrow, chiselled jaw, he’s also been associated with Louis Vuitton for several years, attending Paris shows in 2017 and 2018, and last year’s Gangnam-gu opening of Louis Vuitton Maison Seoul. In contrast to Kai’s more flamboyant style, Sehun is consistently low key—bomber or varsity jackets, single-breasted suits, baseball caps, narrow-leg trousers and denim—in a palette of black, navy, white, tan and grey, with the occasional glimpse of a primary colour. This minimalist style may seem atypical for K-pop where more is more, but it strikes a perfect harmony with the coolly quiet Sehun, lending him a worldliness beyond his years.
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This former sabre fencer is currently juggling being a soloist and GOT7’s rapper. Jackson dropped the single Fendiman in 2018, after which Fendi announced his signing as an ambassador, stating that “unique, talented, daring to innovate and break through, Jackson Wang is perfectly connected to Fendi’s spirit”. He released a capsule collection with the brand, which sold out immediately, and performed at its autumn/winter 2019 show in Milan. More recently, Wang’s become a face for Cartier and Armani Beauty, putting those killer cheekbones to good use.
Jackson divulged to American Vogue that he’s a firm fan of black, black and more black, lifting his luxe sportswear look with a pop of colour via a statement piece and copious accessories (sunglasses, chunky jewellery, beanies). Like fellow musician and personality Kris Wu, it’s hard to see Wang’s influential star fading within the country’s luxury fashion market any time soon.
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Song Mino (Winner)
Rapper Mino has an eclectic, experimental taste that moves through phases, from loud plaid suits to layered streetwear, to mixing new and old-school menswear designers such as JW Anderson and Ralph Lauren Polo. The 26-year-old has attended several Burberry events—front row for spring/summer 2018, and the Seoul launch of the Thomas Burberry Monogram collection where he wore the spring/summer 2019 Why Did They Kill Bambi shirt over a white string shirt—and walked for Louis Vuitton’s spring/summer 2020 show.
Mino’s airport fashion makes headlines in South Korea, particularly his wearing of a black suit with nothing under it and last month when he wore a Dolce & Gabbana sunflower scarf like a babushka, along with a pale-pink fleece bomber and a crocheted sunflower bag. His style appears to be cerebral and instinctual, driven by what’s presently inspiring his music or art (Mino’s paintings had their first gallery showing in December 2019) but rarely does he make anything less than a big statement. As one of K-pop’s most fashion-forward idols, he has the potential to make just as many sartorial waves as his label mate G-Dragon.
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Former member of Wonder Girls and now one of K-pop’s biggest female soloists, Sunmi has a chameleonic charm when it comes to fashion. She drives up the glam onstage in dazzling minidresses from Discount Universe, Dior and Ashish, plays a catwalk e-girl in her music video for LALALAY, and goes for off-duty comfort in pale denim, boots and oversize coats. But one thing is certain: her love of handbags. Sunmi has renewed her partnership for 2020 with bag designer OrYany, and her Instagram is packed with covetable arm candy by Stand Studio, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Prada, whose spring/summer 2020 show she attended in Milan. Her style frequently brings together opposing forces, such as heavy combat boots with floaty, pleated dresses, creating an aesthetic that’s distinctively girly with a full-grown, womanly twist.