5 things you need to know about Korean fashion

K-fashion: What you need to know to get that much-coveted Korean look.  

K-fashion: What you need to know to get that much-coveted Korean look
K-fashion: What you need to know to get that much-coveted Korean look
11 Mar 2015

K-fashion: What you need to know to get that much-coveted Korean look

1. Korean fashion is influenced by ahjummas (Korean aunties). Sorta.
“Korea produces a lot of high-tech sportswear fabric — they manufacture for a lot of sports brands,” says Ann,  a co-founder of HEADLINE SEOUL (HLS), a Korean brand from Singapore who has worked closely with manufacturers and designers in Korea. “[Because it’s so readily available], the ahjummas wear sportswear from day to night, and for practical reasons as well. Women in Korea run the house, take care of the kids and manage family businesses. The ahjumma trademark — aerodynamic running tights, thick heat-insulated tops and vests with sneakers and a visor — has kind of influenced Korean fashion. A big trend popularised by the Koreans was Neoprene [a spongey fabric which had beginnings in sportswear and has been, for the past year, the material du jour for dresses, skirts and, more recently, jackets]. It was a functional fabric ’cos of its heat insulation properties, but the Koreans made it popular as a fabric for fashion.” 


K-fashion: What you need to know to get that much-coveted Korean look
K-fashion: What you need to know to get that much-coveted Korean look
11 Mar 2015

K-fashion: What you need to know to get that much-coveted Korean look

2. The extreme practicality of the Koreans led to those trendy one-size-fits-all box tops. 
You know the boxy tops with big sleeves that are so in now? They actually came to be ’cos the Koreans are practical to a fault, says Ann. “When we first worked with Korean factories, they asked us why we wanted to make clothes with different sizes,” she laughs. “For them, they would just produce everything in one size, as it’s cheaper. The Korean tops are boxy as they are supposed to fit S, M and L sizes. When the ahjumma wears it, it might be a little snug, but for a young girl, it would be a sexy boxy top with three-quarter sleeves. A lot of Korean styles are not driven as style — they’re driven by commercial reasons.”

3. Wearing Korean labels does not mean you will suddenly look like a K-star.
How to get that much-coveted Korean look? Dress in Korean fashion, right? Apparently not. Hands up anyone who has bought Korean fashion online, only to find the fit was terrible. According to Ann, the typical Korean shoulder width is 12 inches, while in South-east Asia, it’s 14 to 14.5 inches. “Anatomically, the Koreans are smaller-boned,” says Ann. So unless you’re getting one of those one-size-fits-all tops, instead of a fitted dress or top, you may be disappointed. “When we started HLS, we made a lot of adjustments. Our designers are Korean, but there is input from me. Korean fashion is made for their domestic market, which is huge. A lot of Korean brands tried to come into Southeast Asia but failed, ’cos they don’t think about making adjustments for other markets. That’s one of the reasons that contributed to HLS’s success — we are a label with Korean production, but we have international sizes. You have to have sizing if you want to be an international brand.”

K-fashion: What you need to know to get that much-coveted Korean look
K-fashion: What you need to know to get that much-coveted Korean look
11 Mar 2015

K-fashion: What you need to know to get that much-coveted Korean look

4. The Koreans really like mauve. South-east Asians? Not so much.
“Mauve does not sell here!” laughs Ann, who says that the colours Koreans love, such as the pale purple and nude, don’t necessarily do well in other markets. And lately, it doesn’t even do well in their own markets. “Most of the shoppers in Korea now are not Korean,” says Ann. “They have a lot of Chinese customers and for Headline Seoul, we have to tweak the colours for them. The Chinese like brighter colours. We are working with Korean department stores to sell in Korea, and they like our mix of Korean design with different sizes along with slight tweaks for a more international market. It feels familiar to the Koreans, but slightly different. For Singapore, a more business-oriented country, stronger colours like navy and grey do well, as opposed to pretty neutrals.”

5. A boxy cropped top, a mini skirt and sneaker platforms — that’s what to wear if you want the Korean look.
“The look now is sporty streetwear influenced by hip-hop. The H-silhouette, which looks like a H ’cos it’s boxy, is very in for tops. Some people in China and other parts of Asia think the frilly K-princess look is still in, but people don’t dress like that any more. What’s in now is something edgier and more streetwear-inspired, thanks to K-pop influences. Neoprene is still very trendy. Because of the weight of the fabric, it’s great for those who are a little heavier, as it kind of sculpts you and gives a flattering shape. When I started HLS, K-pop and K-culture wasn’t as in as it is now. I guess I really lucked out. We are now available in Singapore, Korea, Hongkong, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.”

The Headline Seoul flagship store is at #B2-09/10, Wheelock Place, Tel: 6235-1819. It’s also available at Front Row at #02-09 Raffles Hotel Arcade as well as The Assembly, #01-22/23 The Cathay and W.E. @ 313 Orchard, #03-01/025, 313@Somerset. 

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