Namhan Rising: 4 Korean Brands to Watch
Seoul, Korea. A city in a country known for its tech, beauty and music exports all around the world. Now, Korea stands to become the next mecca of high fashion. Here are 4 brands based in the land of the morning calm ready to enter the global arena of the fashion industry.
This is Never That
Founded in Seoul in 2009 by three life-long friends, This Is Never That is a contemporary streetwear brand that takes a visual-heavy approach to classic American streetwear. According to designer Choi Jong-Kyu, the name itself is symbolic of “The transformation of raw ideas into physical forms through unconventional ways”. This mindset was inspired by the designers’ past experiences living in streetwear meccas such as Tokyo and New York City, where they found themselves enamored of the forward-thinking ideas in street-style. The term “Visual Archives” is heavily used in pieces across seasons, as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the stockpiles of the 80s and 90s contemporary magazines that the designers collect for inspiration. Recent collaborations with both Puma and Vans have helped propel this brand to the very forefront of new-age Korean designers and for good reason. While some of their newest seasons have been shot in cities such as London, the brand is still true to its roots as one of the most interesting new Korean streetwear labels. Fans of brands such as Undercover and Mastermind will find the stylistic offerings of TINT to be exactly their taste.
When modeling trio Chan Kim, Wonjoong Kim, and Jiwoon Park decided to enter into the Korean fashion industry, many critics made predictions that the trio was simply using their fame as means to sell clothing without any actual solid designs. To be fair, these critics had reason to have their reservations. The group had no formal training in clothing design or manufacturing. However, their first offerings in 2011 quickly silenced these doubts. Due to the group’s lack of formal fashion training, they instead opted to focus on high-end materials and eye-catching patterns. The official motto of the company is “No concept but good style”, and this ideology glistens through. In their collections, an eclectic hodge-podge of reinterpretations of everything from high fashion to classic Americana existed. Themes such as relaxed silhouettes and long outerwear are the only real connections between seasons for this innovative brand. Ultra luxe leather and shearling jackets are absolutely some of this group’s strongest offerings, with immaculate detail given to fit and construction. Fans of brands such as Alexander Wang and Public School will quickly find themselves reaching for the pieces offered by this assemblage of designers.
While absolutely being the most recognizable brand on this list, Ader Error tragically has yet to break into the international fashion market. Founded in 2014 by an anonymous collective in Seoul, this label chooses to eschew fame and recognition through the use of secret codenames for their designers, in a style reminiscent to that of Maison Martin Margiela’s press refusals. Ader itself is phonetic Korean for “other”, which is evident through their rejection of traditional dual gender lines for massively oversized unisex designs and unfitted pants. The brand ethos is based around the collective’s revisiting of their youth through reconstructed items such as sweatpants and hoodies. Underneath the simplistic seeming offerings of Ader Error, a surprisingly high amount of innovative materials exist. Take, for example, their classic oversized hoodies. These garments are sewn with special fibers to make the cotton resistant to wrinkling and piling. While some of AE’s silhouettes may seem derivative of some de jour labels, the authenticity and actual heart put into their styling is indefinitely greater than thousand-dollar hoodies that call the reader a "Fuckin’ Asshole”. Fans of brands such as Vetements and Balenciaga will thoroughly enjoy the eastern take on the afformentioned labels.
A newcomer to the scene of Korean Streetwear, Replay Container is an ironic take on fast fashion culture that offers reinterpretations of 90s leisure way. Takes on traditional sweatsuits by the likes of Fila and Kappa are mainstays of their seasons although specific attention is given towards fit and clever branding. Unsurprisingly for a Korean streetwear brand, the mainline of Replay Container is unisex and heavily focuses on graphics and boxy cuts. The tracksuits offered by RC are some of their strongest designs, presenting bilingual branding across the seams of both sweatpants and sweatshirts. Another key item to look for is the minimalist tote bags with Replay/Container embroidered across the straps in their classic bilingual styling. “Fans” (people who ride trends and have convinced themselves that tracksuits aren’t awful) of brands such as Fila and Champion will enjoy the offerings of Jang Woohyeok’s label to a great extent.