The South Korean fashion industry has gone through a major generational shift in recent years. For a long time it was dominated by conglomerates and a few established designers, but now indie brands are writing a new chapter. Influenced by both K-pop and Korean drama serials, they are looking to expand K-fashion’s appeal by building on the foundations laid down by the big players.The new breed of Korean designers create fun and edgy clothes and accessories which, thanks to the country’s advanced manufacturing processes, are also high-quality.
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Here are five accessories brands, all based in the South Korean capital, Seoul, that are making waves overseas.
In 2013, K-drama character Cheon Song-yi’s sunglasses flashed a bright future for Gentle Monster. With the success of the sensational series My Love from the Star, everything Cheon, played by actress Jun Ji-hyun, wore became a big hit, and Gentle Monster’s sunglasses – a match for Cheon’s quirky nature – quickly went viral.
Hankook Kim founded Gentle Monster in 2011, since when its playful, and avant-garde, designs have appealed to global trendsetters such as singer Rihanna, model Gigi Hadid and actress Tilda Swinton. Gentle Monster has also won fans for its focus on making sunglasses with an “Asian fit”, suitable for people with wide cheekbones and a low nose bridge who have trouble finding the right pair from international brands.
Available in Hong Kong at Gentle Monster, 25 Lan Fong Road, Causeway Bay
If you are looking for a statement bag that is sophisticated and distinctive, The Volon is a great choice. The label is popular with fashion influencers such as Aimee Song, Olivia Palermo, Irene Kim, Yoyo Cao and Leandra Medine. The Volon specialises in leather mini bags and clutches with fringes, tassels, spangles or metal components. Bold colour combinations make its bags stand out.
Available at net-a-porter.com
Reike Nen is a contemporary footwear brand launched in 2010 by designer Rei Yoon Hong-mi in Seongsu-dong, an old shoe factory quarter in Seoul. Consumers started to recognise the brand when it launched Oxford-style platforms in 2011, around the time when Korean fashion lovers began craving something new and different. Almost overnight Reike Nen created a new market.
The shoe label reinterprets classic designs and creates unique shoes by adding original details. Its spring-summer 2018 collection, Voluminimal, is Reike Nen’s interpretation of minimalism.
Available at farfetch.com
Launched in 2011, Monday Edition is one of South Korea’s leading costume jewellery brands. Its designs are understated rather than flamboyant. A moon-inspired gold circlet, pearls and alphabets are basic elements of Monday Edition’s range, and its jewellery goes well with both classic and more funky outfits.
Sara Kim launched Monday Edition after working in graphic design and fashion advertising. Her approach to jewellery design is unconventional. Her early designs incorporating typography were a big success. Numerous Korean stars are fans and wear Monday Edition jewellery on stage or screen.
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The brand has regular collaborations with other fashion labels, and with artists and celebrities. Available at monday-edition.co.kr
Known for its structural shapes, Yuul Yie is a handmade shoe brand created by Sunyuul Yie in 2010. Yuul Yie makes shoes that are glamorous and feminine, in styles such as mules, pumps, Mary Janes, and slingbacks.
The most notable feature of Yuul Yie shoes is the heel. The brand’s patented Y-shaped trapezoid chunky heel is conspicuous; colour block and pearl-embellished heels are typical of its output. The brand’s latest collection, The Love Potion, 1961 is inspired by 1960s vintage, and also features the brand’s first handbags.
Available in Hong Kong at Lane Crawford