Although we, like everyone else, are obsessed with K-beauty to K-pop, what excites us the most about South Korean culture is its burgeoning fashion scene. Take a stroll through its capital city, Seoul, and you’ll find yourself instantly captivated by the killer street style and people-watching opportunities.
While many of us in the States are drawn to Seoul’s exciting streetwear scene, there’s a lot more to Korean fashion than just that. From the feminine to the refined, and the quirky to sporty, there's lots to be inspired by in South Korea’s fashion scene. And now, a new showroom project headed up by KOCCA, the Korean Creative Content Agency, will be bringing some of South Korea’s freshest talents Stateside this fall.
Just don’t assume that any of these labels are newcomers. All of these brands are seasoned in the industry, and already have quite a presence in the Asian and European markets, even if they're just now bringing their wares to the U.S. Get ahead of the curve and get to know these 10 labels—all destined to become your cult-favorites—before everyone else, below.
Photographer: Sun Hye Shin
Stylist: Suk Won Kim
Hair: Seung Won Kim
Makeup: Jo Yeon Won
Models: Yu Jin, Hye Young Seon, Soo Min Cha, and Tobi
If you’re looking for streetwear for the fashion girl, look no further than LIE, a label that’s destined to become the next buzzy fashion brand making the street style rounds.
Designer Chung Chung Lie is no stranger to the fashion game. The son of a fashion designer, it’s clear in his designs that fashion is in his blood. He’s no stranger to the New York scene, either. Just last season, he showcased his Fall 2018 collection during NYFW’s Concept Korea show.
While his use of texture, patterns, and color, is what makes LIE stand out from the rest, the designer also always incorporates some sort of message into his collections. For Fall 2018, it’s global warming awareness.
Inspired by the North Pole, the collection represents the juxtaposition of the beauty of it all—“the aura of the skies, the blue from the oceans, and the silhouettes and textures of the Inuit tribe”—and the obvious dangers this beauty is facing. After seeing a photo of a starving polar bear, Lie was inspired to bring attention to the melting glaciers and icebergs in the region. You’ll find “It’s not justICE” ("justICE"... "just ice," get it?) slapped onto tees and other items in the collection, bringing attention to the threat the region—and our planet—is facing.
And while each of his collections has some political element to it, it’s never too in-your-face. “I don’t want to push, I want to remind people,” he says.
While always feminine, his pieces certainly aren’t for the faint of heart—even the most classic or basic silhouettes have some sort of twist to them, whether it’s a flared trouser with a panel of ruffles or a faux fur-sleeved top. Yet somehow, it all feels extremely wearable—he makes even a faux shearling and PVC jacket or a patchwork sweatshirt-blouse hybrid seem approachable.
If there was any brand out there trying to break the rules, it’s BMUET(TE).
Founded in 2013 by design duo Byungmun Seo and JinaUm, the label aims to completely redefine the ideas of traditional silhouettes and structures of dressing. You’ll find deconstructed sweaters that double as scarves, tops that can be worn as skirts, and coats, hoodies, and skirts that can all be worn multiple ways. You’ll find a sleeve placed in the middle of the chest and mismatched and off-centered buttoning elements—basically, anything that will break its wearer away from the familiarity of common dress.
While the two originally started BMUET(TE) as a men's wear label, they introduced women’s ready-to-wear back in 2015. Still, both the men's wear and women's wear ranges have an interchangeable, unisex feel to them.
Just this year, the brand introduced its diffusion line, SOUNDS BMUET(TE), which is basically BMUET(TE)’s streetwear-inspired little brother. Pieces are more simple, youthful, and approachable but still offer that deconstructed element of BMUET(TE).
Kathleen Kye aims to blend fun and humor with fashion for her namesake label, KYE. Part luxe, part quirky, her streetwear-inspired pieces are statement-makers, yet casual enough to be suitable for every day.
Since being founded in 2011, the KYE girl has done a bit of growing up. The brand originally started as a unisex label, and while it still is, Kye has found that she’s shifted her focus to women's wear, creating a more refined and “mature” version of her original label.
But don’t be fooled, the brand has lots of character—and quite a bit of pop—to it. For Fall 2018, you’ll find ruched velvet dresses and deconstructed knits in the same shade of strikingly vibrant pink, alongside men's wear-inspired suiting separates, colorful faux furs, and shag rug-like sweatshirts.
As would be expected, Kye is no stranger to New York. She’s presented her collections during NYFW in the past—from classic runway shows to a killer Spring/Summer 2017 presentation at VFILES—and you’ll find her pieces carried at places such as OAK and Opening Ceremony.
Designer Tae Yong Ko and his men's wear label Beyond Closet take the classic American prep aesthetic and give it a Korean streetwear twist. Belted coats, classic blazers, and classic shirting are found alongside colorful bomber jackets, hoodies, and tees for a line that’s as polished and sophisticated as it is colorful and fun.
However, there’s one very specific element to Ko’s designs that is a Beyond Closet signature—dogs! Throughout the collection, you’ll find a series of canine characters—whether embroidered onto a button-down shirt or featured on a graphic tee—mostly his own dog, with others making appearances throughout.
The label’s diffusion line, BC by Beyond Closet, takes a more street approach to the brand, offering unisex tees, hoodies, and other apparel and accessories such as totes, caps, and phone cases, while its most popular line, Nomantic, has become an Instagram favorite.
Beyond Closet is big on collaborations and has teamed up with brands such as Reebok, Puma, Kiehl’s, and more in the past. Not surprisingly, it’s also become a favorite of many a K-pop star.
But I mean, fashion and dogs. Of, course it's amazing.
Designer Hye Young Shin of WNDERKAMMER isn’t here to dress the next “fashion girl.” Rather, she’s here to dress the everyday woman in elevated staples.
Founded in 2010, Shin draws much of her influence from photographer Ryan McGinley. She seeks to represent freedom and naturalism that McGinley captures in his work or, as Shin describes it, a sort of soft minimalism.
But don’t be fooled, just because the WNDERKAMMER girl isn’t a fashion girl, doesn't mean she’s not one to watch. She’s effortless and her style icons include Joan Didion and Charlotte Gainsbourg—refined and classic but with an air of cool. Each collection meshes men's wear-inspired separates with classic, feminine pieces for a look that’s never trying too hard but always leaves its wearer the most enviable girl in the room.
The name comes from Renaissance era's Wunderkammer, a “cabinet of curiosities” where one stored its most valued and secret items. Shin's timeless pieces are exactly the kind of things you’d want to keep in yours.
Have you been searching for the perfect timeless—yet trendy—wardrobe staples? Ones that feel elevated but not outrageously priced? Then, look no further than Hidden Forest Market.
South Korean-born designers Ji Hyun Hwang and Sung Jun Cho launched their label in Verona, Italy, back in 2012 to fill a very specific void in the contemporary market: sophisticated and minimalist styles that fell somewhere in between “the Zaras and the runway collections.”
The two draw their inspiration from just about anywhere—books, vintage styles, travel, and museums—to create simple, yet sophisticated, pieces for the everyday. Classic trousers, silk button-downs, and blazers are offered amongst a handful of standout (and more trend-focused) pieces: check print suiting, colorful raincoats, and distressed denim jackets.
Season after season, the collections aim to be customizable, with the idea that the customers can put their own unique spin on them by mixing and matching according to their own personal aesthetic.
Heohwan Simulation is more than just a fashion label—it’s an ongoing art project. Founded in London in 2010 by Korean-born designer Hwan Heo, it serves as part of Heo’s The Critique Collection Project, where he created a 10-year vision for the brand to be showcased through 20 collections.
Every new collection is inspired by Heo’s own experimental artwork and geopolitical aestheticism, each claiming a specific location and time period as its main influence. From Manchester to Tokyo, Heo has taken us all over the world.
For the Fall 2018 collection, his 14th of the planned 20, Heo drew inspiration from youth culture of the Netherlands in the ‘90s, pulling influence from the street culture of the time as well as the art movements of Dutch artists during this period. Men's wear-inspired women's wear is prominent throughout the collection, with oversized coats and workwear trousers paired with ultra-feminine lace accents, silk slips, and corseted dresses.
Designer Noam Nam founded his label NOHANT with one idea in mind: to create wardrobe essentials that both men and women would find comfort in wearing every day. The label, pronounced “No-Ahng,” is considered unisex, meant to fit its wearers in either a relaxed or oversized manner. Pieces are effortless and comfortable, yet sophisticated in a way that's not trying too hard. And the outerwear? It's to die for.
The beauty of Nam’s work is how far he takes each seasonal theme. For example, Spring 2018’s ProceS/S, which aimed to convey the process and preparation of a collection and a runway show within the actual collection and runway show, or Spring 2017’s university-themed collection.
For Fall 2018, Wit(h) In Dosi, Nam aims to bring a bit of wit—and fun—to the normally mundane. Rethinking older NOHANT patterns, particularly his coats, he reshaped pockets and switched up collars and added small amounts of quirk—“A small wit that makes you giggle when you find it,” as he wrote in the show notes.
Streetwear label SWBD: Sewing Boundaries is the brainchild of designer Dongho Ha. To Ha, the name means “to keep borders open to solve the world,” his philosophy to create clothing with a more “blurred” aesthetic in terms of gender.
While the brand was originally classified as a men's wear label, Ha wanted to create gender-fluid pieces that can be worn by all. By making specific edits, such as the removal of shoulder pads, to some of the brand’s signature pieces, everything in the collection is essentially unisex—from its basic tees down to its killer outerwear.
Each collection serves to build on the original brand story, bringing on new variations of its classic styles and prints. However, it has quite a few design signatures that make appearances in almost every collection: piping, color blocking, window checks, pinstripes, and, of course, drool-worthy puffer coats. Based on the coats alone, it comes as no surprise that the brand considers some pretty major talent, such as BTS, as its fans.
There’s something particularly peculiar about designer Rajni Ye’s designs for her label The Centaur—and we can’t get enough of them. Season after season, she puts out collections that are luxurious, ladylike, and refined. On the other hand, there are certain elements of quirkiness that make the label's offerings truly unique each time.
After studying fine art, Ye realized that she didn’t want to be a painter but still wanted to be able to express herself. She turned to fashion design, and in 2008, The Centaur was born. Refusing to define her target market, she describes her customer base as “unique with weird, logical thinking.” It’s a line that’s meant to be worn by the early 20s influencer up to the late-70s grandma, with each personality offering its own interpretation of the brand.
In 2010, she launched The Centaur’s “streetwear little sister,” Baby Centaur, where you’ll find a more approachable (and affordable) take on The Centaur’s aesthetic.
There's a distinct feminine vintage vibe to her Fall 2018 collection, Glamour Of A Private Conspiracy Theory—Chelsea collars, lace-edged sleeves, crystal button details, and dress-coats with defined waists. Yet you’ll find these pieces followed by (or paired with) oversized pantsuits, giant puffer jackets, and floral hooded bodysuits that offer a modern—yet slightly unconventional—element to it all.
Refined with just the right amount of weird—what more could we ask for? I mean, the centaur is half human, half horse after all. And it’s these very worlds—the real and the mythical, the magical, or, as Ye says, “the stupidity of the beast and the human wisdom”—that she’s trying to embody with her designs.