Mall the merrier as Koreans prove a hit

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 July, 2012, 12:00am


Hong Kong has long taken Japan as a major inspiration for fashion that offers an alternative to the big European houses. But a new contender is working its way into the hearts, minds and wardrobes of local style seekers. Korean fashion is becoming a powerful force - designed for Asian shapes and offering a relaxed, slightly Westernised version of Asian cool. It has all but overrun small malls around Hong Kong.

There are several reasons for this. Korean youth culture, television series and K-pop enjoy major success in Asia. K-pop stars such as Rain, boy band Shinee and girl band Girls' Generation even have large fan bases in the US.

Fashion is cheaper and more trend-based than in Japan, where the market tends to focus on quality and expensive materials.

So it's little wonder so many of our small boutiques, especially those that dot Causeway Bay, are now buying from fashion markets in Korea.

The aesthetic has also hit home. Japanese high fashion can be rather deconstructed and it is not traditionally very flattering. Japanese street labels, such as BAPE, take influence from hip-hop street clothes, and these clothes do not appeal to everyone.

With the Korean aesthetic, men's shirts are slim cut and women's dresses have smaller proportions, yet can still be sexy. There is the 'cute' element so beloved by Asian girls, but it is mixed with hipster trends for a more pared-down cool.

Since the rise of the Japanese deconstructivists such as Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Gar?ons, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto in the 1980s, and their effect on fashion and designers such as the Antwerp Six collective, Tokyo style has reigned supreme in Asia.

But Korean style is not led by famous brands or labels.

Few Korean designers have made it big in high fashion internationally. New York-based Doo-Ri Chung and the amazing Paris-based Lie Sang Bong are notable exceptions.

Having captured much of Asia's youth market, Korea, if it is to aim even higher, must capitalise on talent such as Chung and Bong.

If more of their home-grown high fashion designers create a stir in the international circuit, Korean style could be the next big thing.