With an established reputation for craftsmanship, South Korean firms are also known to quickly adopt cutting-edge fads. They appear confident that Japan’s affection for South Korean music, television and other forms of popular culture will translate into success in the fashion world.
Though the international K-Pop boom has cooled a bit, South Korean music and fashion remain influential in several Tokyo street fashion circles. While older generations looked to G-Dragon and 2NE1 for style inspiration, groups like EXO and BTS are the favorites of Japan’s next generation K-Pop loving kids.
Korean web trend shop Style Nanda just opened a bright pink building on Takeshita Dori (Harajuku’s most famous teen shopping street) to big fanfare — and long lines. Low priced Korean makeup brand Etude House now has at least three locations in Harajuku (including two on Takeshita Dori). At the higher end, Tokyo-based Korean label 99%IS has had a big influence on the latest wave of punk-inspired Harajuku menswear styles.
2016’s genderless kei boys — the ones we saw on the street in Harajuku, not the TV personalities— were inspired largely by Korean makeup and beauty trends along with minimalist Korean fashion (a lot of skinny jeans and t-shirts). This year, Korean designers working in “streetwear” motifs similar to Gosha and Vetements are making names for themselves on the streets of Harajuku.
A growing number of popular Harajuku boutiques support South Korean streetwear designers in 2017. Never Mind the XU has lead the way in making Korean designers like More Than Dope, Open The Door, and AnotherYouth hot with trendy high school age Harajuku-ites. Agem Tokyo is a boutique in Urahara (backstreets of Harajuku) that specializes in Korean streetwear, carrying a large list of labels including Attention Row, VEI-8, OY, VSR, AJO, I Am Not A Human Being, Sleazy Corner, DoDoDo, Basic Cotton, More Than Dope, and Esc Studio.
Inside of the Laforet Department Store, a growing number of shops carry Korean brands. Select shop KONVINI, which just opened in March, stocks exclusively Korean labels including Baby Centaur, MSKN2ND, Rocket x Lunch, Liful, LMC (Lost Management Cities), D-Antidote, Andersson Bell, Eyeye, Freiknock, and many others.
Several young Korean designers have gone beyond just selling at Tokyo select shops, and are now visiting Japan regularly and launching their own limited time popup shops in Harajuku. More Than Dope’s ten-day popup at LaForet was so popular that we saw a big spike in Harajuku kids wearing the brand on the street even weeks after the shop had closed. Korean streetwear brands Esc Studio, Open The Door, and Another Youth each held their own successful popups inside of Never Mind The XU’s Harajuku boutique this spring.
And Korean fashion brands aren’t the only ones doing popup shops. In May, the South Korean boy band EXO took over the entire popup space on the 2nd floor of LaForet Harajuku — a space that usually hosts six separate shops —for S.M.
Entertainment’s three week long EXO-CBX band goods and fashion popup. Earlier in the year, another Korean group, YG Entertainment’s iKon, held their own popup at LaForet. Legendary Japanese designer Michiko London Koshino also released a collaboration collection — introduced during a runway show inside of LaForet Harajuku — with Korean label NONA9ON (YG Entertainment) at the end of 2016.
Since then, fashion has become the most important element of K-pop as more and more K-pop idol groups were seen changing their concept to something more daring, fierce and edgy. All musicians come with signature style with their characteristic on the stage and only a few can imitate their style perfectly. Nowadays, K-pop idols are seen wearing the latest collection of the fashion brands such as Givenchy, Balmain, Prada, Chrome Hearts and 3.1 Phillip Lim.
These fashion brands have gained the attention of K-pop fans especially those who are fashion enthusiasts so the fans start to follow the trend of wearing luxurious brand. Obviously, the fans were not only obsessed with their idols when the luxury brand consumption has increased steadily all over the world. Everybody wanted to look as gorgeous and stylish as these K-pop stars that it became the trend for K-pop hipsters and wannabes.
While media in both countries likes to emphasize differences between the Japanese and Korean governments, young creative people in Korea and Japan are ignoring controversy and finding mutually beneficial ways to work together. Judging by everything we’ve seen in the last year, we don’t anticipate Korean fashion and music’s presence in the Japanese street fashion scene fading away anytime soon.