South Korean fashion, music craze sweeps up Hong Kong culture, outdoing what local brands or celebrities could have possibly inspired. As Andrea Deng reports, local youths are digging in to avoid a ‘negative spotlight’.
They listen to Rain, dance to the beat of the Big Bang and they’re part of the New Evolution of the 21st Century (2NE1), which for many post-90’s kids is a girls generation. Today’s Hong Kong youths are tuning in to Seoul — K-Pop, Korean popular music and the fashion culture that it helped spawn.
“Hallyu the Korean Wave”, now sweeping the world, is a global marketing juggernaut shaped through a masterful collaboration of South Korea’s entertainment industry, the ROK government and leading manufacturers like Samsung and Hyundai. Time Magazine called it “South Korea’s greatest export”.
“If you go to Tsim Sha Tsui and into Rise Commercial Building, almost all the boutiques are selling South Korean fashion. You see magazine clippings of South Korean pop stars wearing the clothes the store is showcasing. In that cultural milieu, there’s not much local pop stars can do. They’re overshadowed,” Shadow Chow Wing-yan, a 23-year-old shop assistant at Sheung Wan’s Cheap Monday boutique, told China Daily. “I believe it would be difficult for any local fashion to reach the level of popularity you see with South Korean fashion,” she concluded.
“I would say celebrity is the major influence on the post-90s generation. On Facebook, Yahoo, YouTube, TV, there’s always stuff about South Korean pop stars. With friends, all you talk about is Korean pop stars. I’ve been through it. I’d say ‘oh I was in a boutique the other day and such and such is the fad this season.’ And then somebody would say, ‘yeah because such and such pop star was wearing it,” said Chow.
The secret of Hallyu is the meticulous packaging of South Korea’s pop icons. From the age of 11 or 12, they are groomed as role models, given culture, poise, taught how to move, coiffed, choreographed, promoted by teams of marketers — turned out in the latest South Korean fashions by leading experts — and blasted into cyberspace via YouTube for all the world to see. K-pop is not just popular music. It’s a culture, a lifestyle and the sales of fashion brands, sports drinks and manufactured goods go way higher than music sales.
If one checks out the fashions seen on the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui or Causeway Bay, the post-90s crowds turned out in supreme caps, crop tops, oversized tops matched with tight mini dresses or high-waisted shorts. Clothes are loose fitting, whimsical, colorful, frequently asymmetrical and often sport colored lace. The city’s streets have become a showcase for fashions worn by South Korean pop icons featured in popular magazines, even in “Vogue”. Pop-star Kim Soo Hyun, who spent three days in Hong Kong in April, did a shoot for Calvin Klein denims.
One of the latest fads, Chow said, marked the return of a popular fashion of yore: Air Jordan sneakers the classic collection, originally promoted by former National Basketball Association great Michael Jordan. But it was G-Dragon — the 25-year-old South Korean songwriter, rap, hiphop and pop star and, noted fashion icon wore a pair of the classic Air Jordan-4s in a music video. G-Dragon is a member of Big Bang, just about the biggest bang there is in the K-pop Universe.
Taste of crazy fashion
The price of Air Jordan shoes went super nova. Five years ago, the post-80s weren’t that into the sneakers. A pair cost about HK$800. Now they’re HK$1,800. You can find some real classics for up to HK$6,000.
Many Chinese who moved abroad on working holidays are coming home bringing a taste for crazy fashion led by brands like Hollister and A&F. These are “ABC style”, as Chow called them. America and Europe aren’t completely shut out. They still play a role in local fashion.
“Basically, if you go for Western styles, you’d visit the major chain stores. If you want South Korean styles, you go to the smaller boutiques. And there’s nothing else much you could choose from,” said Chow.
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