When Bucking the Trend Turns Into a Trend

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When Bucking the Trend Turns Into a Trend

"I hate to see others wearing the same T-shirts as mine," said Han Song-hee, a college student majoring in pop music at the Seoul Arts Institute. "I would prefer the one I have on to be the one-and-only, because it's fun. I don't want my T-shirts to become popular or common. That would mean losing my uniqueness."

Nowadays, fake brand-name T-shirts and sweatshirts for upscale fashions such as Prada are tremendously popular among young people in Korea. Ms. Han would never buy knockoffs or originals at any price. For those with more money to spend, the fad is for original brand goods, such as the American hip-hop brand Fubu, which creates T-shirts that cost at least $35 and are found only at select department stores.

Young people seem to love brand name goods, and that fact has brought a group to rise up against the fad. This group, made up of seven young Korean men, has named themselves the "T-shirt Action Party."

"We are anti-brand," said Koh Il-hee, the leader of T-shirt Action Party who preferred to be known by his funny nickname, "Big Sister Princess." The party's headquarters is located in a small, rundown office, barely 24.9 square meters in size, in Ssangmun-dong, northern Seoul.

Since the party's inauguration on June 23, Mr. Koh and the other members have been producing a variety of original designs under the motto "a variety of goods in limited quantities." Mr. Koh explained, "This is to prevent the party from becoming really established as a brand. We similarly have pursued only online sales without any form of advertisement."

In spite of these measures, more than a few people have discovered this singular group of people and purchased their T-shirts. Ms. Han said, "I was surfing the Internet one day and came across the Web site of the T-shirt Action Party, whose interesting designs inspired me to splurge on three T-shirts with the same design, which I shared with my friends."

And Ms. Han is not the only one. "We get at least 50 orders a day on our Web site, www.theT.co.kr," Mr. Koh said.

The design that attracted Ms. Han was a parody of Superman, with the logo reading "Stamina" and a picture of a snake that provided an amusing joke about sexual performance. The company sells 32 products from six categories, with a price range of 11,000 to 13,000 won ($8.50-$10), many of which criticize luxury brands such as Fubu, Nike and Starbucks.

Jo Young-ki, a college student and big fan of the T-shirt Action Party, said, "I love almost every T-shirt, but I especially like the one with the periodic table." Mr. Koh said that the T-shirt was designed to reduce the burden on high school students who have to learn all those symbols by heart. "Just wear the T-shirt on the day of your chemistry exam. And for your friend's sake, we printed the table on the back too," the leaflet says.

"They make their T-shirts right," Mr. Jo said, "Their T-shirts are outstanding, meaningful and most of all, unique," Mr. Jo said. Mr. Koh, however, does not seem to be too happy with what his fans say. "If our products become too popular and recognized as a brand, I will quit," he said. "We're not doing this for profit but for fun."



by Chun Su-jin

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