Korean fashion brands find international success

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Korean fashion brands find international success

Boy band BTS member Jungkook, second from left, performs wearing Andersson Bell’s sneakers during the Billboard Music Awards last year. [ANDERSSON BELL]

Boy band BTS member Jungkook, second from left, performs wearing Andersson Bell’s sneakers during the Billboard Music Awards last year. [ANDERSSON BELL]

Although many businesses are struggling to recover from the impact of the prolonged coronavirus pandemic, the Korean fashion industry is still performing well in overseas markets.
 
Andersson Bell, a local contemporary fashion brand founded in 2014, has seen sales shoot up overseas thanks to boy band BTS. The fashion company quickly became a viral hit after band member Jungkook wore its sneakers to the 2019 Billboard Music Awards.
 
Last year, the company successfully entered Net-a-Porter, a London-based global fashion retailer, and roughly 92 percent of all its products sold out.
 
 
Andersson Bell mural paintings in Seongsu-dong, eastern Seoul. [MUSINSA]

Andersson Bell mural paintings in Seongsu-dong, eastern Seoul. [MUSINSA]

With the huge boost in popularity, the fashion brand recently contracted with Farfetch, another London-based online luxury fashion retail platform.
 
On Ssense, a Canadian fashion retailer, the volume of Andersson Bell products sold this year nearly quintupled compared to last year.
 
Andersson Bell was also invited to a pop-up exhibition in Liberty London, a luxury department store, a first for the Korean fashion industry. Many famous global fashion brands such as Acne Studios, Alexa Chung and The Row were invited to the exhibition.
 
So far, the fashion company has successfully entered 50 retailers in about 15 countries across the world. It aims to expand the number to 150 by the end of next year.
 
According to Andersson Bell, one of the major reasons behind its success is the company’s unique marketing strategy. Having first started as a street fashion brand, it transformed to a luxury brand about three years ago. The company said it increased the prices of its products by 20 to 30 percent and invested tens of millions of won into making promotional videos to attract younger shoppers.
 
Targeting young people — especially people born in the 1980s to early 2000s — who are tired of cheap, low-quality fast fashion brands, proved to be a successful strategy, according to the company.
 
“In the online fashion market, companies now battle with their values, not prices,” said Choi Jung-hee, CEO of Andersson Bell. “We’ve been focusing on making our brand unique by combining art and business.”
 
Another casual fashion brand Romantic Crown has been doing well in China.
 
On last year’s Singles’ Day, China's biggest shopping day which falls on Nov. 11, sales of the brand’s products posted 800 million won ($703,000) in a single day.
 
After successfully opening a pop-up store in Japan in the first half of the year, Romantic Crown plans to enter Zozotown, one of the largest shopping platforms in Japan.
 
According to Romantic Crown, roughly 30 percent of its total sales came from overseas market last year. It said it expects to exceed 50 percent this year.
 
Romantic Crown also has its own unique marketing strategy: It changes its slogan every season.
 
For instance, the company chose “Sunday syndrome” as the slogan for this autumn and winter. While coming up with new collections, it said it aims to deliver a cheerful message to customers who have to go back to work after the weekend.
 
 
Models pose with fashion brand Romantic Crown’s sweatshirts made in collaboration with Spanish confectionery company Chupa Chups. [MUSINSA]

Models pose with fashion brand Romantic Crown’s sweatshirts made in collaboration with Spanish confectionery company Chupa Chups. [MUSINSA]

Romantic Crown has also been very enthusiastic about collaborating with non-fashion companies.
 
Last month, it collaborated with Spanish confectionery company Chupa Chups and launched unique clothing collections including outerwear and accessories.
 
“We’ve been receiving positive feedbacks from not only Asian countries but also from the United States and the European market,” Kim Min-sung, CEO of Romantic Crown, said. “Instead of imprudently expanding our business just to increase sales, we will take a step-by-step approach to the overseas market while maintaining our brand’s identity.”
 
Goal Studio, a football-inspired fashion brand which was launched by Wagti last year, has been gearing up to extend its business overseas, mainly targeting big football fans worldwide.
 
As part of efforts to expand its presence, Goal Studio recently established branches in Japan and China. According to the company, it is currently preparing a sole distributor and license agreements for Southeast Asian countries including Indonesia and Vietnam.
 
With the aim of becoming a global sports brand, the company recently hired Song Wook-hwan, former CEO of Nike Korea, and Marcus Seiya Tayui, former executive of Puma Japan.
 
“After the recent success in attracting foreign investment, we have been concentrating on the Japanese and Chinese market,” said Kang Hoon, CEO of Wagti. “We will try our best to transform our company to a famous global sports brand like Nike and Adidas.”
 
Critics, however, say that local fashion companies are overly dependent on celebrities and influencers when marketing their products.
 
“Amid the global popularity of K-pop idol groups, more foreign customers have been showing interests in the local fashion brands,” said Seo Yong-gu, a professor of business administration at Sookmyung University. “However, in order to become a global brand, they must strive to maintain their brand identity, as well as manage the quality [of their products].”
 
BY BAE JUNG-WON, CHEA SARAH   [chea.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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