K-style: understanding the golden age of Korean culture

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K-style: understanding the rise of Korea’s creative golden age

Between music, fashion, design and gastronomy, a new book, Pause Remix explores the global rise of Korean culture

From K-pop to K-fashion, there’s never been a time when Korean culture has been so enthusiastically consumed and loved by overseas fans (there are good reasons too to visit – see our Seoul tour). Without a doubt, K culture is in its golden age.

As far as it is consumed, however, there seems to be a dearth of publications with a credible explanation for Korean culture’s spike in popularity. The power of storytelling has often been cited as the key to the international success of Korea’s film and entertainment industry, but it’s not enough of an answer when it comes to music, fashion, design and food. Surely there must be something more that orients global audiences towards Korean culture as a whole.

new book Make Break Remix: The Rise of K-Style addresses two major questions: why has the K-style garnered so much attention and popularity around the world? And what does the Korean cultural trend have in store for us? To find answers, author Fiona Bae, a longtime publicist based in Seoul and London, met 16 creatives from various Korean cultural fields and got a glimpse into their lives, work and mantras. Delving deep into their creative processes, the book extracts the essence of each designer’s distinct identity and their perspective on the rise of K-style.

© 2022 less_TAEKYUN

Raw yet elegant snapshots of these designers and their working environments, taken by famed Korean fashion photographer Less (Taekyun Kim), come as a bonus. His photographic essays, interspersed with texts by Bae, reflect each of the themes. Devouring the photos can in itself be a delight to read this book.

Interviewees range from famous K-pop choreographer Lia Kim to lesser-known but highly influential fashion designers who lead the streetwear scene, such as Bajowoo, Ilse and Mischief. High culture big names – interior designer Teo Yang, craft artist Kwangho Lee and chef Mingoo Kang – rub shoulders with DPR REM subculture musicians Hwang Soyoon and Lim Kim. Despite the eclectic mix, the book focuses primarily on Korean subculture, particularly the creators of street culture in the fashion and music scenes.

“My editor and my editors wanted to focus on Korea’s subculture and street culture. I also realized through research that subculture plays a vital role in Korea in influencing the mass cultural trend” , Bae told Wallpaper*. Referring to Danny Chung, one of the commentators she interviewed for the book, Bae points out that “even the biggest K-pop groups are in tune with what’s going on in the subcultures of Seoul”.

Dee Hul and Lee Daun from Pause Remix. © 2022 less_TAEKYUN

Bae’s interviewees are creators from the subculture scene who influence broader trends and who she believes will lead the future of K-style. She deliberately avoided featuring famous figures from popular culture who have already received extensive media coverage. “K-pop and K-fashion are the two mainstays of K-style overseas. At the same time, I think Korean design will also take off, and Korean cuisine will also become more and more popular. So those potential growth areas were also what I wanted to showcase in the book,” Bae says.

For Bae, “the bold and courageous attitude of Korean creatives” is what defines the K style. is what makes style K so special, she says.

“There is an energy that comes from that attitude. Koreans like to learn new things, [and] Try new things. They are passionate. My interlocutors had a common conviction on what they wanted to do and courageously moved forward. They constantly iterate and remix everything cool from different cultures, without any inhibitions. In the process, a new authenticity is born. This reflects the spirit of the K style.’

Gahyun Kwon in Pause Remix. © 2022 less_TAEKYUN

The competition for originality is much more intense than ever in the digital age. As people have access to the internet, and especially social media, they now have a better eye and a better taste. Creators are therefore under constant pressure to come up with something new, something more original than what already exists.

The four Korean fashion brands featured at the end of the book, in a separate section by famed fashion editor Sukwoo Hong (aka Your Boyhood), could be the embodiment of K-fashion originality in this new era. . For those interested in learning more about the fast-growing new players in the Korean fashion scene, Fashion Directory will be an interesting read.

K-style is flying high thanks to digital media, but it’s both a blessing and a challenge as designers can struggle to keep up with the speed of society and rapidly changing trends. The result is a deeper contemplation and a search for originality. The book has a clear message: Korean culture really began to flourish overseas when the creators came back to their original selves. In the end, authenticity matters most. §

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