How luxury fashion is banking on devout K-pop fans to boost sales


K-pop stars like Blackpink's Rose has been snapped up by luxury brands to tap into a new fanbase. Photo: Instagram/Rose

Like millions of music lovers, fashion is dancing to the tune of K-pop. From Givenchy to Saint Laurent and Vuitton, luxury labels are snapping up the services of these South Korean pop stars to boost their sales, and reach out to a younger audience devoted to these idols.

Their names are Lisa, Jisoo, Rose and Jennie, and together they form the K-pop band, Blackpink.

Since they burst onto the scene in 2016, the four young women have been racking up hits and drawing crowds with every appearance, whether on stage, at the famous Coachella festival, or at luxury brands' latest fashion shows.

For good reason, the stars of Blackpink have become the muses of several different fashion houses.

Lisa is signed up to Celine and Bulgari, Jennie works with Chanel and Calvin Klein, Jisoo has partnered with Dior and Cartier, and Rose represents Saint Laurent and Tiffany.

And other South Korean pop stars have followed their lead.

The seven singers of BTS have signed with Vuitton, while the girl bands Nmixx and Aespa have respectively partnered with Loewe and Givenchy.

They are, of course, not the only artistes from the K-pop world to propose a gateway to the Western luxury world in Asia.

Read more: How fashion is courting K-pop and its fans at runway shows in Milan

Nowadays, few are the brands that have not enlisted the services of these idols, followed by millions of fans. They all hope to boost their sales thanks to the incredible influence that stars of this musical genre enjoy on social networks.

Whether it's Blackpink's Rose or Exo's Kai, every single one of their posts gets commented on, liked, and shared by an army of devoted fans.

These communities of fans are so invested in the lives and careers of their favourite artistes that they don't hesitate to spend lavishly to support them... and look like them.

For example, a woman named Yoo bought a shoulder bag from the label of late British designer Vivienne Westwood for her teenage daughter, for the sum of 580,000 won (RM1,985).

"My 16-year-old daughter actually asked for a Prada or Saint Laurent handbag, which are at least five times more expensive. But I told her no because it's too pricey for a high school student. Now I'm worried that she might want a more expensive item next," she told the Korea Times.

Influence worth millions

Yoo is certainly not the only mother whose children want to buy fancy clothes and accessories to emulate the style of K-pop's big names.

Instagram is full of explainer accounts where users break down the looks of Da Young from the girl band WJSN or Jeongyeon from Twice, revealing the exact pieces worn by these stars.

The most indecisive K-pop fans can also do a quick test online to find out which luxury brand suits them best according to their musical tastes.

The powerful influence of K-pop singers is a real boon for fashion houses that see South Korea as a veritable goldmine.

Indeed, the country's luxury goods market grew by about 30% in 2021, according to the Korean Herald, drawing on figures from the firm Samjong KPMG. It should approach US$7bil (RM31.7bil) in sales in 2024.

Enough to attract the interest of Chanel, Dior and the likes...

To make their break into South Korea, and Asia more generally, luxury brands have every interest in cosying up to the stars of K-pop.

"Consumers generally choose luxury goods that meet their unique tastes and preferences," says Kwak Geum-joo, a psychology professor at Seoul National University, speaking to the Korea Times.

Read more: BTS' Suga now Valentino ambassador, while Givenchy appoints Big Bang's Taeyang

"But Koreans tend to make a safe choice by purchasing the most popular ones. To make better decisions, they often rely on celebrities who are associated with luxury brands."

The figures attest to this phenomenon. Just 8% of the influencers recruited by Prada for its 2022 campaign promoting its Symbole handbag are from South Korea.

But this small group generated US$2.43bil (RM11bil) in EMV (Earned Media Value), an index indicating what a brand would have to spend on social media advertising to achieve the same impact.

That's more than half the total amount of Prada's campaign EMV, according to a report from the influencer marketing agency, Lefty.

Young people are particularly likely to follow the lead of K-pop stars in their choice of a particular luxury brand. A trend that is not without its dangers, as Lim Myung-ho, a professor of psychology at Dankook University, explained to the Korea Times.

"[Young people] largely depend on their parents' money and end up spending above their budget. Usually, people have a stronger desire to splurge when they have less control over their lives – for students, it's common when they feel discouraged about studying and improving their academic records.

In the long term, these behaviours may lead to bad consumption habits." – AFP

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fashion , K-pop , K-fashion , BTS , Blackpink


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