Bigbang, the Korean boy band and its two most popular members, G-Dragon and Taeyang, have proven an interesting topic of discussion of late, as their visibility has notably expanded beyond the borders of Korea. The band’s two most fashion-minded members, along with a number of other Korean superstar artists, including boy band BTS and CL of 2NE1, are penetrating the fashion industry and its probably only upwards from here.
It makes sense for a number of reasons. Consider the fact that fashion – in its current form – is largely driven by social media. Most fashion brands are firmly plugged into nearly every social media platform, including Weibo, a Twitter x Facebook hybrid, which is one of the most popular sites in China. Marketing of the social media kind has experienced growth that is nearly exponential over the past decade, in particular.
For fashion brands, this includes straightforward advertising (think: “Sponsored” posts on Instagram) but maybe more importantly, it includes the creation and maintenance of brand recognition. This often comes in the form of influencer marketing (the marketing products and services to those and by those who have a sway over the things other people buy).
Enter: the aforementioned K Pop stars, who are larger than life in Asia and online. Consider CL, or “The Baddest Female” as fans have dubbed her on the heels of her 2013 number one hit. The rapper, singer, songwriter, and bona fide style icon, can be spotted sitting front row at shows like Chanel and Moschino and stepping out in designs from cutting-edge labels like Vetements and Hood By Air. She can also be seen in regional Maybelline ads or with girl group, 2NE1, which has been touring the world. She boasts 3.1 million followers on Instagram – where her photos garner upwards of 100,000 likes.
BTS has spurred a huge slew of fashion-specific social media accounts dedicated to documenting the wardrobe choices of the group's 7 members, who have stepped out in everything from Gucci and Saint Laurent to Wooyoungmi and Juun. J. Their penchant for fashion has not gone unnoticed by the fashion industry, as it has landed them Nylon and W magazine covers, and features on Dazed and a number of other industry sites.
G-Dragon, for instance, has 4.9 million Twitter followers; Taeyang has 2.24 million. On Instagram, G-Dragon has 6.3 million people following his every photo and Taeyang has 3.5 million. And these are far from empty numbers; they followers engage with them in a major way. G-Dragon’s tweets have between 2,500 and 15,000 retweets, and even more “favorites.” And that’s nothing compared to the levels of interaction on Instagram, where his average photo will draw between 350k and 450k “likes” and up to roughly 15k comments each. In short, these stars are influential.
Moreover, the market is asking for increased diversity in the fashion industry because the pool of consumers that is buying luxury fashion is becoming increasingly diverse. According to a 2014 report by global management consulting firm Bain & Company, Asia-Pacific’s share of the global luxury goods market has grown by ten percent over the past ten years, and today, the fastest growing luxury markets in the world are the Middle East and Africa. Couple with this the fact that sales in Asian markets, while currently down in China and Hong Kong in particular, serve as important sources of growth for luxury brands.
With the help of their management company, YG entertainment, Bigbang’s two stars and CL are set to become even more ubiquitous, or at least, that’s the goal. Inhae Yeo, head of fashion consulting firm, Oikonomos, noted recently: “YG Entertainment wants to make stylish solo artists out of musicians like Taeyang, CL and Sandara, too. They’re taking a 360 degree approach to build them into brands in their own right.” And YG has the resources to do so; you may recall that L Capital Asia (LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton private equity firm) invested $80 million in YG Entertainment. And don’t forget CL. With "Hello Bitches," the first single from her solo album have been just released and the fashion world increasingly taking notice of her (think: both Karl Lagerfeld and Jeremy Scott are fans), she is on her way to conquering the world, since she already has Asia firmly on her side.
If Western brands (like Guiseppe Zanotti, Chrome Hearts, and the others that have partnered with G-Dragon, for instance, and Maybelline and DKNY have enlisted the help of CL) are smart, they will continue to court these individuals as they become internationally-renowned stars – because it is only a matter of time.
* This article was initially published in November 2015.