The power of Korean pop culture has led to another big deal as fashion and beauty giants continue to look to Seoul for growth. This time, French cosmetics firm L’Oreal has inked a $375 million deal to take a majority stake in Nanda. The a buzzy Korean fast fashion and beauty brand, which boasts international e-commerce capabilities and 1.1 million followers on Instagram, is just one of a growing number of brands churning out trendy wares for low prices in one of Asia's most influential fashion markets.
“Nanda began as an online retailer and has expanded to open physical stores in South Korea, Tokyo and Hong Kong,” Reuters reported last month. “Its Style Nanda clothing line and 3CE cosmetics brand are particularly popular among Chinese tourists,” who have in recent years, in particular, taken to buying fashion in Korea. In fact, by 2020, Chinese luxury consumers are expected to spend a whopping $29 billion at South Korea luxury retailers.
The L’Oreal deal marks the latest in an ongoing effort among Western brands to expand their portfolios in Korea, with Unilever NV buying cosmetics company Carver Korea Co for $2.80 billion in September, and LVMH – by way of its Asian private equity arm, L Capital – taking stakes in a number of Korea entities, including CLIO Cosmetics, K-pop powerhouse YG Entertainment, and eyewear brand Gentle Monster.
But there is another trend at play here: A widespread obsession with fast fashion in the Far East. Nanda joins a swiftly growing market of brands that have adapted to the changing landscape of fashion and begun offering quickly-made, affordably-priced garments and accessories. Seoul-based Twee, for instance, has made a name for itself by turning out more than 400 new styles for women and men every month with prices that range from $29.90 to $120. Much like Nanda, Twee also stocks an array of makeup and skincare products.
The Samsung-owned brand, 8Seconds – which puts forth womenswear and menswear looks inspired by the runway, as well as collaborations with the likes of K-pop mega-star G-Dragon and Korean food brand Nongshim, among others – has similarly found a following thanks to the growing adoption in Seoul low-cost, of-the-moment wares.
As Jung Kuho, the executive director of Seoul Fashion Week, told SCMP last year, many consumers in Seoul “are not really into high-end fashion, but more so into affordable streetwear that is influenced by K-pop stars and K-entertainment.” This is something that Vogue editor Monica Kim confirmed, saying, “The fashion in Seoul moves fast and is incredibly trend-driven. It’s why you see a lot of logo hoodies, statement T-shirts, fun denim … things like that.
With the emergence of a new(ish)-found fandom for disposable fashion, which has been so locative for the likes of Zara, H&M and co., Western brands are increasingly looking to Seoul-based as a hotbed for growth in this realm, many of which are expanding their offerings beyond the borders of Korea, as the Western penchant with all things Korean culture continues to grow.
"It began with K-pop, moved into K-beauty and now K-fashion is the next logical move," says Kim. And that includes fast fashion, of course.