Korean Fashion Gains from Pop-Culture Boom

  • By Byun Hee-won

    June 26, 2021 08:30

    Korean online fashion retailers are becoming more popular in Japan and elsewhere thanks to K-pop bands and TV series.

    Musinsa, Korea's No. 1 online fashion retailer, chose Japan as its first overseas market and established a branch office there. Zigzag, a shopping app that sells trendy clothes from the Dongdaemun garment district of Seoul, launched trial marketing services in Japan after joining hands with popular influencers there.

    Brandi, another online retailer selling Dongdaemun brands, joined hands with Internet portal Naver to start doing business in Japan. And mobile fashion app ABLY launched a Japanese version in January.

    Korea's TV series "Vincenzo" appears as the most-viewed on Netflix Japan, in this grab from the video streaming platform.

    Last month, cable channel tvN's recently-ended series "Vincenzo" became the most viewed program on Netflix Japan. An Internet search on Yahoo Japan leads to postings about the formal suits featured in the drama as well as clothes worn by the female lead, Jeon Yeo-been. 

    Musinsa is not increasing its physical presence in Japan but gives clothes makers here the support they need in marketing their products there. Zigzag, which was acquired by Kakao earlier this year, introduced a fashion e-commerce app called Naunau in Japan to pave the way for Dongdaemun apparel makers to sell their products there.

    Brandi is selling its products through an online store in Japan run by Naver. Industry insiders say Naver and Kakao plan to expand their online fashion sales worldwide using Japan as a launching board.

    Some small online fashion retailers had already pioneered the Japanese market before these big names. An industry insider said, "Japan's fashion market centers on offline retail shops and specialty stores, but demand for online fashion malls surged last year due to the coronavirus pandemic."

    The screenshot of Zigzag's Japanese app Naunau on its website

    Japanese consumers are discerning fashionistas, and the garment businesses of Dongdaemun are expert at keeping up with the latest trends and responding promptly, so they are well suited to meet the demand. Another favorable factor is the similar climate to Korea, which creates similar demand for seasonal clothing.

    Another business insider said, "We thought about selling our clothes in Southeast Asia, but the biggest drawback was that demand there is for summer clothes only."

    Another appeal of Japan is that younger Japanese consumers are rarely swayed by the notoriously fractious relations between the neighbors. Unlike China, where customers are testily patriotic and ever ready to join government hate campaigns and boycotts, Japan is a dependable market.

    "Korean fashion houses tend to prefer Japan, where customers are less political," one retailer said. 

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