Believe it or not, South Korean pop culture is more than just men and women singing and dancing on stage. Case in point, global superstars Blackpink and BTS have become the faces of luxury brands in recent years — and for good reason, too.
At fashion shows, you will most likely spot Jennie, Rosé, Jisoo and Lisa sitting next to CEOs of luxury fashion houses. Ever since they debuted in 2016, Blackpink was already in the spotlight, courtesy of their individual styles in fashion. As they are always dressed in high-end ensembles from head to toe, browsing through their Instagram profiles feels like visiting a brand website.
An official ambassador of Chanel, Jennie has been the brand’s muse since 2018. Prior to this appointment, she was spotted wearing a piece or two of the double C logo on stage and even on a daily basis. As the brand revamps its image to target young and trendy millennials, it made perfect sense for Jennie to be its face. She is also working with Calvin Klein for yet another campaign called “expressions on community” after a successful one last fall.
New Zealand-born Rosé, a free-spirited person with a strong-willed personality, has captured the attention of Yves Saint Laurent’s creative director Anthony Vaccarello. The first South Korean idol to attend the MET Gala in 2021, she wore a little black dress with a huge white bow on the chest and got people on the internet talking about the garment all week. Evidently, she carries with her the power to create buzz and indirectly market the label. Rosé is also involved in a glamorous collaboration with Tiffany & Co for its latest Tiffany HardWear collection.
Identified with a boyish style, Lisa has her own charm. In late 2020, Hedi Slimane chose her as his first global ambassador since his appointment as artistic and creative director of Celine in 2018. Following the announcement, Celine’s sales blew up not just in South Korea, but China as well, where the rapper and dancer has a huge fan base. Italian luxury jewellery brand Bulgari has also welcomed Lisa to participate in a number of campaigns. She was trusted to front the label’s new collection during the Magnifica High Jewelry showcase in South Korea, wearing Bulgari’s finest and high-end jewels.
Jisoo, the last member to sign a contract with any luxury brand, joined the Dior family in March last year. Attending the maison’s show at Paris Fashion Week, she drew a huge crowd wearing a yellow plaid mini dress completed with a white shirt. This month, the luxury house is holding its first-ever fashion show in South Korea. Jisoo is not the only reason for the event, but she sure has tremendous influence on the brand.
Blackpink has a solid presence in the fashion scene, with each member carrying the house they represent in their own unique way. Leave it to the fashionable ladies, who boast talent, beauty and personality, to do their job in bringing in views and blowing up sales.
Appointed as “special presidential envoy for future generations and culture” by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to accompany him to the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly last year, global act BTS — whose members are RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook — is dominating the world beyond the music industry.
Anything they touch or are pictured with will go out of stock. Whether it is kombucha tea, lip balm, perfume or books, their power is reflected through the supportive ARMYs (what their fans are called) who will add the products to their cart in no time. Small independent businesses and luxury powerhouses are profiting from their global influence. In one instance, a pair of cargo pants from French luxury brand Louis Vuitton, priced at RM9,350, was sold out in more than 20 countries when youngest member Jungkook was spotted wearing it at Incheon Airport heading to New York.
In April 2021, the members were introduced as house ambassadors of Louis Vuitton. “I am delighted BTS are joining Louis Vuitton today. I am looking forward to this wonderful partnership, which adds a modern chapter to the House, merging luxury and contemporary culture,” Virgil Abloh, men’s artistic director of the maison, said in a press release months before he died of cancer late last year. The group is also recognised by the powerhouse for its “uplifting messages that impart a positive influence”.
Three months after the announcement, BTS members added more titles under their belt as runway models when they participated in a ten-minute video highlighting Louis Vuitton’s Men’s Fall/Winter 2021 collection. Directed by Jeon Go-woon, the film shot at Bucheon Art Bunker B39 in Seoul featured the members walking through a colossal steel structure to discover 41 looks showcased by other models.
Abloh designed the pieces to reconstruct masculine archetypes of fashion and what they represent, using them as a tool to change predertemined perceptions of dress codes. The seven members modelled revolutionary pieces and accessories from the collection, which they picked according to their own style.
With a large and diverse fan base, the group plays an impactful role in redefining masculinity. “We are living in a time where labels that we call ‘masculine’ or ‘manly’ are vanishing,” BTS leader RM said in an interview. The members embrace the idea of wearing gender-neutral clothing or clothes that are more feminine, which is aligned with Louis Vuitton’s goal to reestablish fashion in contemporary culture.
The spin-off show, a continuation of Abloh’s The Voyage series, takes his designs all over the world to meet customers where they are, a concept parallel to what the global stars do while touring. In individual shots, Jimin, RM and Jungkook carry oversized bags; RM, Suga and Jungkook sport coats and blazers adorned with airplane buttons; while V holds a to-go coffee cup.
The “Kings of Sold Out” (as fans would call them) are also fronting brands such as Samsung, Fila, Coway and Hyundai, among others.
This article first appeared on Apr 25, 2022 (Spring/Summer 2022 issue) of The Edge Malaysia.