July 26, 2021 10:16 pm

Why Puffer Jackets Are at the Centre of Korea’s Class Divide

SEOUL, South Korea — With temperatures north face logo now soaring at single digits, observed by means of reports of first snowfalls, a curious trend is starting up in South Korea: the puffer jacket. Its presence is ubiquitous and is worn with the aid of all and sundry across the usa, from simple school kids in Busan to K-pop celebrities like Suzy Bae and BTS in Seoul. But the jacket is more than just a piece of sensible cold-climate wear; it’s a crucial style statement that has end up a marker of class divide.

A few years in the past, the craze became in particular for North Face jackets. They’re frequently referred to as “backbone breakers,” due to the fact “mother and father’ [financial] backbones are ‘damaged’ by means of having to buy these ridiculously high priced jackets for their kids,” explains Celine Hong, a Korean photographer and videographer whose clients encompass Vogue Korea, Dazed, Hypebeast and MM6 Maison Margiela.

While the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics this Feburary helped improve the latest fashion for puffers, it is also a cultural trouble with meaning that goes a ways deeper. “It’s a syndrome phenomenon past style. [It] begins with the center faculty and high school uniform subculture of Korea; college students who put on the same clothing all the time started to wear padded jackets,” says Mo Kim, wellknown director of the multi-emblem idea store Rare Market.

A guest Photo: Getty

The kind of puffer jacket a person chooses to put on is essential. “Each emblem, style and colourway signifies a positive social subgroup,” he keeps, explaining that playground hierarchies are decided via the choice of puffer jacket worn. It’s similar to how customers in want of fame use loud luxury items to sign to the less prosperous that they’re not considered one of them.

In current decades, Asia has grow to be a place of extremes: as of 2018, four of the world’s five most pricey towns are in Asia, with Seoul coming in 5th place. Yet, a wealth hole, driven in large part by means of salary disparity and differing tiers of get admission to to training, has opened up. It has in flip brought about a highly famous word among younger humans in South Korea, that’s “hell joseon (헬조선),” roughly translating as “Korea is close to hell and a hopeless society.”

While the usa has often been championed as an economic success story, way to the global popularity of South Korean culture called hallyu, profits equality in Korea is the worst inside the Asia-Pacific area, in step with a 2016 report by means of the International Monetary Fund, dispelling the parable that everybody right here is affluent, while in reality, there’s a gadget of hidden social strata and wider income disparity issues that aren’t noticed from a cursory ride to the capital city.

Similar to Japan, there are ancient codes of social hierarchies that determine lots in Korean lifestyles. Therefore, something that highlights this — like the repute image of a coat — can be effective, because it shines a light on a topic and emotions which can be not often discussed brazenly however that people experience. According to neighborhood media, the puffer jacket fad has caused troubles in faculties like robbery, aggressive bullying, counterfeiting and money extortion. Some mother and father are even stated to have sold their kids expensive puffer coats to reinforce their shallowness, however merely grow to be competing with other parents.

While alternate is afoot — President Moon Jae-in was elected on a wave of shock over this developing inequality and has all started work to reverse the fashion — the truth of the matter is, “every teenager I know has at the least one puffer jacket,” says Hong. “It’s the maximum popular object inside the winter season.”

Parents educate their kids that by way of not standing out an excessive amount of, they’ll be safe. It’s why Koreans generally tend to look alike.

But what’s definitely riding this trend?

It’s no mystery that K-pop, K-dramas and K-splendor have end up wildly famous over the last decade in Seoul and remote places. Many people appearance to their preferred Korean stars for proposal, so whilst the boy-band contributors of BTS step out in Puma’s down padded coats, it’s in all likelihood that a legion of fans will observe. “You see celebrities on TV indicates; once they’re shooting outside it’s very bloodless and that they ought to stay out of doors for a long time, so they put on these puffers and it turns into a big trend,” says Jung Kuho, govt director of Seoul Fashion Week, held on the Zaha Hadid–designed Dongdaemun Design Plaza. “My nephew is 13 and he without a doubt needs an extended puffer jacket this winter. It’s turn out to be like a uniform for that era.”

However, for the older generation, the puffer’s enchantment has much less to do with following K-pop developments and more to do with finding comfort in conformity rather than individuality in South Korea’s culturally homogeneous society. “Many dad and mom here educate their kids … That via no longer status out an excessive amount of in a group, they’ll be secure,” says Jung. “It’s why Koreans generally tend to appearance alike. People here love to observe developments, whichever way it goes, and a majority of people pass after the equal component: they go to the identical restaurants, pay attention to the same track.”

Korean model Irene Kim wearing an Ienki Ienki puffer jacket a bent for human beings here to follow key traits en masse,” is of the same opinion Caroline Kim, leader working officer of Solid Corporation, an export-trading employer in Seoul, however additionally brought that “aside from the apparent cause of freezing temperatures all through the wintry weather, Koreans are generally very motivated via international trends. The reputation of streetwear and avenue manufacturers has led to expanded consumer demand for [puffers] in Korea.”

Hip-hop and related visible representations have these days exploded into Asia’s mainstream, prompting a hip-hop-prompted, excessive-end streetwear obsession. But it is a phenomenon that isn’t limited to the continent. (Earlier this year, rap overtook rock as the biggest song style in the US for the primary time.) Now, it’s beginning to take over airwaves in South Korea, even though the u . S . A . Is better regarded for its monumental K-pop scene.

The first broadly acknowledged Korean song containing rapping seemed in 1989, courtesy of Hong Seo-beom, a moderately popular rock musician. Then emerged Jinusean, a pioneering Korean hip-hop duo subsidized by YG Entertainment — the talent corporation of Big Bang, G-Dragon and 2NE1 — and rappers Tiger JK and DJ Shine of Drunken Tiger, who emulated triumphing black track tendencies in America. However, Korean hip-hop — abbreviated as K-hop — stuck international interest in 2016 while Coachella announced it might host a Korean group for the first time in its 17-year records. To the marvel of many, the invitation became not prolonged to main pop idol businesses like EXO or Girls’ Generation, but to alternative hip-hop organization Epik High.

“When you watch Korean TV, it’s all about R&B and hip-hop. Rap is great popular proper now,” says Jung, citing popular South Korean TV display “Show Me The Money,” a competition show in which absolutely everyone from underground rappers to mainstream artists battle it out to carry home a cash prize. (The programme’s recognition has prolonged to neighbouring nations like China, main to a success spinoffs like “The Rap of China.”) “When you study rappers, their style and how they dress, they love massive puffer jackets,” Jung continues.

The South Korean market provides a prime opportunity for fashion brands, with fashion designer garb and accessories about really worth $5 billion and developing 7.2 percent on common each yr. And the puffer jacket phenomenon has been a boon to outerwear brands in the united states of america.

Guests at Hera Seoul Fashion Week at Dongdaemun Design Plaza the primary 9 months of 2018, Moncler’s income in Asia grew 39 percentage, a spokesperson at the company advised BoF, noting that China and Korea have been the most powerful performers. “Moncler’s down jackets are a luxurious need to-have … specially for the Korean market. This fashion is presently certainly one of our most famous classes.” The Italian label presently has 24 without delay operated stores in the united states.

Canadian outerwear logo Nobis opened save in Korea six years ago and nowadays, it has 33 direct retail shops across the united states. “We launch to six new patterns, unique to the Korean market every season,” says Nobis co-founder Robin Yates, who previously served as vice president of Canada Goose. Today, it counts Korea as amongst its pinnacle five acting markets.

According to a spokesperson at MatchesFashion.Com, Moncler, Canada Goose, Herno, Burberry and Prada are most of the luxury retailer’s exceptional appearing puffer manufacturers and the fashion is amongst its top five categories in Korea. Brands together with The North Face, K2, Descente, D-Antidote, Youser, This is Never That and Ienki Ienki have also been famous with Korean customers.

Launched in 2016 with the aid of Kiev-based Dmitriy Ievenko, who also co-founded Asthik Group, considered one of Ukraine’s quickest growing luxury retail businesses, Ienki Ienki’s down jackets begin at round $seven hundred and go as much as $1,500. Yet, the high fee tag hasn’t dented demand. “In our keep, Ienki Ienki bought out right away in its first season,” says Rare Market’s Kim.

Today, the Ukrainian outerwear label is stocked in 315 shops throughout 30 nations — in Seoul, it may be located in 10 Corso Como, Rare Market, Breaker, Boon the Shop, Cherbebe and Space Mue. “Each season, our orders in Korea upward push about 20 percentage,” founder Ievenko provides.

The puffer is likewise Korean menswear label D-Antidote’s bestseller for the Autumn/Winter season. “For Autumn/Winter 2018, we supplied four to five puffer styles and 3,000 portions have been ordered from global shops,” says D-Antidote clothier Park Hwan-sung. The logo launched in 2014 and these days has over 35 stockists international.

Many Koreans are willing to spend on a logo name because of its perceived fee, says art director Gary Bradnick, who has spent a number of time within the united states. “A center elegance demographic has been forming over some years … In this example, the charge tag will become extra vital, as it will become much less approximately how reasonably-priced did you get it for, however extra how plenty you paid to very own an real item, which of path is a declaration of 1’s wealth.”

“It’s exciting due to the fact Koreans purchase puffer jackets to match in, however also to face out and differentiate [themselves],” says Kim.

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