In recent years, K-pop has become one of the most successful global industries. A post from The Daily Cardinal explains that the appeal of K-pop spread quickly in neighbouring Asian countries, before making its way to Western audiences thanks to the Internet and savvy marketing. In just a little over five years, reports show that K-pop-related sales in the US alone have amounted to hundreds of millions.
Beyond music, K-pop now also influences other avenues like TV, films, and fashion. More recently, luxury fashion houses, in particular, have started to hop on the K-pop train. Considered exclusive and virtually untouchable, the haute couture market now boasts several K-pop idol ambassadors. Just last year, leading fashion houses Prada and Versace welcomed their own idol endorsers, which has left many wondering which other high-end brands will follow suit in 2024.
Luxury ambassadorship in the K-pop industry
The concept of a celebrity brand ambassador is not new, as athletes, Hollywood stars, and high fashion models have long been tapped to be the faces of luxury houses. However, an article from Nylon Magazine mentions that most Korean celebrities have historically represented beauty and liquor brands. With the mainstream popularity of K-pop stars, though, luxury houses saw the opportunity to promote their products to a broader demographic further.
As a result, iconic brands like Prada, Loewe, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Celine, Miu Miu, and Chanel partnered with some of the biggest K-pop stars like BLACKPINK, BTS, IVE, and more to create a mutually beneficial relationship. Being a brand ambassador means K-pop idols don’t have to rely entirely on music for their stream of income, while luxury houses gain more consumers as fans eagerly show support for their idols by buying the products they endorse. Additionally, being attached to a K-pop idol has been found to improve a brand’s appeal among the younger generation, who are slowly becoming the market power.
Why 2023 was a big year for luxury and K-pop
2023 was a particularly busy year for brands like Prada, as they recently added all seven members of the group ENHYPEN and Sana Minatozaki from TWICE to their roster of representatives. Prada is recognized for its sophisticated and luxurious tailored designs, which are reflected in the products worn by its ambassadors. To illustrate, members of ENHYPEN were often seen wearing Prada sunglasses, which are designed to offer any wearer a striking look. The brand has a wide variety of styles available, but each pair is designed with Prada’s signature oversized frames and finished with their brand stamped on the arms. This provides a classic yet timely fashion statement that K-pop idols are known to favor.
Following the success of other luxury houses, Versace also announced Hyunjin Hwang from Stray Kids as its first Korean global ambassador in 2023. This was a significant move from Versace, as they were one of the few luxury brands that had yet to tap into the world of K-pop partnerships. Since this announcement, Hyunjin has fronted the brand’s recent holiday ad campaign, where he was featured wearing Versace apparel like the Athena tote bag and Odissea sneakers. Recognized for their flamboyant designs, Versace has found a place among K-pop stars and fans who embrace statement pieces.
K-pop idols remain on the luxury market’s horizon
The relationship between luxury fashion houses and the K-pop industry continues to be successful for all parties involved, which is why brands continue to work with idols. At present, newer groups continue to debut in the industry, and some brands are maximizing their growing popularity by making them ambassadors. Case in point, WWD reports that NewJeans is a group that came into the industry in 2022, but the individual members have already been tapped by brands including Chanel, Gucci, Burberry, and Dior.
In line with this, fans of emerging groups like NMIXX, RIIZE, ZB1, and more are hoping that their idols will be recognized for their distinct style and personalities to be a good match for an ambassadorship with luxury brands in 2024. This also comes at a time when veteran boy groups like BTS are currently on hiatus due to mandatory South Korean military service, which opens up an opportunity for newer idols in the industry to shine. With this, fans can anticipate interesting developments within the year as the K-pop industry continues to thrive.