Korean street fashion, also known as K-fashion, has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially among those inspired by K-pop stars. Korean fashion was once centered around the traditional Hanbok costume, but has now evolved to include bold oversized pieces and influences from both Japanese and Western markets.
Korean streetwear prioritizes unisex clothing, breaking away from the Western market’s strong divide between menswear and womenswear. The current generation in Korea does not limit themselves to gender-specific clothing, which is reflected in online retail stores where categories are not divided by gender.
Seoul, South Korea, is rapidly growing as a major fashion capital, with Seoul Fashion Week gaining popularity. Korean fashion has become part of seasonal fashion rotations with a mix of quality staples and statement pieces. Here are the most interesting Korean brands to look out for in 2023.
Acmé De La Vie
Acmé de la vie (ADLV) is a Korean streetwear brand launched in 2017 that has gained worldwide popularity. Their oversized clothing line incorporates the latest fashion trends in streetwear, and their brand ambassador is K-pop idol group Twice. Their iconic black t-shirt with a boy holding up two donuts has become a fashion statement and replaced Anti-Social Social Club t-shirts in popularity. ADLV offers a variety of clothing, including hoodies and long-sleeved shirts, and has collaborated with brands such as Toy Story and Sesame Street. They have 27 offline stores in China and aim to open 20 more stores in inland China, as well as stores in Australia, Vietnam, and Malaysia.
IISE is a Korean streetwear brand, started by brothers Kevin and Terrance Kim,that redefines and contextualizes traditional Korean elements for a global contemporary fashion audience. Their clothes demonstrate how traditional craftsmanship can still be relevant and cool, using inspiration from Korean architecture and traditional garments like hanbok, updated with futuristic fabrics like GORE-TEX. IISE’s use of traditional methods and materials extends beyond retail, offering a nuanced view of South Korea and its culture amidst the country’s growing influence on popular culture worldwide.
Ader Error is a Korean unisex clothing brand established in 2014 that offers a mix of retro and futuristic styles with a playful edge, such as humorous socks with phrases like “your life is a joke”. The brand’s design team remains largely anonymous and goes by nicknames. Ader Error prioritizes creativity and draws inspiration from surrounding trends and social flows, particularly on Instagram. The brand aims to make ordinary things appear unusual, while also keeping up with trends like unisex clothing and oversized fits. They believe that the future of the brand lies in the past.
thisisneverthat is a streetwear brand from Seoul, South Korea, that draws inspiration from music, art, and underground cultures to create a unique aesthetic. The brand, which has been in operation for over a decade, is led by Jongkyu Choi, Nadan Cho, and Inwook Park and offers a glimpse at South Korean fashion at the forefront of streetwear, workwear, and contemporary brand identity. The brand’s founders draw inspiration from their friends, skate culture, music, art, and the internet, and their experiences living in major cities like New York and Tokyo have helped shape the brand’s multicultural and international vibe.
We11done is a South Korean streetwear brand founded by Jessica Jung and Dami Kwon, the minds behind Rare Market, a concept store stocking a curated selection of international designers. Their offbeat designs blend streetwear, tailoring, and occasional party frocks, with a focus on creating what they think is cool for both men and women. The brand’s pieces have been worn by celebrities such as Billie Eilish, Kylie Jenner, and G-Dragon, Kwon’s brother. We11done’s offerings are designed for elevated adaptability, with a mix of relaxed shapes and late 1990s and early 2000s refinement.
Juun.J is a streetwear brand founded by Juun.J, who graduated from ESMOD Seoul in 1992 and worked for several fashion houses before starting his own label, Lone Costume, in 1999. After gaining a cult following, he debuted his eponymous label during Paris Men’s Fashion Week in 2007 and quickly established himself as an innovative designer by deconstructing traditional ideas in menswear. Inspired by youth and street culture, Juun.J’s designs are a fusion of avant-garde and classic tailoring, which he calls “Street Tailoring.” The brand is deeply rooted in the concept of fashion as an art form, and artists are an integral part of Juun.J’s DNA.
Mahagrid is a streetwear brand that features vintage-inspired graphics and bold color palettes. The brand’s collections consist of outerwear, tees, sweaters, and accessories. The brand is characterized by its eccentric flair and ’90s-inspired designs, making it a standout amongst other streetwear lines in Korea, especially for those who enjoy bold graphics and plaid separates. Some recent collections and pieces include a Jurassic World collaboration, corduroy harrington jackets, vegan leather puffer jackets, and flight-style cargo pants.
Luxury, High-End Korean Streetwear Brands
Kanghyuk is a South Korean fashion brand founded in 2017 by Kanghyuk Choi and Sanglak Shon, both graduates of the Royal College of Arts. Choi’s graduate collection caught the attention of brand development agency D/ARK, leading to a collaboration with MACHINE-A/SHOWstudio and H. LORENZO. Kanghyuk is known for utilizing airbags in their designs, and their clothing has been featured in industry-famous select shops like H. Lorenzo and Dover Street Market. In 2019, the brand was nominated for the LVMH Prize, and in 2019, A$AP Rocky wore Kanghyuk clothing in his “Tony Tone” music video. The designers focus on making a few garments and then filtering out those that do not meet their preferences.
Post Archive Faction
Post Archive Faction (PAF) is a South Korean menswear brand that launched in 2018, known for its experimental and futuristic design approach. The brand has a boundary-pushing design language and utilizes asymmetrical cuts, avant-garde expressions of technical design, and subtle Spacecore inspirations. PAF’s creations fall into the “RIGHT,” “CENTER,” or experimental “LEFT” garment series, with signature design details like crinkling techniques and excessive use of elastic ties. The brand has become synonymous with the art of deconstruction.
WOOYOUNGMI is a South Korean menswear brand founded by designer Woo Young Mi in Paris in 2002. Woo was a pioneer of pret-a-porter menswear in Korea, breaking through the conservative style of the time. Today, the brand creates two collections per year, presenting during Paris Men’s Fashion Week. WOOYOUNGMI is known for its innovative, fashion-driven clothing with an international focus and is an established name on the official menswear schedule.
99%IS is a Korean streetwear brand founded by Tokyo-based designer Bajowoo in 2011. The brand is known for its unique and eye-catching pieces such as the Gochang Pant, a parachute-style track pant covered in elastic pulls. Bajowoo was inspired by years of personal DIY and created the brand for those looking to step outside of the norm and be more daring with their style. The brand has gained popularity among celebrities such as J Balvin, A$AP Rocky, and Billie Eilish and its collections feature pieces like nylon hoods with mesh eye holes, balaclavas with wool mohawks, and hoodies with diagonal zippers.
Outdoor / Technical Focused Streetwear
CAYL, short for Climb As You Love, is a streetwear brand crossed with the Gorpcore aesthetic that was established in 2011 by founder and designer Euijae Lee. The brand offers technical ready-to-wear clothing that blend sophisticated engineered staples with an elemental panache. CAYL prioritizes ultra-lightweight, high-quality materials that encourage performance, durability, and simplicity, making its pieces suitable for both high-impact environments and everyday use. While the brand is oriented toward active lovers of the outdoors, it highlights technical innovation in contemporary menswear.
FrizmWORKS is a Korean streetwear brand that combines vintage Americana with contemporary Korean style, resulting in pieces that are down-to-earth yet far from ordinary. The brand’s founder, Jong-Hyuk Ahn, has built a stable of garments that combine American military gear and casual attire with the self-assuredness and urban appeal of South Korean fashion. FrizmWORKS’ jackets are particularly well-known and are vintage-inspired but feature modern details and sophisticated tailoring. The brand’s products have gained rapid popularity both domestically and abroad, owing to their universal appeal and the careful curation of each collection.