Special Report – Korea

Special Report – Korea 🇰🇷

Live from the Market

Picture: Valery Rabchenyuk

Uncertainty is increasing in the global economy due to heightened tensions in the Middle East following the recent Russian-Ukrainian war, resulting in high interest rates and inflation.
The U.S. and Europe are the main destinations of demand for the textile and fashion industry. As the consumption in these destinations decreases and inventory increases, the sourcing for sowing labour from Asia is decreasing and exports of Korean materials are decreasing in tandem.

Korean textile and fashion companies are experiencing difficulties in the domestic market as competition intensifies and profitability declines due to high wages and labour shortages.
Specifically, due to the increase in imports of Chinese materials, some chemical fibre companies have stopped producing general-purpose items. The clothing sewing industry is in a situation of shrinkage due to the expansion of overseas production.

Moreover, this industry is exposed to a vicious cycle of risks to supply chain of raw material and production decline due to shrinking demand in the domestic market.

According to trade statistics from the Korean International Trade Association, Korea’s textile, and clothing exports in 2022 recorded $12.3 billion, down 4.0% from the previous year due to the global economic downturn, and imports increased by 8.8% to $19.9 billion.

In the case of demand in the domestic markets, clothing retail sales in 2022 recorded $47.8 billion, up by 6.7% from the previous year. Due to rising import prices and increased demand for expensive clothing.

Online shopping transaction volume increased by 11.1% from the previous year to $14.4 billion. Mobile shopping was recorded at $10.9 billion, and internet shopping was recorded at $3.4 billion.

Textile and clothing production in 2022 was $40 billion, down 4.3% from the previous year due to worsening domestic profitability and the relocation of production facilities overseas.

Meanwhile, as Korean culture (K-culture), including K-pop, K-content, and K-food, is gaining global popularity, interest in and the awareness of K-fashion is also increasing. It is expected to attract attention in the EU and Asia, which will help develop the domestic industry into a textile and fashion powerhouse.
Among Korean cultural (K-culture) contents, overseas consumers’ spending on fashion ranks first. It ranks fourth in popularity, leading the Korean wave along with food (Korean food), beauty (cosmetics), and music (K-POP).

The coronavirus pandemic, which has lasted three years since 2020, has changed many aspects of our lives. As I learnt the importance of basic immunity along with the importance of vaccines and masks to protect myself from powerful viruses. I naturally became interested in healthy food, lifestyle, and exercise.

Picture: Markus Winkler

As young consumers become interested in sports such as golf, hiking, fishing, and tennis, which were previously considered to be exclusive to the middle-aged. ‘Healthy Pleasure,’ which promotes healthy living and enjoying staying healthy through social media, has emerged as a new trend.

‘7979 Seoul Running Crew’, a daily sports program where you can run together through the city and become friends.

In addition, as the number of people working from home increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for casual clothes saw an increase.

Especially clothes that blurred the boundaries between indoor wear, sportswear, and everyday wear for consumers who experienced comfort in activities increased. As the boundaries between daily life, hobbies, and exercise collapsed. The leisure look became extremely popular and became the leader in growth of the fashion industry.

In the fashion industry in 2023, the casual wear market led growth by attracting outerwear customers who prefer both street and sports sensibilities to the market. In addition, the shoe market, where consumption has increased centring on fashion sneakers released by sports companies, and the sportswear market, which has been steadily growing as outdoor activities increase due to the recovery of daily life. This can also be seen as leading the growth of the fashion industry.
According to a trend research agency, the size of the Korean fashion market in 2024 is expected to reach KRW 51.3 trillion, up by 3.5% from 2023, the largest ever increase. This figure is more than 2.5 times more than the 21 trillion won in 2000.

As the Y2K fashion trends continue in 2024, it is expected that it will be upgraded to suit the tendencies of the younger generation. In addition, as outdoor activities which had been curtailed over the past three years, are explosively increasing the strength of activewear. Since they can be easily worn in real life, it is expected to be seen more often in looks with diversity. Additionally, as offline events increase following the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for suit set-up and practical jacket styles is expected to steadily increase.

In women’s clothing, retro designs with feminine details that were popular in the early 2000s, such as back tops that emphasise the back design rather than the front, are expected to attract attention once again. Not to mention, square neck and tied up looks in colours that stand out but have a cosy atmosphere, such as peach, orange, and deep sky, are also expected to re-emerge.

Also, the caftan with voluminous sleeve design in magenta, sky blue, bright yellow, and white colours and the trousers fastened with a waist strap are mainly made of linen fabric for a cool look. As well as, the loose fit provides comfortable movement, making it perfect for outdoor activities.

The suit set-up in pastel colours such as ivory, baby pink, and light green can give points with an understated cut design, twists, and wrinkles, as well as the linen fabric keeping you cool with the soft colours creating a modern and luxurious atmosphere.

Picture: Pina Messina

A comfortable jacket with a cargo design creates a relaxed silhouette. Smart jogger trousers with an emphasis on functionality, skirts with pocket details, and hybrid jackets were mixed and matched with brown and cargo colours. Additionally, the light and soft fabric adds coolness.
Furthermore, the ‘Old Money Look’, which is characterised by a sophisticated design and luxurious fabrics such as silk, cashmere, linen, and tweed. Instead of flashy logos or colours, the ‘Old Money Look’ is still popular and is being talked about as a fashion trend among the younger generation and celebrities

In men’s clothing, the utility trend is expected to continue following last season, which provides practical and utility clothing. On the other hand, streetwear has virtually disappeared from men’s wardrobes. With workwear, coming into the spotlight.
By applying pocket decorations, zippers, drawstrings, and belt details to formal items, it goes beyond casual and evolves into chic tailoring. A sweet sensibility is conveyed with bold flower print shirts, flower-pointed jackets, and flower-decorated corsages. Feminine tailoring and cutting are also expected to become bolder.

As the shorts trend has continued for several seasons, this year we are expected to see a contrast between shorter micro shorts and various oversized jackets. In addition, tweed, a woollen fabric with a luxurious texture, and crochet knit materials are also rapidly emerging as items that will attract attention.

In 2024, sustainability is expected to become more important than ever as value consumption becomes the focus. Where consumers purchase products based on their own values, resulting in a shakeup of the market. Consumers will increasingly seek out sustainable and ethically produced products, which will force brands to adopt more sustainable practices in their supply chains.

Consumption of products made with recycled fibres spun from waste plastic bottles or waste fishing nets, nature-friendly biodegradable fibres, and zero-waste designs that minimise waste during the clothing production process is expected to continue to increase. Furthermore, various attempts to revive discarded materials such as vegan leather extracted from natural materials namely mushroom mycelium and cactus, military tents, parachutes, and automobile airbags from a fashionable perspective are expected to attract the attention of consumers.

The Korean Consumer Agency conducted a survey of 1,000 adult men and women in their 20s to 60s nationwide in April 2023, and 90.7% of consumers responded that they were willing to purchase eco-friendly products. In particular, 95.3% of respondents responded that they would purchase eco-friendly products even if the price was somewhat more expensive than regular products.

Experts predict that this trend will continue this year following last year, and that value consumption will be strengthened in consumers’ consumption patterns.

Picture: Tevei Renvoye

Accordingly, fashion beauty companies are also responding to consumer demand by launching various eco-friendly brands and releasing new products.
Meanwhile, the polarisation of the fashion market is worsening as the mid-priced clothing market falls into a recession. Due to the expansion of the parallel market for overseas luxury goods and high-end clothing. Consumers whose wallets have become thin due to high inflation rates have no choice but to prefer cost-effective products.

Recently, many young consumers are visiting offline spaces to experience the feeling, emotion, and the experience of the space itself, rather than going to offline spaces to shop for products. Meanwhile, new online brands that have been launched only a few years ago are capturing the hearts of consumers with differentiated concepts and are growing steadily.
As economic uncertainty and consumer sentiment decline are expected, a more integrated concept of wellness is attracting attention as lifestyles change toward leading a good life, including good clothes. In the fashion market of 2024, fashion trends that provide comfort and soothe tired senses amidst an uncertain future and climate crisis are expected to garner attention.

Written by M. Sanghyun KIM, February 28th of 2024

Ones to watch (very) closely…

Discover our selection of brands making waves on the Korean market

60 shops in Korea.

Time is Korea’s No. 1 fashion brand in terms of sales after it has become the first and only Korean fashion brand to reap more than 100 billion won ($77 million) in annual sales thanks to its premium looks.

Handsome Corp., the brand’s owner, a fashion house of South Korea’s major retailer Hyundai Department Store Group, owns 30 fashion brands including its flagship brands Time, Mine and System. It owns Korean operation licenses for Tommy Hilfiger and DKNY and is the distributor of international luxury brands such as Lanvin and Bally.

TIME is a classic and contemporary fashion brand, born in Seoul in 1993. Time has women’s and men’s lines and accessory line.

The local upscale brand has maintained its high-end image since its launch in 1993. The brand has never been offered for discount sale. Its premium marketing paid off as it kept up annual growth of 20 percent against slowdown in overall retail business.

Handsome will launch “The Time”, an upmarket collection for international fashionistas, as part of its efforts to nurture its flagship fashion brand as a global luxury name. The company plans to launch “The Time” abroad in 2024 after its global debut during Paris Fashion Week, which is held twice a year in January and June, in Paris, France.


60 shops in Korea, 500 in China, 20 in Taiwan.
Annual turnover of 748.22 millions dollars.

HAZZYS is Korean LF Corp(LG Group)’s casual fashion brand. Founded in 1974, the LF Corp is one of Korea’s largest fashion groups, advocates of life and fashion concept brands include HAZZYS, DAKS, MAESTRO, etc.. In 2000, LF Corp launched HAZZYS fashion brand,for the pursuit of fashion and taste of the 20-35 year-old.

HAZZYS has always been the fine cut and color of today’s international fashion, to give people the extraordinary experience pleasure. The main men’s and women’s casual wear, the products involved suits, shirts, jackets, coats, T-shirt, jeans, casual pants, leather goods, shoes and other clothing accessories 15 series and more than 1000 varieties.

LF’s main brand ‘Hazzys’ is on the verge of hitting 1 trillion won in sales. In particular, it is noteworthy that half of this was obtained overseas, such as China, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore.


Around 60 shops in Korea.
Annual turnover of 70 to 80 million dollars.

KUHO was founded in 1997 as a small, emerging brand by Kuho Jung, and in the last 20 years, the brand has grown to cult status.

Samsung C&T Corp, one of Korea’s largest fashion companies, acquired the KUHO brand in 2003. KUHO is a mainstream label with mass appeal. It’s been around for close to two decades and generates roughly $70 million in business a year in Korea. The clothes are known for being easy transition pieces from the office to post-work events that are fresh alternatives to run-of-the-mill workwear.

Currently, KUHO’s second brand, KUHO Plus, launched in 2019, is very popular. Targeted at the 25-35 female age group and lowered the price compared to KUHO.


10 shops in Korea, 2 in Paris, 30 overseas.
Annual turnover of 40 million dollars.

Wooyoungmi launched her first menswear brand, Solid Homme, in 1998.

Wooyoungmi is a South Korean menswear clothing brand launched in Paris by the designer Youngmi Woo in 2002.

Heavily influenced and inspired by architecture and its application to the body, Wooyoungmi has been showing her ready-to-wear collections in Paris since 2003.

In 2011 Wooyoungmi became an official member of La Chambre Syndicale de la Mode Masculine.

It can be said that Wooyoungmi is currently Korea’s most successful independent menswear designer brand. 33% of total sales come from overseas.


15 shops in Korea, China, Kong Kong, Macao.
Annual turnover of 50 million dollars.

Mardi Mercredi is a Korean designer label founded in 2018. Widely known for its effortlessly cool collection, Mardi Mecredi draws inspiration from the creative director’s everyday style. The label injects playful sophistication to casual pieces with the label’s signature flower graphic in variety of colours and material.

It is known as a brand chosen by the MZ generation that provides great satisfaction at an affordable price.


8 shops in Korea.

Ader Error is a Seoul-based brand that started in 2014 by an anonymous group.

It is known only as a brand created by four people from different fields: interior design, fashion, architecture, and finance.

The creators hide their identity to play into the mysterious aspect as part of their brand identity. The fashion label has quickly become recognizable with oversized unisex pieces, vibrant color palettes and heavy use of the color blue. The brand name pulls on the idea that designers use imperfection to their advantage and turn a positive into a negative. This can be seen as the brand features a blend of abstract graphics, bold primary colors and abstruse imagery.

The Ader Error brand avoids having a “face” as they rely on their good designs and products to speak for themselves to their strong and loyal fan base. Their pieces are designed to be gender-neutral and oftentimes come in one size only. As a Korean-based brand, they are pushing the boundaries on gender norms and want to push the message to the younger generation to express themselves as they please


11 shops in Korea.
Annual turnover of 38,5 million dollars.

Matin Kim started as a blog market in 2015 and achieved sales of 5 billion KRW in 5 years, and now it has grown explosively since then. This brand is not centered around a creative director or designer, but a thoroughly customer-centered which is an attractive differentiation point compared to other fashion brands. Matin Kim is one of the hottest brands for MZ generation and is famous for its sincerity, trendy yet comfortable style. Matin Kim is seeking to go abroad and add cosmetics to its business portfolio.


4 shops in Korea and overseas (USA, China, Europe).

RECTO is a Korean fashion label founded by creative director and award-winning designer of Samsung Fashion&Design Fund, Ji Yeon Jung.

Since launching in 2015, Recto became very quickly one of the most wanted and loved brands both by fashion world and by public. It is probably because the designer Jung knows how to make balance between designer’s creativity and public needs from her own experience to manage the select shop in Seoul.

Recto’ clothing makes a perfect harmony of structural details and classic silhouette, starting from uni-sexual code.The clothing range presents a minimal and modern look on top of mannish silhouette within a feminine mood.


2 shops in Korea.

KIMHĒKIM is a fashion brand founded in 2014, by Kiminte Kimhek- im.

KIMHĒKIM is the full last name of the ancient royal family in Korea. It symbolizes the era of the golden kingdom. The brand joined as the youngest Korean member in La Federation de Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM), presenting its collections at Paris Fashion Week in 2019.

The brand represents the Korean heritage while interpreting to mod- ern forms and symbolizes the profile of present-day women.

The key elements of the design approach include tailoring and es- sential details that create couture-level craftsmanship. The garments carry minimalist forms which enrich with maximalist details like giant ribbons, signature prints, and unusual tailoring methods.


1 shop in Korea.

Minju Kim launched her namesake brand in 2015

MINJUKIM is a contemporary woman’s wear designer brand. The strongest competitive edge of MINJUKIM would be fabrication fully developed based on designer, Minju Kim’s different techniques suitable for each season’s concept. New fabrication and shapes are presented every season which tells a story of Minju’s very personal drawing. Crowned the winner of Next In Fashion 2020, a Netflix fashion design competition, Minju Kim is the next rising designer to look out for.


Around 60 shops.
Annual turnover of 150 millions dollars.

XEXYMIX is quite a new yet fast-growing Korean sportswear brand that is particularly popular among relatively young users in their 20s and 30s. Launched back in 2015 by a fitness instructor and digital marketer named Suyeon Lee, XEXYMIX opened the very first chapter of its brand story as a female sportswear brand with a particular focus on yoga and pilates. ‘XEXY’ comes from the word ‘Sexy’ but the first ‘S’ is replaced by an ‘X’ which is often used in the fields of mathematics or science to describe both ‘unknown’ and ‘infinity’. Ultimately, the brand seeks to ‘Mix’ high-quality fitness outfits and other elements in our everyday life to create a new athleisure look.

XEXYMIX is particularly renowned for producing comfortable and flexible fitness clothes that support complicated moves of yoga and pilates. In particular, XEXYMIX’s flexible leggings are highly recommended among those who practise yoga and pilates thanks to their designs and functionality both as a fitness and daily outfit.


4 shops in Korea.
Annual turnover of 8 millions dollars.

FCMM is a Korean athleisure brand that is becoming very popular among young users not only in Korea but also abroad. Concerned with the current landscape of the Korean sportswear industry where activewear and fitness clothing are either too expensive or too formal, FCMM seeks to offer a new paradigm to the athletic outlook by providing fitness clothes that are not only casual and stylish but also accessible to everyone. In addition to the accessibility, FCMM’s marketing strategies are the main factors behind its recent success. The brand, for instance, has welcomed popular K-POP groups its brand ambassadors, which explains the increasing number of young users in its fanbase.

FCMM’s offers a rich variety of high-quality products that are not confined to specific types of sports. Ranging from sporty daywear to more professional gears for sports like figure skating and futsal, the brand’s inventory is reflective of its founding philosophy of supporting all types of athletes and sports.


The eye of Tranoï

Tranoï, the trade show partner specializing in young international designers, shares its pick of emerging Korean-based brands to follow


Accessories / Shoes

Founded in 2019, Finoacinque is a footwear label that takes the concept of comfort to a new level. It is known for the original shapes of its shoe designs, with heels of up to 5 cm.

Inspired by ’60s fashion, and the Twiggy aesthetic, Finoacinque’s collections reflect the brand’s five key watchwords: Comfort, Uniqueness, Craftsmanship, Timelessness and Durability.


Picture: Finoacinque
Picture: Ethos


Ready to Wear / Women

Specializing in wearable materials and structures that can add a new dimension to everyday life, the Ethos label is named after the most important of Aristotle’s three rhetorical appeals: ETHOS is synonymous with empathy and trustworthiness.

Instagram →


Accessories / Jewelry

HYERI offers modern, timeless pieces that will pass on memories to be treasured by the next generation.

For brand founder Hyeri Kim, jewelry is imbued with sentimental and emotional value, as it carries the stories of the previous wearers.


Picture: HYERI KIM

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