Recent years have proven challenging for South Korea’s fashion market, with four consecutive years of single-digit growth. A report by the Samsung Fashion Institute predicts that the market will be rise from approximately USD 33.5 billion in 2016 to USD 34.4 billion in 2017. That would mean a growth rate of 3.3% for 2017, which is low compared to 2011’s year-on-year growth rate of 11.8%.
Because of this slowdown, major apparel companies are beginning to rethink their strategies, looking overseas for new sources of revenue. Many are entering the Chinese market, and are attempting to refresh their brands in order to stand out and remain competitive.
A new generation of fashion designers
Despite these recent challenges, however, South Korea is currently one of the top countries in the global fashion market. Seoul Fashion Week, for example, is drawing more and more international attention, with most major Western fashion magazines covering it. Korea has a rich and growing culture that has been gaining popularity with the rest of the world, not only in terms of fashion but also music and other entertainment media. As the country’s cultural influence grows, so too does the reach of its fashion.
South Korea’s fashion industry is relatively young, and driven largely by a generation of young designers. These artists are adventurous, incorporating both Western and Eastern style elements and adapting to swiftly changing trends. This adaptability is part of the reason Korean fashion is making such a splash. By being aware of current trends and by combining styles from different parts of the world, these designers are creating clothing that has a broad appeal while retaining Korea’s unique flair.
Korean style is gaining popularity in China, where it now has a strong influence. Because of this, brands are starting to use Korean celebrities to promote their brands, in part to attract Chinese consumers. Western companies are now looking at Korea as a stepping stone to gain entry to the Chinese market.
South Korea is not to be underestimated simply because of its recent low growth rate. Although consumer spending is weaker due to slower GDP growth, the country still has one of the strongest economies in Asia, and remains one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Korea’s fashion market is flourishing, both in terms of cheap, fast fashion and expensive luxury clothing. Fast fashion is performing well due to its affordability, and luxury goods remain largely unaffected by the economy’s lackluster growth. While the country’s fashion market may currently be facing a slowdown, its strong culture and innovative young fashion designers mean that it will be a major player in the industry for years to come.