The K-pop frenzy continues to hit new heights.
South Korean pop stars, known for their sleek looks, viral dance moves and swelling cultural influence, not only had fans all over the global going crazy, but they have captivated the luxury world too. Barely a week is going by without a brand signing a K-pop star as an ambassador.
No wonder: Fresh-faced idols, some of whom are rookie acts that achieved astonishing growth in a short space of time, were greeted by hundreds if not thousands of shrieking fans during fashion weeks in Paris and Milan.
According to Launchmetrics, during the June edition of Paris Men’s Fashion Week, Asian stars helped propel the event’s Media Impact Value, or MIV, by 98 percent year-over-year to reach $163.3 million.
The company’s proprietary Media Impact Value figure calculates the impact of relevant media placement on all channels, including online, social media and print, and is inclusive of paid, owned and earned mediums.
But it’s not only K-pop stars who are garnering attention. Launchmetrics data showed that within Asia, Thailand contributed $11.7 million in MIV, almost eight times higher than the previous year. The performance was mainly contributed by celebrities, including Thai actors Nattawin Wattanagitiphat, or Apo, and Phakphum Romsaithong, nicknamed Miles, who were named Thai ambassadors for Dior Men in June.
Balenciaga, a label that noticeably opted out of the K-pop frenzy, quickly snatched up Thai star PP Krit Amnuaydechkorn to appear alongside Isabelle Huppert as the brand’s first ambassadors.
Once a niche presence in the global entertainment scene, Thailand has benefited from K-pop’s spillover effect. It doesn’t hurt that K-pop has a lot of popular T-stars already, including Blackpink’s Lisa and (G)i-dle‘s Minnie. The success of BL dramas, or Boy’s Love Dramas, has prompted the Thai government to take a similar approach to South Korea in promoting the country’s soft power to the world.
With the help of K-pop idols Cha Eun-woo, Taeyong, Jackson Wang and Eric Nam, South Korea’s impact during June’s Paris Men’s Fashion Week reached $10 million, achieving an astonishing 297 percent year-over-year growth.
K-pop music critics have noted that fourth-wave, all-girl bands — including NewJeans, Ive, XG, LE Sserafim, Twice, Fifty Fifty, and (G)i-dle — are continuing to drive the frenzy. The dominance of these groups at major music festivals this summer made it evident more than ever that the genre has exploded in popularity on a global scale.
These “extremely good-looking, well-behaved and stylish K-pop stars are ideal ambassadors for luxury brands,” said Daniel Langer, chief executive officer of Équité and professor of luxury strategy at Pepperdine and New York University.
“The influence is enormous within Asia, but also far beyond, including Europe and the U.S.,” added Langer. “K-pop stars have become global tastemakers in terms of aesthetics.
“There is also a trend toward more experimental and diverse music, with groups incorporating elements of genres like hip-hop, rock and electronic music into their sound. This will make K-pop more appealing to a wider audience, and also more creative and interesting — and even more appealing to luxury brands,” added Langer.
With K-pop itself diversifying, the key to forging a successful relationship comes down to “relevancy, reach and synergy with the existing DNA of the brand,” explained Paul Jeong, cofounder at the Seoul-based talent agency Altm Group, who worked with talents like Vernon of Seventeen and brands such as Balenciaga, Kenzo and Boss. “Sometimes it can just come down to personal preference and aesthetics,” Jeong added.
The uniqueness of K-pop fandom comes down to its systematic fan base, which fosters an “organic and intimate” relationships between idol and followers. “K-pop idols are relatable and down-to-earth,” added Langer. “They interact with fans on social media and make themselves available to them.”
“Throughout the lifetime of the group of talent, the culture between the two, in some ways a fantasy, sets a natural precedence for conversion in sales driven by the fans’ eagerness to participate and support,” added Jeong.
With Asian markets’ growing importance to luxury brands, the K-pop canon is here to stay. Here, a look at the most talked-about K-pop groups and the ambassadorships they’ve already scored:
As the world’s most successful boy band, BTS made its debut 10 years ago under Big Hit Entertainment, which later changed its name to Hybe. In 2021, the group became house ambassadors of Louis Vuitton. Later that year, the band started promoting solo endorsements as members began preparing for mandatory military service. With older members, including Jin, J-Hope and Suga, enlisted in the military, younger bandmates such as Jungkook and V are set to release their solo albums.
Last January, Jimin was named global brand ambassador at Dior; in March he was named house ambassador for Tiffany & Co. The same month, Suga was appointed Valentino’s brand ambassador, and in Feburary, J-Hope became Louis Vuitton’s global brand ambassador. In March, RM was revealed as Bottega Veneta’s ambassador and V was confirmed as brand ambassador of Celine. V also became Cartier’s newest ambassador with the unveiling of the latest Panthère de Cartier campaign. Jungkook became the face of Calvin Klein. Jin is serving as an active soldier and will resume work next year.
Blackpink is not only the most successful all-female K-pop group in recent history, but it was also one of the first all-female bands to enjoy successful solo careers for all group members. Jennie, the first Blackpink member to go solo who’s known for her rapping skills, has been a brand ambassador for Chanel since 2017. Lisa, the main dancer of the group, has worked with Bulgari since 2020 as brand ambassador. Since 2021, Lisa has been the face of Celine. Rosé, the lead vocalist of Blackpink, scored her first brand ambassadorship in 2020 as the face of Saint Laurent. The following year, she was named the ambassador of Tiffany. In 2021, Jisoo, the team leader of Blackpink, was named global ambassador of Dior.
Blackpink was founded by YG Entertainment in 2016. Uncertainties remain over the group’s renewal plan for its contract, which will expire at the end of August.
NewJeans, the K-pop sensation launched a little over a year ago, has been racking up luxury ambassadorships left, right and center. In the fall of 2022, Hanni became Gucci’s brand ambassador. In January, Hyein became Vuitton’s youngest ambassador at 14; Danielle became Burberry’s first brand ambassador since Daniel Lee signed on as creative director of the house. In February, Minji became brand ambassador for Chanel. The last member to be tapped was Haerin, who snatched the title of Dior brand ambassador in April. As a group, NewJeans has worked with household names such as Levi’s and Nike. The group partnered with Apple in the band’s “ETA” music video in July.
Introduced by SM Entertainment in 2016, NCT is a 23-member boy band that has been divided into five sub-units. In May, NCT’s Jeno became Salvatore Ferragamo’s first global male ambassador; Doyoung was named the first ambassador for Korea and Japan at Dolce & Gabbana. In June, Taeyong became the new face of Loewe. Also in June, NCT’s Jaehyun was named Prada’s ambassador. Doyoung, Taeyong and Jaehyun all belong to the nine-member subgroup NTC Dream, which was devised to target U.S. listeners.
One of the biggest hits from JYP Entertainment, the nine-member girl band was formed in 2015 as the winners of a reality show competition, “Sixteen.” Twice member Dahyun was recently appointed a Michael Kors global brand ambassador. Momo became a Miu Miu brand ambassador; Sana was named Graff’s first brand ambassador in Japan, as well as YSL Beauty Japan’s muse. Nayeon was named Givenchy Beauty’s brand ambassador in February.
The seven-member boy band — which includes Heeseung, Jay, Jake, Sunghoon, Sunoo, Jungwon, and Ni-ki — was named house ambassadors of Ami in 2021. After attending their first show in January, the band secured an ambassadorship deal with Prada in June. The K-pop group was created through the 2020 idol survival show “I-Land,” produced by Hybe. The band counts more than 12 million followers on Instagram.
The six-member South Korean girl group, created by Starship Entertainment, debuted in December 2021. The group recently released their first Japanese-language album, “Wave.” The group was recently tapped as Puma’s APAC brand ambassadors. Ive’s leader An Yujin was selected as Fendi brand ambassador in January; Jang Won-young, a Miu Miu ambassador, also became jewelry label Fred’s first Korean ambassador in August 2022.
Aespa was founded in 2020 by SM Entertainment. In early 2021, the four-girl band became Givenchy’s ambassador, the first time an entire band has represented a brand. In January, the group became Chopard’s brand ambassador and appeared in the maison’s campaign. Band leader Karina attended Thom Browne’s couture debut in July.
Tomorrow x Together
After donning total looks from Dior during their Lollapalooza festival performance, the five-boy member band became an ambassador of Dior Men. The group made its debut in 2019 and consists of five members — Yeonjun, Soobin, Beomgyu, Taehyun and HueningKai — and is the first boy band created by Big Hit Music, a subsidiary of Hybe, after BTS. Tomorrow X Together recently finished its first U.S. tour and made history as the first K-pop group to headline Lollapalooza.