Blackpink and BTS make K-pop fans are falling in love with the hanbok, a traditional Korean garment.
When Blackpink released their highly anticipated music video of How You Like That in late June, it was not their music but their fashion that stole the show.
Being stylishly reinterpreted with its traditional traits intact, the Korean costume, hanbok, mesmerised global fans and has encouraged them to discover Korea’s traditional beauty that was lesser known than K-pop.
As you know, Blackpink members are globally recognised fashionistas. They have already proven their impeccable fashion taste by becoming faces of luxury fashion houses: Jennie is Chanel’s house ambassador, Rose is Saint Laurent’s global ambassador, Jisoo is Dior’s beauty ambassador and Lisa is the muse for Celine.
In the How You Like That MV, which has earned multiple Guinness World Record titles for being the most viewed video, music video and K-pop video on YouTube platform in a 24-hour period, Blackpink members dance in “modified hanbok” in bright colours and bold prints.
The costumes worn by Blackpink were modernised and reformed so that the members were comfortable enough to dance in them while also keeping hanbok’s traditional traits.
This has left Blinks (Blackpink’s global fan community) in complete awe, drawing international attention to Korean traditional clothes.
Nowadays, Koreans wear hanbok, well-known for its elegant lines and vibrant colours, on special occasions. However, it has transformed into a trendy fashion item to wear among the younger generation and overseas tourists thanks to K-pop stars and K-dramas playing a part in spreading the beautiful costume.
The K-pop act also made its global comeback performance wearing modified hanbok outfits on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on NBC.
Many commenters on YouTube lauded Blackpink’s outfits and new looks.
One fan wrote, “Outfits are just gorgeous. Can I have a catalogue of the girls’ outfits?” Another wrote, “OMG I can only see their outfits and their nails.”
Danha, a designer who produced modified hanbok for Jennie and Rose, explained that Blackpink’s stylist team further stylised the outfits to make sure they do not hinder the artists’ movements.
“Rose’s hanbok was inspired by cheollik, military officials’ clothes, while Jennie’s hanbok is a phoenix robe, which was worn by classical scholars during the Joseon Kingdom,” Danha said.
She shared, “After launching the global online mall, the number of daily visitors and foreign customers have increased dramatically. About half of the buyers are from the US, followed by China, Europe and Southeast Asia.”
Danha also responded to the criticism that “modernised” hanbok designs are distorting authentic tradition. The designer agreed that although people may differ on their beliefs regarding maintaining tradition, what is more essential is to keep the core of tradition in their hearts.
“I’m worried that traditional hanbok is losing its place in society,” Keum Jong-suk, a professor at the Korea National University of Cultural Heritage, said during an open forum on the subject of “Wearing Our Dress Right” held in 2018.
“Making modernised hanbok does not mean I don’t respect our tradition or treat it lightly,” Danha said. “I want to promote that hanbok has more diverse charms than showcasing elegant and feminine traits. I’d also like hanbok to gain a foothold in overseas fashion markets.”
Blackpink is not the first K-pop act to incorporate elements of Korean traditional clothes into K-pop.
In 2018, BTS donned stylish black and yellow hanbok outfits while dancing on a digitally generated yellow pavilion in their music video for Idol.
Earlier in May, BTS’s Suga appeared in a music video for his solo track Daechwita wearing hanbok, fusing elements of traditional Korean music and visuals.
The term “daechwita” refers to a genre of Korean traditional music performed with wind and percussion instruments usually at a king’s parade or military ceremonies.
South Korean Culture Minister Park Yang-woo praised Suga for infusing traditional elements into his music, recommending the song to foreign students in Korea.
The Hanbok Advancement Centre said although there are a few who perceive Blackpink’s hanbok outfits as sabotaging traditional heritage, it is overall exciting to note that the K-pop act successfully promoted hanbok to the world.
“Excessive regulation on the shape of hanbok may threaten or undermine the youth culture adoption of wearing hanbok in everyday life. So we are trying to create a desirable hanbok culture through various businesses and promotional campaigns rather than regulations,” the centre official said.