Unless you’ve had no access to the internet for the past few years, it’s impossible to have not heard of the phenomenon that is the K-pop industry. The ripples of the Korean Wave, termed Hallyu, have been felt in every sector of society – music, entertainment, beauty, food and of course, fashion. Almost every European luxury fashion brand has roped in popular K-pop stars or superstar actors to play the role of their brand ambassador. One might ask, why the sudden shift? Why not bring in a worldwide Hollywood star? How did Hollywood glamour become Hallyu glamour?

It’s no surprise that the world has been obsessed with Korean music, beauty, and fashion. At a time when brands are finally embracing diversity, it seems like Korean celebrities are the perfect choice to be the face of global luxury brands. Not only do they appeal to their home consumers and the Chinese market, but they have also become wildly popular in Europe and the USA.

One of the more important reasons for this shift is the appeal to Gen Z consumers. For long, luxury brands have excluded this generation from their list of target consumers, but that just equates to short-sightedness and alienating a large market of the future. Gen Z craves versatility, new faces, and new ways to consume content. They want the best brand experiences, and they want excitement, which is something that Hollywood starlets may fail to provide anymore. 

Photo: Gucci
Photo: Trendsmap

Luxury brands will not be able to survive the future if they don’t adapt and reinvent themselves to capture the Gen Z market. Quite a number of them have bestowed brand ambassadorship upon K-pop idols. Louis Vuitton named K-pop supergroup BTS as their brand ambassador in April 2021. Gucci has tapped into EXO’s Kai, while all four Blackpink members, Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé and Lisa remain ambassadors for Dior, Chanel, Saint Laurent and Celine respectively.

Brands have established relationships with not just musicians, but superstar actors as well. Valentino with Son Yejin, and Fendi with Song Hyekyo, to name a few. The brands have used this opportunity to feature their latest off-the-runway collections on popular big-budget dramas that reach a worldwide audience. 

The hold of Hallyu over luxury can be explained in terms of the connection it creates between the brand and the consumer. The K-pop stars give a face to the brand’s story and image. They embody its aesthetics and become a channel for the brand to communicate with its youngest consumers via fashion campaigns, collaborations and social media.