We are always on the hunt for the next best thing in beauty and skin care.
Between contouring, non-touring, baking, and strobing, who can keep up? As of late Korean beauty AKA K-Beauty treatments have been the latest wave to take over the skin care/makeup realm. Known for the multi-step, multi-product skin care first regimen, K-Beauty products promise to give you the dewy, fresh faced, flawless look. However, as with any trend in fashion or beauty, one day you’re in, and one day you’re out.
So how do Korean influencers feel about the rise in interest in Korean culture (K-Pop and Korean television dramas) and where do they see it going? We sat in on a panel discussion featuring Lie Sangbong Director Nana Lee, Soko Glam Cofounder Charlotte Cho, and Vogue Editor Monica Kim, held at Korean designer Lie Sangbong’s store in the Meatpacking District. Theses ladies gave us the tea on the past, present, and future for Korean beauty and fashion.
What changes have you seen in Korean beauty and fashion trends in the past five years?
Nana Lee: “We’ve been showing our collections is Paris Fashion Week since 2002, and we’ve shown our collection for twelve years there, and we moved our collection to New York, and through those years I’ve seen a lot of changes in the perception of Korea as a brand, and as being a Korean fashion brand in the industry. At first people were reacting like ‘why is it so expensive? It’s made in Korea.’ And now I’m seeing a lot of very talented Korean designers and brands that are doing so well globally that I think people understand that there’s something about Korean companies that does very well globally. And for us I think seeing a lot of designers showcasing at New York Fashion Week including us, we see a growing number every year, and I feel like the interest in the overall country, not only fashion, but beauty, food, K-pop, K-drama has been a big influence, and it really became part of our lives here.”
Charlotte Cho: “When we started Soko Glam in 2012 I remember cold calling editors, and it didn’t matter which publication we reached out to, and we asked them if they knew anything about Korean beauty products, and they were like, “What?!” And they actually weren’t interested in the beginning. And I kind of showed them a picture of this really cute lip tint with a cat on it, and they were like ‘Oh, that’s really cute!’ And so they got intrigued by the packaging, and then slowly but surely they actually tried these products, and they saw how innovative they were. And before you knew it after BB creams, there came cushion compacts and essences. And suddenly, the whole entire cosmetics industry was incorporating these totally new categories into their line of products, and so I just saw this dramatic change in just five years. From not knowing what K-beauty is to now everyone kind of knows what it is, and they’re curious about it, and top influencers, and A-list celebrities like Jessica Alba. It’s become more mainstream, and you can find these products now at Sephora and Ulta and of course Soko Glam. I love seeing that companies that are kind of Western are using this inspiration from Korea, and they’re incorporating more and more of these ingredients or technologies into their products.”
Monica Kim: “It’s remarkable looking at how much the global perception of Korea has changed in the past five or ten years. For me, growing up Korean-American I can remember saying ‘I’m from Korea,’ and people saying ‘Where is that?’ So to think now people will hear Korea, and they’ll think it’s cool, is just so incredible. And I think to go from being a country that people would sort of associate with a cheapness, or inexpensiveness, like goods being made in Korea being not up to par, now being kind of a benchmark for trends… having cosmetics companies looking to Korea, instead of Korea copying other cosmetic companies but actually studying those trends like with the cushion compacts, with the BB creams. It’s kind of amazing.”
Do you think K-Beauty is a passing trend?
Monica Kim: One of our biggest concerns is will it just be a trend? Is it just people jumping on to this new thing, because it’s new and it’s interesting? Does it not have that kind of longevity around the world? And I think that one of the things that really sets it apart for beauty is the pace of the innovation. I think as long as the industry keeps innovating, and coming up with new things people haven’t seen before Korean beauty has a very strong chance of being a mainstay in the industry, and continuing to set those trends. As a far as fashion goes, I think fashion is at the beginning point in terms of its global influence. First you saw the rise of K-pop and Korean entertainment and then you saw K-beauty, and I feel like fashion is really approaching that point where you have that talent, and they’re getting more exposure. And it’s really, I think gonna be interesting to see where it goes from here in the next five to ten years. I can see it really becoming more of a major player.
Charlotte Cho: “I think if it were just about one product or one brand then maybe Korean beauty wouldn’t last that long, but because it’s more about the lifestyle and the skin first philosophy, I see that kind of being incorporated into the mindset of Westerners. And their interest in skin care is growing, and they look to Korean women, and they see their routines, and they see how glowy and dewy their skin is, and they want to kind of emulate that, I think that will allow Korean beauty to be more long lasting.”
What trends have you observed in Korean fashion and beauty?
Nana Lee: “From a fashion point of view I think there are two big trends. One, that people are all trying to wear the same thing. Following the trend, than being the leader. But another trend is individuality. So they’re trying to be different, and they’re more open minded to look different. And that was kind of interesting. How they kind of all wanted to wear the same thing to now looking for unique pieces, looking for new designers, young designers.”
Charlotte Cho: “For beauty I’ve seen a lot of ingredients that are coming from Asia. For example Yuzu is a citrus that is grown in Asia, and so they use a lot of those ingredients in the products. I’m seeing a lot of multi-tasking products, so they’re combining a lot of the steps so you don’t have to use so many layers and so many steps. So just packaging-wise, and even when it comes to cushion compacts, we’re seeing a lot of new developments in that realm. I know a lot of other companies have created Korean-inspired cushion compacts, but they’re taking it a step further and innovated that as well. I’m seeing a lot of natural products. We’re seeing a lot of products that are going from one state and one consistency to another. So a lot of consistencies and textures are changing in beauty.”
Monica Kim: “Individuality is growing, and is really important there. One example might be the growing number of people you find on the streets in Seoul who choose to dye their hair an interesting color. It’s something that you never would’ve seen even five years ago. You would’ve been stared at on the street in a really weird way, but now people are like, “oh, that’s really cool.” They want to stand out, they want to be different. I think in terms of trends you see a little less of that kind of blatant logo mania. Koreans still love logos, they love to wear things that you can look at and be like “that’s really cool.” But instead of having the large double C’s or like the Louis Vuitton logo, you might have something a little bit more subtle like a Vetements sweatshirt. It’s a little cooler.”