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Move over, Hollywood—
BTS is the global style influencer

The world hasn’t seen anything like it:
‘In one moment our Instagram blew up’

BTS in Louis Vuitton Fall-Winter 2021 from Seoul (From Louis Vuitton official IG)

V wearing the sold-out Ruslan Baginskiy hat (From BigHit Music official FB)

Luxury brands have regularly turned to Hollywood film stars to be their global brand ambassadors, being featured in short films and print and billboard campaigns worldwide.

But today, celebrity ambassadors need to be in more diverse marketing channels, where Hollywood stars aren’t always present, and their numbers don’t always translate to sales. That’s why many brands are riding on the fame of digital-savvy BTS. The Korean band and its seven performers—Jin, Suga, j-hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook—have built a brand and merchandising empire on a massive scale unheard of in Western pop music.

Jimin wore Gentle Monster’s pink $280 Woogie sunglasses in a performance, which promptly sold out.

To understand how influential BTS is worldwide (if you don’t know who they are, you must be living under a rock), look no further than these figures. They are one of South Korea’s biggest exports, with ticket sales, music albums, and merchandise contributing billions of dollars to South Korea’s economy, causing a surge in tourism and increasing the marketability of South Korean products. According to the Hyundai Research Institute, they’re forecasted to bring in $37 billion over the next 10 years.


Credit: HYBE LABELS/YouTube

For decades and across different genres, fashion has played a large part in expressing the style of music, from concerts to music videos and album covers. With K-Pop, catchy songs and hard-hitting dance moves are what make the genre distinct.

 

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A post shared by Vogue Japan (@voguejapan)

Jungkook wore this $2,820 Prada jacket for Vogue Japan Aug. 2020 cover which also sold out. 

But apart from these, fashion is a major component, and not the monotonous kind. Clothing is a powerful tool, able to set idols apart from their competition, and allowing them to continuously come up with new looks and reinvent themselves. BTS’ approach to conceptual styling, alongside its global presence, has created a luxury fashion movement that has everyone, from designers to fans, taking note.

ARMY are akin to friends and family giving support to the band, and many of them have serious buying power

Unlike earlier incarnations of the boy band craze, such as ’N Sync and the Backstreet Boys, BTS thrived in the era of social media. BTS’s fan base, known as ARMY— which stands for Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth—has hugely expanded the band’s reach. Pretty much everything that happens to BTS boils down to the fan base and how dedicated they are. ARMYs treat them as role models and buy products that they use.

Members of BTS ARMY are, in a way, more than consumers; they are akin to friends and family giving support to the band, and many of them have serious buying power.

The website Lyst credits these performers with an increase in searches related to brands after wearing them.

This not only asserted BTS as a fashion powerhouse, but also has introduced luxury brands to a whole new market: their millions of fans. A fan may not have interest in fashion, but when worn by their idols, it suddenly becomes an object of interest and connection; they want to have the same item as their idol. Across social media are numerous Twitter and Instagram accounts, tracking exact items and brands worn by their idols, whether it be on stage or at the airport. Suddenly, ARMYs are now well-versed about products their idols eat, use, and wear—from a McDonald’s meal that can cost a few hundred pesos, to a Hyundai SUV (with back-orders) and million-peso watches worn by its members.

Milliner Ruslan Baginskiy  experienced the BTS effect when V was shown in a teaser photo for their song Butter wearing the designer’s straw hat with a chain. ARMY  bought out the hat’s stock at breakneck speed.


Credit: HYBE LABELS/YouTube

The band’s recent appearance for Louis Vuitton’s Fall/Winter 2021 collection has garnered 5.3 millions views

In an interview with Instyle, the milliner shared the band wasn’t on their radar, as the band’s stylists were not in touch with them and they were “speechless, because in one moment our Instagram blew up. There are not that many people in the world who can impact the brand that much, and we have always been curious how the BTS effect works. And now we know: tons of comments, DMs, reactions, reposts, fan-group tags, and sales, of course. We had no idea that ARMY is so supportive, that’s a real phenomenon,” said the designer.

 

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A post shared by Louis Vuitton (@louisvuitton)

V

 

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A post shared by Louis Vuitton (@louisvuitton)

RM

 

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Jimin

 

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A post shared by Louis Vuitton (@louisvuitton)

Suga

The band’s recent appearance for Louis Vuitton’s Fall/Winter 2021 collection, filmed in Seoul, has garnered 5.3 millions views as of this writing, compared to the 1.5 million views of the brand’s Spring/Summer 2022 collection.

 

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j-hope

 

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A post shared by Louis Vuitton (@louisvuitton)

JK

 

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A post shared by Louis Vuitton (@louisvuitton)

Jin

As their influence spreads, BTS is shaping fashion trends in a way music hasn’t seen since American hip-hop, when brands like adidas, Air Jordans and low-waist jeans became must-haves.

The stereotypical male is no longer the ideal for younger people. Generation Z champions androgyny

In past decades, the male ideal promoted by Hollywood had been rather limited—white male stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and George Clooney come to mind. But the concept of what the ideal male looks like is evolving. The stereotypical male is no longer the ideal for younger people. Generation Z champions androgyny, and the band embodies a softer version of male beauty that is popular with the younger set. While other K-Pop stars can be credited with starting the trend of  genderless dressing, the band helped propel wearing pearls, women’s clothing, and accessories to the mainstream. Leader RM said in Rolling Stone: “The labels of what being masculine is, is an outdated concept. It is not our intention to break it down. But if we are making a positive impact, we are very thankful. We live in an age where we shouldn’t have those labels or have those restrictions.”

Jin, Suga, j-hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook reportedly prefer to wear the clothes they want based on their individual preferences. Based on their previous brand collaborations, it won’t be a surprise if Louis Vuitton taps BTS to launch a capsule collection, which will for sure again sell out.


Credit: Louis Vuitton/YouTube

Read more:

Map of style of BTS: We see it evolve

About author

Articles

Having been editor in chief of Metro magazine, she is now Inquirer Lifestyle columnist, a jewelry designer and finance executive.

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