A Kpop Fashion History Podcast

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Kpop and Kdramas are growing exponentially while the K-Beauty fare has died down. As the beauty world moves toward Skinimalism - simplified beauty - can K-Beauty keep up or will the 10 step regime finally be too much?

Let me know your thoughts! Email kpophistorypodcast@gmail.com or Tweet/DM @kfashionpodcast on Twitter


From furry back jackets, helmets with capes and every variation of a mullet you can thing of - the Kpop fashion industry has created some of the most iconic looks in the world. 

And I'm here to dissect it. 

Welcome to a Kpop Fashion History Podcast!

If you like what you hear you can follow this podcast on Twitter @KFashionPodcast or email questions, comments or feedback to kpophistorypodcast@gmail.com.


I've been in love with K-Beauty for over 10 years ever since I walked into my first Skin Food store in the city of Samcheok right on the East Sea in South Korea. To see the vibrant enchanting packaging, to hear the exhilarating beats of a Kpop song blasted from the speakers and gazing upon the fun and unusual ingredients like bee venom infused into a tiny tinted gloss - was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Experiencing K-Beauty is like falling down a fun pink wall-papered rabbit hole you never want to get out of.

So it really tugs at my heart to hear the inevitable decline of Korean Beauty.

Now lets say you're a chairperson of a business and you've become the the 2nd richest person in all of South Korea? Now imagine 3 years later you’re barely in the top 10 richest What happened? This happened to Suh Kyung Bae chairman and chaebol of his family's cosmetics conglomerate Amorepaficic Group that owns companies like Innisfree, Etude House and Laneige. Their shares dropped 40%!

This result is a far cry from the past. In the last 10 years foreign companies like Estee Lauder, Goldman Sachs and Unilever spent $5 billion to acquire cosmetic firms and buy stakes which resulted in Korea being the 4th largest exporter of beauty products. In 2019 Korea was 3rd only to France and the US!

Relations with China have soured and Korean cosmetic imports have slowed to china.

The Thaad missile crisis in 2017 (an issue on the deployment of US missile systems) led to China banning citizens from traveling to Korea in groups and restricting SK imports.

China also wanted to diminish the influence of Hallyu by influencing consumer perception according to head of Asia research for intelligence firm L2. They also banned Kpop singers from tv and refused to import 19 Korean cosmetic products due to "quality control issues." 
During that time of banning Chinese consumers decided to shop at Hainan island where prestigious western and Japanese brands were sold duty free at lower prices. 
Covid & the evolution of Skinimalism

Quirky, bright colored, complex beauty routines no longer fit due to everyone staying in.

Consumers became more concerned with the science behind the products they were using. Just think of how many times you've heard of the word hyaluronic acid or retinal in the past year! With K-beauty being more focused on marketing than innovation they've fallen behind technology and innovation. Then Skinimalism led to a more simplified beauty measure. Who needs a 10 step regime anymore? Instead of 5 products that do 5 different things how about 1 that does all 5? The luxury brand market grew exponentially more than the medium lower end brands which most K-beauty falls into. 


In 2019 Nature Republic sued more than 50 companies for using its intellectual property. 


So is this the end of K-Beauty?

No, but its trending reign is probably over. Simpler, chemical free, sustainable and more innovative products are here to stay. If the K-beauty industry can evolve by finding a balance between the simplicity that people desire now and the fun, uniqueness of K-beauty then they can pick up some of what they lost.

Amorepacific days recently announced it intends to use a sweat-proof wearable skin measurement device it developed with MIT to produce cosmetic products according to environmental needs. It’ll help in improving its product offering.

What can companies to do win back consumers?

 Companies should focus on revamping their brands by focusing on luxury products - strengthening the loyalty of the customers they still have while slowly earning back the customers they lost.

The China/Korea tension teeters from warm to hot depending on the season so the regin of colorful, complex kbeauty in china is over. China's already started to push tangible and intangible Korean and western influences out as it eyes becoming the most powerful country in the world. 
My advice would be to continue to attach K-beauty with all things Korean (booths at KCON etc) that way you can get those new products in front of the customers they once had.Focus on SE Asia. Over 20 years theyve supported Hallyu. Theyre super loyal. Create a large market share, open branches there to control bootlegs, continue to show that you mean business by sueing. 
There is some hope - Amorepacific's revenue was up 11% 1Q this year because its luxury brand Sulhwasoo, as online has greatly overtaken retail with profit. They've been reenforcing the image of their luxury brands which now accounts for more than 53% of their domestic revenue - Sulhwasu making up 36% of that. Last quarter China online sales grew 100% with 60% being from Sulhwasu again. In SE Asia Sulhwasoo grew by 60! 
In conclusion, it could be 5 or even 10 years from now before the world goes back to the frilly and pompous styles that we once loved pre-pandemic. But K-beauty will reemerge ready to usher everyone down its pink wall-papered rabbit hole.

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