It all started with a pair of socks. I was doing street style photo research on socks (yes, that's a thing) when, among all the usual, recognizable suspects — Vetements x Reebok, Gucci, Nike, Adidas — I stumbled upon a seemingly ordinary pair except for the bolded, underlined (and rather ominous?) statement emblazoned on each side: "Get away from it all." Intrigued, I put my fashion sleuthing skills to the test and found its maker: Korean streetwear label Ader Error.
Thus, my obsession for Korean fashion was born. And while K-fashion is nowhere on the same level of cult-like mania as K-beauty, it certainly has the potential to be. Case in point: Nordstrom centered its latest "Pop-In@Nordstrom," which runs from now until May 7, around a curation of the top Korean designers. "The Korean fashion scene is exploding," says Olivia Kim, VP of creative projects at Nordstrom, in a statement. "There's so much buzz and energy around Korea and Seoul Fashion Week, and fashion there is differentiated in how quick, energetic and youthful it is. Street style there is beyond, and more and more people are paying attention now, which is exciting to watch."
Factor in the somewhat tired-slash-expected merch (read: the outsize logo hoodies, tees and five-panel hats) from mainstream stateside brands, like Supreme, Carhartt and Huf, and Korean streetwear, with its exaggerated proportions, avant-garde aesthetic and whimsy finishes, feels like a breath of fresh air. Don't care to spend your entire month's rent on a Vetements hoodie or an Off-White shirt? Not up for being door-checked by the bouncers at Supreme every Thursday? Scroll though and shop the top seven Korean streetwear brands to know now.
Ader Error makes so much more than unique socks — the unisex line supplies glorious knits (some expertly layered, others stretched for a cool effect), easy ribbed pants, too-cool asymmetric dresses and pieces branded with unexpected sayings, like "your life is a joke" or "kick me." Shop select pieces at Fig Collective.
You know it's badass when Rihanna endorses it. In an area dominated by men arrives Hyein Seo, a young Korean designer who's already making waves with her streetwear designs for women. In fact, she most recently made her debut at London Fashion Week with a cool girl-power, judo-style collection. Shop her designs at Farfetch, Shop Super Street and Nordstrom.
First K-pop stars, next worldwide domination. Kathleen Kye is one of the buzziest names in K-fashion, and for good reason: her designs play on whimsy and unapologetic femininity without losing their edge, like a lace-up corseted sweatshirt, a distressed graphic tee in the sweetest shade of lavender and track pants lined with cute Korean-inspired emojis. Shop designs at Nordstrom.
A mash-up of collegiate prep and streetwear, Nohant's specialty lies in its signature Lonely/Lovely sweatshirts (model Barbara Palvin is a fan btw), Université de Nohant hoodies, casual rugby-striped tees, checked dusters over slouchy denim and sweat suits topped with varsity jackets. Shop pieces at W Concept.
Our immediate favorite (also preferred by a slew of K-pop stars): the rose-strewn denim jacket. Other hero pieces include tiny floral-print dresses, the snake-printed tees, the outsize Ma-1 bomber and the slouchy "Change the world" turtleneck sweater. All unisex, all so, so good. Shop the pieces at Momo Korea, W Concept and Fig Collective.
Designed by husband-and-wife duo Steve J & Yoni P, SJYP is a Seoul-based denim-centric brand that reimagines and reinvents the classic textile through deconstructed techniques, unique finishes and dramatic shapes, like these split two-tone jeans, or these supercharged flares. Shop SJYP at Ssense, Net-A-Porter and Nordstrom.
Founded by three Korean male models Wonjoong Kim, Chan Kim and Jiwoon Park, 87MM is, essentially, a purveyor of model off-duty staples (think: candy-colored sweatshirts, sporty windbreakers, and oversize coats). Shop styles at 87MM and Momo Korea.
Homepage image: Hyein Seo black fur coat wat New York Fashion Week Fall 2016. Photo: Georgie Wileman/Getty Images