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[Weekender] Art and fashion make perfect duo

Fashion brands seek partnership with art and music to win customers’ hearts

Jan. 9, 2015 - 20:39 By Lee Woo-young
Riding the popularity of K-pop, the new Korean fashion brand Nonagon has landed in major multi-fashion stores in Asia and the fashion hub of Milan within six months of its launch in September last year.

The huge early success is the result of a collaboration between YG Entertainment, which represents major K-pop stars including Big Bang and 2NE1, and the textile company Cheil Industries, an affiliate of Samsung Group. The two joined hands to create a line of bomber jackets, sweatshirts, minidresses and caps heavily inspired by the style of YG entertainers. 
B.I of YG Entertainment group iKON in Nonagon’s spring and summer look for 2015 (Cheil Industries)

K-pop fans both in Korea and overseas responded explosively to the idea.

At Nonagon’s first pop-up store event in Seoul last year, its entire inventory sold out in three days.

“The fashion and music is something that every youngster in the world can share. Nonagon definitely appealed to young people regardless of their nationalities,” said Nam Sun-hee, brand manager of Nonagon.

Foreigners accounted for 40 percent of Nonagon’s sales, according to Nam.

The brand is seeing growing demand in Japan and the U.S. for the 2015 fall-winter collection, to be unveiled at the end of January.

Fashion brands have always sought to engage in other creative fields to bring in fresh perspectives and draw customers’ attention.

H&M has created a frenzy among fashion lovers with its collaborations with high-end luxury brands since 2005. The fast-fashion brand has teamed up with a dozen high-profile designers so far, including Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Viktor&Rolf, Robert Cavalli, Comme de Garcons, Jimmy Choo, Sonia Rykiel, Lanvin, Versace, Marni, Maison Martin Margiela and more recently Alexander Wang. 
Singer Mary J. Blige watches the fashion show of the Alexander Wang collaboration with H&M in New York in October. (H&M)

Even before the collections hit stores, shoppers queued up overnight to get their hands on the limited-edition collections. H&M’s collaborations with high-end brands have become one of the most-anticipated events for fashion customers.

The Samsung Fashion Institute named such enthusiastic customers “P type customers” ― those who are willing to “purchase premium products, actively participate in promotional activities with passion and be proud of having them in their possession.”

“These customers wait in line to get the limited-edition products such as Alexander Wang pieces at H&M or Super Mario toy sets in McDonald’s Happy Meals. They are the type of customers who are willing to invest time and money to possess the products they consider to have special value,” said Oh Su-min, a researcher with SFI.

As a nod to these needs, fashion brands are partnering with inspirational artists to create products with distinctive appeal.

Earlier last year, H&M joined hands with artist Jeff Koons, known for his glossy metallic sculptures, for its accessory collection. Customers were able to get Koon’s $58 million balloon dog sculpture for just $49.50 on a black leather handbag.

“Fashion brands look for creativity and innovation in art when they have to come up with strategies to meet diverse needs of customers. Through collaborations, these brands can enhance their image with a new artistic appeal, and sometimes, they even make the jump to become industry leaders,” said Yoon Sung-won, a jewelry marketing consultant and columnist.

Success cases abound in the luxury industry, in particular, which has long been fond of the idea of collaborating with contemporary artists. Notable partnerships have included those between Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami and Louis Vuitton, American artist Sterling Ruby and Dior, and performance artist Marina Abramovic and Givenchy.

Korean bag manufacturer Simone, which supplies to foreign brands as an OEM, is seeking to integrate fashion and art before the official launch of its brand 0914 this year. The company has been holding bag-themed art exhibitions at the gallery space of the company’s Handbag Museum on Garosu-gil Street, Seoul, for two years.

It explores women’s favorite accessory in the contexts of art, music, literature and performances. The current exhibition, “Bag’s Stage,” invites artists to reinterpret the process of making bags through artistic performances and presentations.

By Lee Woo-young (