Why CL is the most fearless fashion icon in K-Pop

From Wang to Moschino and beyond, the South Korean megastar has cemented her reputation as an ultimate style queen

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CL on the set of her ‘Hello Bitches’ video
CL on the set of her ‘Hello Bitches’ videovia instagram.com/chaelincl, design by Malakai

On Monday night, Alexander Wang previewed the cast of his SS16 campaign with a series of Polaroids on Instagram, revealing an eclectic mix of models and musicians including Dazed 100 trap king Travis Scott, anarchic punk icon Alice Glass and, of course, our favourite South Korean superstar CL.

The addition of CL to the Wang squad should come as no surprise – the 2NE1 singer/rapper has always had one foot planted in fashion, from reigning as Jeremy Scott’s ultimate muse, collaborator and best friend, to showing up on the front row of Hood By Air, and a personal style positively dripping in young menswear favourites Nasir MazharAstrid Andersen and Sam MC. But her fashion status extends far beyond an avalanche of labels and designer name-checks – like Rihanna, she’s an effortless risk-taker, with her eyes firmly facing the future. “Normally people think of Asian women as timid, but I think I’m very strong,” CL told Dazed last year, declaring her characteristic independence. To celebrate CL’s fearless approach to fashion, here are five of her most killer looks.

TEDDY GIRL

When creative rebel Jeremy Scott turned the Moschino catwalk into a carwash at his eclectic, fluoro-splattered SS16 show last year, we were particular enamoured with the sight of CL on the front row wearing a black dress with a row of teddy bears dangling from its collar. Each teddy bear wore a t-shirt with the words emblazed: “THIS IS NOT A MOSCHINO TOY”, and CL went one tongue-in-cheek step further by shrouding herself in golden Moschino jewellery. “You can’t go all intellectual for a show like this,” Scott explained at the time. “We all let loose and be cute, camp, sweet – whatever you want. There’s no pretence – it’s a fun pop culture moment.” As ever, it was a moment CL embraced fully.

READY TO RULE

Yeah we know this is one of ours, but this shoot with CL for the autumn/winter 2015 issue of Dazed is a firm favourite. Styled by Emma Wyman and shot by Petra Collins, the shoot saw CL donning head-to-toe Givenchy under the warm glow of an electronic blue light. She also wore a knee-length Alexander Wang puffa jacket and this perforated patent leather Dior top that we’re completely obsessed with. The interview is definitely worth revisiting too. “Yes, I am successful in Asia,” she told us. “But if you think about that too much, you become boring. Because you don’t want to take risks. It’s so easy to be pretty and perfect. Once you have the money, fame, success or power, it’s so easy to maintain that, because all you have to do is play it safe. To be honest, I really don’t care. I’m doing this for myself.”

HELLO BITCHES

Unless you spent last year on a wifi fast, you should have come across CL’s attitude-packed bad bitch anthem “Hello Bitches”, where she raps: “Got hella dough, Hello Kitty getting hella old, want me to love them long time and I tell em ‘no’” over a banging, dance-floor thud. It’s not just the track that rules, but the video too, which sees her and her ‘girl squad’ (the ReQuest crew) in shiny leather, fishnets and oversized bombers. Around the same time, she also posted this behind-the-scenes pic to Instagram, which showed the musician clad in a freaky black headpiece and a warrior-style, armour-like high-collared top. It’s a look that had her Instagram followers going over-the-top “corny with that illuminati mess”, claiming she was trying to channel some kind of subliminal message, although (obviously) we’re not thoroughly convinced. 

TOMBOY STYLE

CL looks just as drop-dead fierce in some black lace-up DMs, a baggy biker jacket and her hair tucked into a nike cap as she does when she’s dressed to the nines. Her predication for menswear, as well as the sportswear that peppered her early career, has earned her a reputation for having an effortless tomboy style. “In my family there’s a lot of girls (but) for ten years, I’ve been hanging around with dudes,” she explained to Dazed. “YG, my crew in Korea, (boyband) BIGBANG, the producers I work with, my stylist – we’re all friends. It’s all guys – I’m the only one from 2NE1 that really hangs out at the studio. That’s why I’m a tomboy.”

GOLD GRILLS

If you’re not A$AP Rocky or Rihanna, it can be legitimately hard to pull of gold grills of any kind. But CL gets away with it because she’s CL and it works – from the mammoth pair of gold gnashers she rocks in “The Baddest Female” (alongside a huge ‘Gizibe’ ring, which translates to ‘bitch’ in Korean) to the diamond-studded bottom grill she wore in a photo she uploaded to Instagram last week. “When I put on the gold teeth, I thought for a long while if I should do it or not," CL explained following “The Baddest Female” vid. “My mum is worried what my future child would think if she knew that I put on gold teeth. I hope that my future child would know that my appearance on stage isn’t all of me.” We’re pretty sure your future child would love these grillz.

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