The K-Pop superstar and designer on Korean trends, faux pas and how he was a really stylish six-year-old
It’s no secret that when Western fashion media encountered Korean pop star G-Dragon back in 2012 during Paris Fashion Week, they scrambled to take notes, no doubt intrigued by the screaming fracas that followed him everywhere. Designers were already more savvy, particularly Jeremy Scott who’d forged strong ties with girl group 2NE1 (also part of YG Entertainment, who had created G-Dragon’s group, Big Bang) and Hedi Slimane, whom G-Dragon had been a fan of since the designer’s days at Dior.
His presence at fashion weeks was sporadic following that Paris season, but by 2015, G-Dragon had become a legitimate style icon not only in luxury fashion but streetwear (where he is routinely feted by Hypebeast and Complex) - a cool, successful and self-assured figurehead for Korea’s fast-rising presence in the fashion market. He’d worked with LA’s Stampd and Italian shoe designer, Giuseppe Zanotti, become close with Karl Lagerfeld, and last year he released a Raf Simons/Vetements inspired collaboration with Samsung’s fast fashion label, 8 Seconds, and made the long-expected move of creating his own label, PeaceMinusOne, with long-time Big Bang stylist, Gee Eun.
Their collection was debuted over four days in Paris at the end of last month at the Galerie Frank Albaz where, Gee Eun says, “We planned installations that told the story of the brand. I also wanted to give people a chance to see our products in person, as well as share our thoughts and feelings of where the brand is coming from.”
Naturally, it included a solid after-party at Le Pompon, which saw the likes of Bella Hadid, Olivier Rousteing, G-Dragon’s close friend, model Soo Joo Park, Keith Ape and the always eye-catching 99percentis designer, Bajowoo, partying through the night. “I was always invited to events in Paris by my many friends and I wanted to be the one to give out invitations this time,” Gee Eun elaborates. “When we were going to have our first exhibition, I always wanted it to be Paris.”
Like many creative processes, it’s been a long road. For G-Dragon, the affinity with clothing came young. “I started out as a child actor,” he recalls. “Back then I didn’t have a manager or company and I couldn’t even dream of having a stylist, my mom made and bought the clothes I would wear. I think that was probably when I first got into fashion? Interestingly, when I look at pictures of me when I was five or six years old, I think I look pretty stylish.”
Although Big Bang debuted on the Korean music scene in 2006, back then neither it nor the general landscape, could be called a fashion hotbed. You’d find a few plaintive voices on streetwear forums bemoaning the fakes, the mark ups and sheer lack of stock and variety in Seoul (much had to be bought from overseas, then sold on). K-Pop groups wore either outlandish stage clothes or looked like the average suburban American teenager, and Big Bang were no different, sporting keyring chains, vests and baseball caps worn sideways.
“There are times even I am a bit embarrassed by my look. Don’t be afraid. There is no right answer in fashion” – G-Dragon
It wasn’t until the first GD&TOP project (a side unit between G-Dragon and Big Bang’s T.O.P) in 2010 where Gee Eun, and indeed G-Dragon, began hitting their stride by assiduously plucking at subcultures, from punks and mods to teddy boys and hip hop, to build a distinctive style. G-Dragon was quick to latch onto the new wave of streetwear designers, such as Virgil Abloh, who were sparking serious interest amongst Korea’s cooler kids and, by 2013, other K-Pop stylists were decking male groups out in head-to-toe Pyrex, Hood By Air and KTZ, which helped open up a mainstream streetwear boom, both international and homegrown, that continues to grow today.
While it’s arguable how much influence he wields over Korea’s wardrobe choices as a whole, he’s in a prime position to watch its changes on a large scale. “I think Korean style is becoming more and more diverse, and people are starting to gain a lot of interest, so I'm having fun seeing the new styles and trying new various styles,” he says.
“European style is classic with its own colour and to me it always feels chic. I think Korea is still a bit sensitive to trends, I’m not sure if that’s necessarily good or bad but Europe, on the other hand, is consistent in keeping true to its own style.” And how does this impact on men’s style in particular? “I think it’s getting more and more free,” G-Dragon muses. “There’s a phenomenon of the line and conflict between self-confidence and embarrassment narrowing. There are times even I am a bit embarrassed by my look. Don’t be afraid. There is no right answer in fashion.”
It’s key advice coming from a man who openly admits to committing his fair share of mistakes. “There are many,” G-Dragon confesses. “Stage outfits are loud, outspoken, glamorous, fancy and very different from normal day to day clothing. Therefore, by its nature it is experimental. It’s hard to pick just one.”
G-Dragon (undoubtedly with Gee Eun’s guidance) clearly grasps the importance of staying true to one’s style, but has also developed the rare ability to play loose and wild with his sartorial choices by bending them to his will, rather than occupy a character they create. It‘s allowed him to make the ridiculous become sublime, turn the impractical into the necessary, and marry elements of Big Bang’s stage extravagance to the every day to create a restless, ever-evolving visage. Thus it was an initial surprise that PeaceMinusOne epitomised simplicity - a monochrome palette of stripped back silhouettes such as caps, long sleeved tees and his new trademark, an engraved bulldog clip - but G-Dragon clarifies its creative position. “I often enjoy wearing loud and outspoken clothing on stage, so off it, I usually wear loose fitting vintage shirts, jeans or track suits I’ve had forever. I just add styling to those pieces,” he says.
PeaceMinusOne, which sold out instantly online and in London’s Dover Street Market, hasn’t focused its next steps or direction, according to Gee Eun. “We are still planning and progressing focusing on what we want to do,” she says. “To us, the most important thing right now is what we like and what we find fun.”