Top Korean Fashion Marketplaces

K-fashion continues to be ahead of the curve in Asian fashion. In this report, we analyse the performance of 2 Korean multi-brand retailers ÅLAND and Somethin' Sweet.

Written by Atiqah KamarudinFebruary 27, 2019

Introduction

South Korean fashion brands have long defined their own styles and silhouettes differently from mainstream fashion. Where body fitting and exposed skin are common in the West, Korean brands/retailers make statements with oversized silhouettes, high-necklines, wide-legged pants, and most famously – camisole over tops.

The strong support for local trends from Asia, particularly China, combined with the internet hyper-connectivity[1] and a robust wholesale hub based in Dongdaemun[2] have provided the optimum breeding ground for private label brands and the retailers that promote these brands. Here, we analysed two of such multi-label retailers.

 

Top Korean Marketplaces

ÅLAND expanded its global footprint by opening the first store in the western hemisphere (Brooklyn, New York) last summer of 2018. Its affordable street styles came in a spread of free-size and gender neutral clothing. Known as Korea’s best-kept secret, ÅLAND was an exclusive hotspot for local fashion icons such as Irene Kim and Soo Joo Park, before it emerged on the public radar.

Somethin’ Sweet embodies feminine-centric Korean styles with K-pop inspired homegrown brands, donned by some of the biggest girl groups such as Twice, Blackpink and Red Velvet. The retailer is also one of the few Korean e-tailers that offer free worldwide shipping with minimum orders.

 

 

Notes:
[1] Nearly 100% of households in South Korea have internet access.
[2] K-fashion imitators flocking to Dongdaemun.

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Category Analysis: Apparel

ÅLAND had more non-apparel products than most fashion brands would have on average, stocking more bags and shoes.

 

Top 5 Categories

Comparing the two retailers, Tops and Outerwear were the common key performing categories, with Tops selling out 3x more than the second biggest category across the respective retailers. The outliers in comparison were Activewear, which was evidently a must-have in the street style inspired brand ÅLAND, and Dresses which was essential to a feminine brand like Somethin’ Sweet.

On performance by brand, ÅLAND positioned itself well with the right newness, driving equivalent sell-out across all categories.

Somethin’ Sweet, on the other hand, observed missed opportunities on Tops, as there was a higher sell-out contribution than new-ins by +5% percentage points. Meanwhile, Outerwear was slightly over-stocked with sell-out contribution underperforming new-in by -6% percentage points.

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Category Analysis: Non-Apparel

Bags and shoes were the primary categories to dominate the non-apparel segment across the retailers. ÅLAND surprisingly had a more extensive assortment in Jewellery than Somethin’ Sweet. Observing trending styles, these jewellery included mismatched earrings, tassel earrings, stacked rings and link-chained bracelets.

 

Same Categories, Different Contribution by Brand

The key non-apparel categories demonstrated a relatively healthy New-In against Sell-Out performances. Bags in ÅLAND was the top category with 63% newness, while the same category came in second for the feminine-styled Somethin’ Sweet, vice-versa for Shoes.

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An Overview on Sizing

Korean brands are notoriously known for their “free size” or “one size” on apparel. “Free size” largely dominated both retailers analysed, especially in Somethin’ Sweet. The contribution commanded as high as over 90% of key categories in the feminine brand, namely for Tops, Dresses and Outerwear. Meanwhile, ÅLAND had less than 40% of its assortment in “free size” across Tops, Outerwear and Activewear. ÅLAND also had higher ratios of sizes M and L contributed by menswear.

 

Made For Asians

While ”free size” is loosely perceived as fitting a regular size M, Korean brands translate it to the equivalent of international size S[1], which is below the average global size fit. Yet, “free size” largely fulfils the demand of local consumers as well as for the most part of Asia, especially China.

 

Chart 10: Women’s Apparel Size Chart

 

Note: [1] Korean Clothing Sizes – Know Before You Shop!

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The Leading Brands: ÅLAND

Bestsellers from the top 5 performing categories were dominated by the popular brands listed below:

 

Top 5 Brands

  1. Lejunev
  2. Heys
  3. Soooho
  4. Bc by beyondcloset
  5. Apartment

 

Street style fashion centred upon dressing in casual and comfortable clothing that embraced urban elements and Korean street fashion.

In contrast to the sporty treatment upheld by adidas track jackets, a different variation of athleisure wear was defined in ÅLAND. Breaking away from the typical track jacket appearance, Apartment, one of ÅLAND’s leading brands, designed its trending look with a jacket that closely resembled a casual hoodie.

 

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Meet the Author

Atiqah Kamarudin

Nur Atiqah Kamarudin is a Senior Business Intelligence Analyst at Omnilytics. With past experience at Nielsen and Euromonitor, she has spent years analysing data and unearthing insights to help brands and retailers make informed decisions. She currently produces reports on the fashion industry and its changing retail scene across the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Southeast Asia.

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