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Blackpink at Coachella: Keeping it Traditional

Blackpink at Coachella: Keeping it Traditional

K-pop idol singers are often touted as the representatives of Korean culture -- especially fashion -- with many making use of their global stardom to spotlight Korean heritage.

Taking the stage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on Saturday in southern California, as the first headlining K-pop girl group, Blackpink also used the historic moment to turn the world's attention to hanbok, Korean traditional dress.

Stepping on stage at the music fest as the night's final performers, Jennie, Jisoo, Lisa and Rose were clad in thin black shirred gowns -- outfits jointly custom-designed by traditional Korean dressmaker Kumdanje and Korean pattern design brand OUWR.

"The garments were inspired by a type of hanbok called a 'cheollik,' a style of jacket that was worn by military officials from the Goryeo to the Joseon eras," OUWR CEO Chang Ha-eun told The Korea Herald on Wednesday. Chang is the daughter of Kumdanje's CEO and executive designer, Lee Il-soon.

Hand-embroidered onto the cheollik were traditional Korean motifs that bring out the elegant beauty of hanbok: ten longevity symbols for Lisa, colorful "dancheong" patterns for Rose, peonies symbolizing royalty for Jisoo and nature and star emblems for Jennie.

Sitting on the shoulders in the original design is a butterfly-shaped ornament, which is the hand-cut pearl-silver brooch "Navillera" from the Korean jewelry designer Rimm.

The outfits also came in tune with the stage backdrop, which featured elements from the tiled roofs and eaves of traditional Korean houses or hanok -- the exact features incorporated into OUWR's signature "cheoma"-patterned shoulder bands on the four jackets.

"As the first K-pop artists to headline Coachella, Blackpink prepared a stage that could show the beauty of Korean culture," Chang said, adding, "The materials and designs (of their outfits) resemble a harmony of the modern and the traditional. There couldn't have been a better (choice to wear the garments) than Blackpink."

In a combined post on Instagram by the two brands, the designers said, "It was our pleasure and honor to have shown the beautiful values of Korea and hanbok on the global stage of Coachella, where Blackpink showed the beauty of Korea and dazzled the world."

This is not the first time that Blackpink has melded Korean traditional elements into their fashion.

In 2020, the girls sparked a global trend with their modernized versions of hanbok, which they had donned in the music video for their mega-hit single, "How you like that?" In an interview conducted soon after, the young hanbok designer who had worked on the clothes said the brand's sales soared by over 3000 percent thanks to Blackpink's impact.

Most recently, Jisoo brought together Korean traditional beauty and modern style for the aesthetics of her solo debut single, "Flower," while Rosé set the internet abuzz with the Korean traditional "daenggi" hair ribbon in her hair during a fashion event in New York last month.

Meanwhile, Blackpink made its Coachella debut four years ago in 2019, also marking a milestone in K-pop history. Returning after four years, the quartet made history again at the US music festival as its first headlining K-pop girl group.

Blackpink is set to perform again at Coachella this Saturday.

Source: Choi Ji-won, The Korea Herald, 2023

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