The breakout girl group — made up of surprise BoF 500 cover stars Minji, Hanni, Danielle, Haerin and Hyein — has high potential for fashion brands looking to leverage the powerful fandoms that follow South Korea’s pop stars. Chanel, Gucci, Burberry, Dior and Louis Vuitton have already bought in.
In early October, the throng of cheering spectators outside Louis Vuitton’s latest fashion show spilled onto the Champs-Élysées, barely contained by the metal barricades the security team had erected to maintain order. Amongst the loudest were fans of Hyein, the youngest member of K-pop sensation NewJeans, who made an appearance as a brand ambassador for the French mega-label.
Major K-pop acts like Blackpink and BTS have lit up fashion weeks in recent years, creating valuable buzz for the brands that signed marketing deals with them. Now, some insiders predict that NewJeans will be the next South Korean act to become a major force in fashion. The girl group’s five members have already inked high-profile contracts with top luxury houses: Minji with Chanel, Hanni with Gucci, Danielle with Burberry, Haerin with Dior and Hyein with Louis Vuitton.
NewJeans’s rapid ascent has been unlike anything the K-pop industry has seen before. When the group debuted in July 2022 with its single “Attention,” the track was successful in getting the group exactly that. Alongside their deals with luxury brands, the members of NewJeans have also been tapped by household names like Apple, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, and taken turns doing solo covers for the South Korean editions of major fashion titles, from Vogue to Harper’s Bazaar. Nearly 10 million people follow the group on Instagram, up from 3 million just five months earlier.
“No K-pop group has had this momentum,” said Paul Jeong, co-founder of Altm Group, a company that advises fashion brands on celebrity partnerships in Asia. “Part of that is [other Korean bands like] BTS and Blackpink starting the conversation for them but in terms of endorsements even Blackpink didn’t have this many endorsements this early on.”
They abandoned the bombastic in-your-face concepts that had become a winning formula for K-pop girl groups of late. Instead of dramatic outfits and CGI-filled music videos, they were styled demurely. Their vibe is laidback, fun and cutesy. In a Zoom interview with BoF, the girls opted for simple red, black, and white basketball jerseys. The only makeup detectable on the computer screen was rosy blushed cheeks. Their hairstyles featured heavy bangs and high-swept ponytails.
“They’re having phenomenal brand ambassadorships, a lot of TV commercials, a lot of brand collaborations,” said Suh. “[Their label’s] strategy is different from the previous winning formula. NewJeans is a different animal.”