A few weeks ago, one of my friends who were preparing for his own modern fashion brand launch asked me for any ideas for the name of his brand. I looked through the product samples and suggested some Korean names such as “참한 (Cham-Han, meaning polite and delicate)” and “수려한 (Suryeo-Han, meaning splendid, charming, and beautiful). But my suggestions received an immediate refusal due to his belief that the fashion brand name should sound western. He said “It’s not for western people – that’s why we need a western name.”
His argument reminded me of a situation from a few years ago, when Korea boycotted Japanese products. It turned out that a celebrity had been advertising for a Japanese sports brand but had been unaware, as the general public was unaware, that it was Japanese because the brand had a French name “Descente.” There was a movement of Korean netizens singling out brands that have Western-sounding or European names but are actually Japanese, which made me realize that this is a common occurrence. In the globalized world, products are advertised to best fit the need and desire of the customers. Then why do these Asian fashion brands, like that of my friend, try to disguise as they are from Western countries, while the products of other categories try so hard to advertise their originality?
It is not hard to realize that today’s modern fashion is highly centered on western countries. There’s the consensus that modern fashion is primarily from the Western world, so Western brands seem more “luxury” because we import fashion from these brands. When people find out that brands are from Asian countries, they no longer seem like “luxury” brands, and are no longer willing to pay for the clothing. Most of the top brands such as Chanel and Hermes have their origin in Europe, and their influences and design trends have engulfed modern fashion for a long time. People want to wear fashion that seems prestigious. For many Asian countries, the fashion for the upper classes tends to be excessive and uncomfortable, which is why Western modern fashion has been able to dominate, and why many countries follow the Western trend rather than continuing with the traditional clothing options. Today’s fashion is therefore more dominated by Western brands, which is why people gravitate toward European and American brands.
It is enough to say that modern fashion is mainly reigned by western cultures; today’s top models of Korea dream to be on the stage not within the country boundary but in New York, Paris, or Milano, large department stores are filled with western fashion brands, and the brands that originated from the famous fashion city such as Paris or New York mention their origin in their brand name such as “Jill Stuart New York.” Western fashion brands give people the image of prestige and luxury. For many Asian fashion brands, imaging and the concept are so important; it is convenient for them to disguise as they came from western countries. The most effective way of disguising in the first sight is of course, the brand name.
I am not saying that the western centered fashion culture is right or wrong. Part of the reason that I suggested Korean names was because I thought these words were untranslatable, unique, and full of our own Korean concept of beauty that is on display in his brand. I wanted him to advertise this uniqueness by using Korean words, but instead, he wanted to look like Western brands rather than amplify his own power as a Korean brand. But I found it particularly sad to see our own people also try to erase the nationality and follow the western tradition. In the globalized world, maybe this is the time to try really globalizing the fashion trend by giving the diversity, rather than blindly following the western trend.
As a freshman at Columbia Engineering, I am a passionate student eager to study biomedical engineering. I grew up in Korea but now attending college in U.S.; this give me another perspective toward the world we live in, which I would love to share with the readers.