Words: Sara Darling
Article first published in Creative Artist Foundation, January 2016.
Big brands are tapping into the South Asian country's striking models with celebrity status.
It’s no surprise that modeling is an aspirational career in Korea; the models who succeed are propelled to celebrity status, and that includes the men. With the country experiencing a moment in fashion right now, international photographers and designers are jumping all over each other to snap them up for fashion campaigns, magazine covers and catwalk shows. With the fandom that comes with it too, brands are keen to take advantage of their influence on consumers too.
Seoul Fashion Week and Korea’s Next Top Model are major influences in launching model careers both locally and internationally, with models gaining the same status as ‘idols’. As a result of this, they have crossed into pop-culture and, by the power of social media, have gained a huge number of international fans. Furthermore, Korean modeling agencies have started to arrange fan meetings, as well as special events unique to the fashion community including sales of the models’ previously loved wardrobe.
You might recognize them from the billboards and catwalks, or even TV, but here’s a bit more about the people behind the star faces from this generation of self-made millionaires.
Soo Joo Park is possibly the best known Korean face. She moved from Seoul with her family to California when she was ten. With no intentions of becoming a model, she was discovered after she graduated college, whilst out shopping in a vintage store, and decided to take a chance.
A regular on the scene ever since, 2010 was her big year when she was snapped for the BCB Generation BCBG Max Azria campaign. Since then she has been round the world and back, appearing on catwalks for Jeremy Scott, Vera Wang and Moschino this year, alongside editorials in style bibles Wonderland, Glass, Hunger and Vogue.
Since dyeing her hair platinum blonde, the cover star is set to be massive, and earlier this year she became L’Oréal's first Asian-American global spokesmodel.
With high flying fashion supporters including Carine Roitfeld (for whom she posed for the CR Fashion Book) the editor connected her with Karl Lagerfeld and Tom Ford and she has built a healthy relationship with them, appearing most recently in the Chanel Cruise SS16 film (PT 2).
Hye Park was born in 1985 in South Korea, but moved to Utah, USA, when she was a child. Known for her glossy look, and glossy locks, she’s a firm favorite with hair brand Kérastase. Spotted by attending an open casting call, her big break came when she was 20, in early 2005, when Steven Meisel shot her for Italian Vogue.
Park made her runway debut during the fall/winter 2005 season, taking easily to the catwalk, but notoriously lost one of her heels the following season on her first runway show for Dior, but, like a true professional, carried on without a glitch.
Famous for her trademark mole just beneath her nose, and incredible bone structure, she is just as in demand on the catwalks as she is in front of the lens, having shot with Mario Testino, Steven Klein, Annie Leibovitz, Patrick Demarchelier, Craig McDean, David Sims, and Ellen von Unwerth.
Sup Park is a relative newcomer to the scene, only starting modeling in 2014, but over the last two years he has been gathering some serious momentum. This season alone, he walked in over 50 shows at Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks, and has recently signed to Wilhelmina Agency, New York, where he hit the shows at NYFWM for the first time. He impressed NY label Ordinary People so much, they snapped him up to be the face of the SS16 campaign.
If his signature chiseled cheeks don’t get your attention, his soulful eyes and ears will. With a huge fan base, you can follow his progress along with 275k other followers on Instagram.
Tattooed, 6’1 Noma Han, is a firm favorite with edgier publications. His editorials in Dazed, Fiasco and Fucking Young magazines flaunt his six-pack, rock ‘n’ roll edge, and natural sneer, which make him stand out.
He has also proven very on trend in his campaigns for Benetton and Jill Stuart Men, and he is currently the face of the Calvin Klein fall/winter 15 global advertising campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti. Han is bringing the bad boy look back into fashion.
Adapting well to his model-ebrity status, he has embraced his fan base on social media, and proven that ‘relatable’ can make you more of a star, often sharing pictures of himself wearing a face pack or talking about how tough his spin class was.