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This Brand Will Change How You Think About Korean Fashion

April 2019Words by Ms Molly Isabella Smith

It’s official: K-pop has taken over the world. Or, to be more specific, BTS has. The Grammy-nominated band recently became the first Korean band to perform on Saturday Night Live, where, according to CNN, hordes of fans (otherwise known as the “BTS Army”) queued from Tuesday to secure tickets. They’ve engaged in Twitter banter with Ms Anna Kendrick (she’s a big fan) and have even infiltrated my desk at MR PORTER HQ: as I write this, a cut-out figurine of singer Jungkook, a souvenir from our Editorial Director’s recent trip to Seoul, looks up at me demurely proffering a bunch of cartoon-esque posies. It’s forgivable then, in the midst of all this hype, to presume that the K-pop bubble is fully representative of the country’s musical and, by extension, aesthetic identity.

The Korean music scene is, it should come as no great surprise, much like it is everywhere else: vast, diverse and, sometimes, genre-defying. Case in point: quietly (or quite loudly, as the case may be), the country’s punk, hardcore and metal scene has picked up a small, but passionate coterie of devotees since its emergence in the 1990s. And like BTS’ self-declared militia (as well as the followers of every musical niche throughout the history of music), their fandom plays out in their fashions. One of them is Seoul native Mr Park Jong Woo, who saw his first punk concert when he was in the sixth grade, prefers to go by the moniker Bajowoo, and wears a torn surgical mask, raccoon-like black eyeliner and metal grills everywhere he goes. As mysterious public personas go, it’s the antithesis of the sanitised K-pop archetype. And it’s one of the reasons why his brand 99%IS-, which he launched in 2012 and lands on MR PORTER this week, is one of the most buzzed-about streetwear labels right now.

The other reason, you’ll be pleased to know, is the actual clothes. They, too, are anything but archetypal: rather than retread ground designers have covered since the emergence of the punk movement in the 1970s – moto jackets, safety pins, ripped jeans, etc – Bajawoo instead subverts retro sportswear codes using punkish tropes to create collections that feel entirely novel. Take, for example, the label’s now signature (and sell-out) Gobchang trousers – a wholly unique type of wrinkled shell trousers fitted with all-over bungee cord-pulls (trust us, it works). Or the bondage-inspired nylon windbreaker. And then there’s the faux fur-trimmed leopard-print track jacket. You’ll have to wait a little longer before you can bag the full line, but we promise it’s worth it. And until then, here’s a sampler…