How did EXO’s Kai become the biggest K-pop fashion idol of 2021?

No other K-pop idol has left a greater impact on the fashion world than EXO Kai.

2021 is the year that the fashion world has truly embraced the stars of K-Pop. BTS were named Louis Vuitton ambassadors, Lisa from Blackpink walked a Celine fashion show, and her colleagues spearheaded campaigns for luxury brands like Chanel and Tiffany & Co. But none left a greater impact than Kai, the ESO’s sensational “dance machine”.

This year, Kai was the only South Korean idol in Lyst’s celebrity roundup whose fashion choices led to the biggest spikes in research and sales. According to the fashion shopping platform, it ranked fifth, making it more influential than stars like Harry Styles, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and both Biebers.

For K-Pop fans, the news may not come as a complete surprise. Since debuting as part of the EXO boyband, Kai has stood out for his charismatic stage presence, dance prowess and sense of style. He was known for his flawless airport fashion, which included blazers, turtlenecks, and well-cut trousers that suited his slim figure. It wasn’t long before he caught the eye of Gucci, who made him a brand ambassador in 2019.

[Header photo credit: SM Entertainment]

Now that Kai has just returned with his second solo album, Peaches, it can be easy to overlook its style credentials in favor of musical and performance ones. That’s why we highlighted some key moments in her career that solidified her legitimate status as a fashion icon.

5 times Kai proved to be the king of K-Pop fashion:

His first campaign for Gucci

Gucci Eyewear F / W 2019 Campaign (Photo credit: Gucci)

Kai made her debut as Gucci ambassador in the Italian fashion brand’s Fall / Winter 2019 eyewear campaign, alongside Chinese actress Ni Ni. The images, taken by the American director and photographer Harmony Korine, gave us our first glimpse of Kai as the face of an international luxury brand. He easily embodied Gucci’s distinctive vintage-inspired aesthetic while sporting the brand’s retro eyewear and tailoring. He would again be chosen by designer Alessandro Michele to be the star of Gucci’s S / S 2020 eyewear campaign, this time showing off her modeling skills in a fashion film.

His collaboration with Gucci

Kai x Gucci Collection (Photo credit: Gucci)
Kai x Gucci Collection (Photo credit: Gucci)

After being front row at fashion shows and modeling for fashion campaigns, Kai took things to another level in 2021. He teamed up with Gucci on a limited edition capsule collection, making him the first Korean celebrity to do so. (In fact, few other Gucci ambassadors have ever received the honor.) The Kai x Gucci collection, as it was called, revolved around his fondness for teddy bears; the childhood toy motif was embossed on monogrammed bags, leather goods, trainers, and clothing for men and women. When the collection launched, it sold out almost immediately. According to Lyst, it also led to a 264% increase in Gucci searches, evidence of Kai’s global influence on fashion trends.

Seoul Fashion Week

Kai ambassador of Seoul Fashion Week 2022
(Photo credit: Seoul Fashion Week)

In September 2021, Kai was chosen as the Seoul Fashion Week ambassador. It is no small feat to be chosen from many celebrities to represent South Korea’s largest fashion event, much less for its 21st anniversary. In a promotional video of the event, Kai remarked on his relationship with fashion: “I use clothes to express myself. Before, I only thought about how to sing or how to dance, but now that I’ve been a singer for ten years, I’ve come to think about how to express myself as an artist. “

His Gucci Aria campaign

Kai wears a red velvet dress, inspired by the iconic one designed by Tom Ford for Gwyneth Paltrow in the 90s.  (Photo credit: Gucci)
Kai wears a red velvet dress, inspired by the iconic one designed by Tom Ford for Gwyneth Paltrow in the 90s. (Photo credit: Gucci)

Gucci has again selected Kai as the protagonist of its campaign, not only for eyewear, but for its Aria Fall / Winter 2021 collection, which marked the 100th anniversary of the Italian fashion brand. For this, Kai was photographed in a dreamy winter landscape wearing noteworthy models, such as Gwyneth Paltrow’s iconic red velvet dress. He also did more than model for the accompanying fashion film, which saw him do what he does best: dance.

His solo musical promotions

A look from Kai's Peaches album.  (Photo credit: SM Entertainment)
A look from Kai’s Peaches album. (Photo credit: SM Entertainment)

Since making her solo debut in 2020, Kai has explored this relationship with fashion even more. The singer plays an active role in styling his music videos and album concepts, working alongside his team. “I go around picking clothes myself,” he said. “The concept is the most important thing. We have to think if we want to play it safe or accept a challenge ”. Clearly, he went for the latter. When you promote mmh, Kai’s outfits tended to be androgynous and included traditionally feminine pieces like lace blouses and corsets. He continued to push the boundaries of style in his own Peaches era, for which she boldly wore skirts from bubbly fashion brands like Peter Do. With a bold and unconventional approach to style, it’s no wonder he’s one of the biggest influencers in K-Pop fashion.

This article first appeared in Lifestyle Asia Singapore.

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