Editor’s note: With the good, the bad and the ugly, “Look of the Week” is a regular series dedicated to unboxing the most talked about outfit of the past seven days.
Closing out the second day of this year’s Coachella, K-Pop girl group Blackpink made history on Saturday night when they became the first Asian group to ever headline the festival. For a crowd of reportedly over 125,000 people, Jennie, Jisoo, Lisa and Rosé used the groundbreaking moment to pay homage to Korean heritage by arriving on stage in hanboks: a traditional type of clothing.
As the garments were thrown off their shoulders seconds into their opening track ‘Pink Venom’, revealing each member’s custom black and pink Dolce and Gabbana outfit, fans around the world had already gotten the message. Screenshots of the moment quickly spread among Blackpink superfans, otherwise known as Blinks. “The way they stepped onto the biggest western hanbok stage…literally proved their place at the top of the industry,” tweeted a Blink. “Blackpink really are in a league of their own.”
Another called the group “Korea’s cultural delegation” on Instagram, referring not only to the hanboks but other visual cues incorporated into their performance, such as one of the stage backdrops featuring an angular tile roof reminiscent of traditional Korean architecture.
In recent years, Blackpink has enjoyed a meteoric rise to global fame. Conformable Guinness World Records, are currently the most listened to female group on Spotify and have the most viewed music channel on YouTube. Last year, they were the first female K-Pop group to reach No. 1 on the UK and US album charts, and in 2020, their track “How You Like That” became the most viewed video on YouTube in 24 hours . (The group also wore modernized hanboks designed by Kim Danha in one of the music video’s scenes.) Their weekend milestone was actually a continuation of another milestone: In 2019, they became the first female K-Pop. group to ever perform at Coachella or any other festival in the US.
From the iconic Jean Paul Gaultier bra worn by Madonna for the 1990 Blond Ambition Tour to Geri ‘Ginger Spice’ Halliwell’s Union Jack mini dress, the right stage outfit can live forever in the public memory. Especially when worn in a career-defining moment. During another Coachella performance — Beyonce’s 2018 headline show — the Balmain singer’s custom yellow hoodie was a nod to black culture, particularly historically black colleges and universities.
The group’s four black hanboks were custom-made by South Korean design brand OUWR and traditional Korean tailors Kumdanje. Inspired by the Cheol-lik silhouette, each garment was hand-embroidered with traditional Korean metallic motifs, including dan-cheong patterns and peonies (a symbol of royalty in Korea). “It was a pleasure and an honor for us to be able to show the beautiful values of Korea and Hanbok together,” say the designers. wrote in a combined Instagram post. “Blackpink showed the beauty of Korea and stunned the world.”
In Korea, hanboks are still worn for special occasions and often seen on TV dramas. Many designers in the country have also created contemporary designs that are incorporated into everyday wear. At Seoul Fashion Week, JULYCOLUMN’s Fall/Winter 2023 collection drew on the voluminous silhouette of the hanbok to create structured shirts and jackets. Last September, Korean brand BlueTamburin brought the garments to a Western audience, using exclusively traditional hanbok fabrics to create its spring-summer 2023 collection at Milan Fashion Week.
Whether you’re a devoted Blink or not, the look marked a moment of Asian visibility, recognition of traditional craftsmanship, and a powerful example of feeling seen through fashion—representing Korean culture and symbolically embracing both its past and future.
At the end of the show, and after addressing the audience between numbers in English throughout their two-hour performance, Blackpink ended their set in Korean: “So far, it’s been Jennie, Jisoo, Lisa, and Rosé Blackpink. Thank you.”
Top image: Blackpink perform during the first weekend of Coachella 2023 shortly after taking off their hanboks.