Look of the Week: Blackpink headline Coachella in Korean hanboks
Bringing the second day of this year’s Coachella to a close, K-Pop girl group Blackpink made history Saturday night when they became the first Asian act to ever headline the festival. To a crowd of, reportedly, over 125,000 people, Jennie, Jisoo, Lisa and Rosé used the ground-breaking moment to pay homage to Korean heritage by arriving onstage in hanboks: a traditional type of dress.
Designed by OUWR and Kumdanje, the hanboks were inspired by the Cheol-lik silhouette. Credit: Kumdanje/OUW
Another called the group “Korea’s cultural delegation” on Instagram, in reference to not only the hanboks but other visual cues incorporated into their show, such as one of the stage backdrops featuring an angular tiled roof reminiscent of traditional Korean architecture.
From the iconic Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra worn by Madonna for her 1990 Blond Ambition tour to Geri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell’s Union Jack mini dress, the right stage costume can live on forever in public memory. Particularly when worn at a career-defining moment. During another watershed Coachella performance — Beyonce’s 2018 headline set — the singer’s custom Balmain collegiate-style yellow hoodie was a joyful nod to Black culture, specifically historically Black colleagues and universities.
The stage design was another acknowledgement of Korean heritage. Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
In Korea, hanboks are still worn for special occasions and often seen on TV dramas. Many designers in the country have also created contemporary takes that are incorporated into everyday wear. At Seoul Fashion Week, JULYCOLUMN’s Fall-Winter 2023 collection drew on the hanbok’s voluminous silhouette to create shirts and structured jackets. Last September, Korean label BlueTamburin brought the garment to a Western audience by exclusively using traditional hanbok fabric to create its Spring-Summer 2023 collection at Milan Fashion Week.
Whether you’re a devoted Blink or not, the looks 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 their performance, and having addressed the audience between numbers in English throughout their two-hour-long performance, Blackpink finished their set in Korean: “Until now, it has been Jennie, Jisoo, Lisa, and Rosé Blackpink. Thank you.”
Top image: Blackpink performing at the first weekend of Coachella 2023, shortly after removing their hanboks.