3 Fashion Secrets from North Korea


Elliot Leavy

Last week the Winter Olympic games kicked off in South Korea. A merry occasion, the Games were galvanised by the participation of North Korea in what was deemed a huge relieving of tensions on the peninsula. However, according to most major news outlets, it was one particular North Korean who stole the show:

They marveled at her barely-there makeup and her lack of bling. They commented on her plain black outfits and simple purse. They noted the flower-shaped clip that kept her hair back in a no-nonsense style. 

Here she was, a political princess, but the North Korean “first sister” had none of the hallmarks of power and wealth that Koreans south of the divide have come to expect. In looks-obsessed South Korea, many 20-something women list plastic surgery and brand-name bags as life goals.
— Anna Fifield, The Washington Post (10/02/18)

Who was this superstar who had the world's press weaker in the knees than Otto Warmbier? This fetch fashionista that was rocking it hotter than Bikini Atoll? This beacon of beauty from the naughty North? It was none other than Kim Jo Yung – the North East Asian leader's little sis' and Head of Propaganda (and of looking fine).  

💋What a Bae 💋

💋What a Bae 💋

Which made us think? London, Paris, New York, Milan – Pyongyang? It has a ring to it. In a country that has outright banned fashion magazines, where did Jo Yung get a parasol that size to throw such shade on those shallow Southerners? What else could the Fashion Police state be hiding from us?

We have so many questions, and I'm sure that you do too: here are 3 fashion secrets from the land of Kim.

A young Kim Jong Un moments prior to Barry Lategan's famous shot which landed him on the cover of V Magazine (1966) – making him famous.

A young Kim Jong Un moments prior to Barry Lategan's famous shot which landed him on the cover of V Magazine (1966) – making him famous.

3: The Brylcreem crest

In the North, the Kim family have always run things, and, when it comes to fashion, it's been no different. Not to be upstaged by his late father Kim Jong Il or his on-fleek sister Kim Jo Yung, Kim Jong Un has been putting the Supreme in Supreme Leader since his inauguration back in 2011. Channeling '50s slick-back style together with '80s volume, Kim single-handedly launched life back into the retro hair brand Brylcreem faster than a dissenter out of an anti-aircraft gun.

Brylcreem online advertisement (2012).

Brylcreem online advertisement (2012).

Kim Jong Un's ill look, the Brylcreem Crest, was so successful that he had to ban his nation from catting his style some time in 2017. (But don't worry, you can still get it over here).

2. Ray-ban revival 

If you walk down the street in London, Paris or Pyongyang today, you'll notice anyone with even an atom of trendiness in their being is sporting perhaps the world's most iconic shades: Ray-Bans. Nowadays, if you lost your Ray-Bans you'd be pretty pissed off – but it wasn't always that way... 

Back in 1999, the brand was in a shambles, with its once-pioneering wares on sale for less than the cost of getting a handy from a Southend slapper, Ray-Ban was in crisis. A shadow was forming over the shades company. But, just when it seemed like the sun was setting on Ray-Ban forever, something big happened:

This guy.

This guy.

Within months of Kim Jong Il's appearance in his signature shades. Profits soared and Jesus wept – Lazarus (Ray Ban) was resurrect. Just don't expect Ray-Ban to give him any credit any time soon.


Size-zero models have found themselves shafted today as the Western world has come to realise that it is anorexia, not obesity, that is the most dangerous body image to be promoting to impressionable youngsters. But back in the late nineties, and throughout the noughties, it was THE disorder to have if you were a cool cat or on the cat walk. And where do you think we got that idea from? You guessed it, the big N.K. Here's British model Tyra Moss speaking to '90s staple fashion and beauty magazine MADE UP! at the time. 

Yeah, well, the agency’s designers got it all from NK, it’s wild over there. Everyone, no matter where you are is size zero, the clothes just hang off in the most unique way. It’s not about the individual at all, it’s just all about the fashion. Sometimes you see kids trying to rip the clothes off each other’s backs, they’re crazy about fashion over there.
— Tyra Moss, MADE UP! Magazine (April, 1999).

Unsurprisingly, and in typical Capitalist dog fashion, it was America who eventually began eating away at the respect for the size-zero models, promoting their body positive propaganda in fashion magazines the world over. Luckily for all you fashionistas out there, the Kim family just don't quit and are going as strong as ever. You can continue to sleep easy in the knowledge that we will be bamboozled by their dazzle for years to come. 

Here's to you Dear Leader. Can't wait for what your SS18 holds.