The members of K-pop group NCT 127 are, without a doubt, the rising stars of the fashion world. With nine members making big moves collectively and individually, the group has in recent years ascended the ranks of the high fashion realm. NCT 127, however, has been making bold and unique wardrobe choices long before catching the eye of the fashion crowd. Even prior to the bloom of ”fashtainment,” the South Korean boyband had already distinguished itself by introducing a not-so-mainstream style approach with every new music release. Ahead, find out how NCT 127 became K-pop’s kings of niche IYKYK (If You Know You Know) fashion.
NCT 127’s IYKYK Fashion and Trendsetting Style
But first things first, what is IYKYK fashion? Late fashion designer Virgil Abloh often referred to the dichotomy between the insider and the outsider with his own terminology: “Tourist vs. Purist.” The outsider or tourist is an “un-jaded enthusiast, wide-eyed about new discoveries.” Meanwhile, the insider or purist is an expert who knows “everything about everything” and is out to look for the rarest examples of a given subject. IYKYK fashion basically refers to the fashion sported by the latest—the purists, the in-the-know fashionistas.
Oftentimes IYKYK fashion is reduced to who knows enough about the industry, understands a designer’s creative universe, and has “enough taste” to sport relatively “unknown” brands in the mainstream. However, NCT 127’s experimental chops and trendsetter—ahead of its time—sound have allowed the group to dive into the fashion world in a nontraditional way. Take as an example their 2020 music video for “Punch” where the nine-member act anticipated the return of punk-inspired fashion and simultaneously foresaw the rise of biker and racer core—both trends predominant in the current fashion landscape.
Following this spirit, NCT 127 continues to incorporate a wide variety of fashion brands into its style repertoire. While we might be acquainted with names such as Prada, CELINE, and Dior, the group has also flaunted the best of cult fashion, including names such as Rick Owens, Ann Demeulemeester, and Kiko Kostadinov. Here’s a look at the brands that have contributed to solidifying NCT 127’s reputation as fashion trailblazers.
A favorite among fashion professionals—including fashion photographer Adam Katz Sinding—Kiko Kostadinov is one of the most exciting “cultish” labels in Europe. Hailing from Bulgaria, Kostadinov has shaken up the London fashion scene with collections that stand out for their experimental detailing and unique garment construction. In 2018, when the designer was just cementing his place among the menswear elite, his collection “Obscured by Clouds” was featured in NCT 127’s visually enticing “Simon Says.” Considered one of the most fashion-forward music videos in NCT’s catalog, “Simon Says” marked the group’s first rapprochement to Kostadinov’s designs. Nowadays, the brand is a fixture in NCT 127’s off-stage wardrobes. For instance, Taeyong and Mark have been spotted wearing Kiko Kostadinov’s T-shirts, pullovers, and super coveted kicks on social media and in dance practice videos.
Despite its long history and current recognition, Rick Owens remains one of the most idiosyncratic fashion brands. With a cult-like following, the Paris-based label caters to a special demographic: those who are unafraid of defying the status quo. Although Rick Owens can hardly be considered an “unknown brand,” its aesthetics are still far from accommodating to the masses. Considering NCT 127’s discography, it only appears fitting that the group often taps the brand’s designs to showcase their daring concepts. Among the most notable examples is the styling for their performance at Global Citizen’s VAX LIVE concert, where they performed “Kick It.” More recently, in his first airport appearance since 2019, member Mark Lee flaunted his style dexterity fully decked in a Rick Owens look.
While NCT die-hard fans might recognize PETER DO as the American label responsible for Johnny Suh’s Met Gala debut, the brand is well-known in the fashion circles as a favorite of insiders. Led by Vietnamese designer Peter Do, the American collective has redefined utilitarian luxury and amassed a knowledgeable following that includes Vogue writer José Criales Unzueta. Although PETER DO has quickly racked up celebrity clients, NCT 127 was one of the first K-pop groups to don the fashion brand in the music video for “Sticker.” Afterward, Peter Do’s futuristic and avant-garde designs made waves online when NCT 127’s member, Johnny, strutted down the Met Gala red carpet in an exclusive look from the label. Naturally, Johnny is now a brand ambassador of sorts and never misses a chance to sport PETER DO’s iconic Dumpling Shoulder Bag.
A$AP Mob might have a song titled “RAF”—which not only puts Raf Simons on the mainstream radar but also raises hesitation about the niche status of his label—but the Belge designer’s unorthodox aesthetics secure him a place on this list. While Simons has explored a more commercial style at the helm of Calvin Klein and Prada, his eponymous brand is still noted for its “niche appeal.” Often inspired by pop culture staples and music genres such as rock ‘n roll and techno, Raf Simon appears an evident fashion choice for NCT 127’s experimental styling. The building up toward the release of their album Sticker, for example, saw NCT 127 rock full looks from Raf Simons’ Spring 2012 collection, “Teenage Dream.” A cinematic pandering, the post-modernist looks not only made for a striking fashion statement but also helped to further consolidate the group’s title of well-informed fashionistas.
Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester
Members of the collective known as Antwerp Six—six graduates from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp—Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester belong to the fashion wall of fame. Not only known for their peculiar history, but also their risk-taking ethos, the designers have made their eponymous brands some of the most celebrated independent fashion houses. It goes without saying that their creations could bust out a fashion moment anytime. That’s particularly true whenever NCT 127 sports garments from the Belge labels. Take a look at the group’s teasers and music video for “Regular,” where the group sported a high fashion assortment of black looks combining Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester with brands such as Yohji Yamamoto and Saint Laurent. Likewise, members Taeyong and Yuta wore items from Ann Demeulemeester for the group’s press appearances during their 2019 NEO CITY – The Origin tour. Among many other examples, in 2021, ahead of the release of “Favorite,” NCT 127 also dropped “POETIC” picture teasers where they were clad in Dries Van Noten’s ensembles.
NCT 127’s Ever-Evolving Style
In addition to the aforementioned brands, the nine-member act boasts a long list of standout fashion moments courtesy of IYKYK brands. Dressed in a plethora of niche designers, from Chitose Abe’s sacai to “the young designer with a small but devoted following” Ludovic de Saint Sernin, NCT 127 never fail to showcase their fashion diversity.
Yes, we all love to see the members of NCT 127 bring their fashion A-game with their well-established associations to legacy houses—sitting front row at shows and fronting fashion magazines. However, if there is a moment where the group is living up to its name—Neo Culture Technology—it definitely is when they’re testing their versatility and veering to the unexplored flanks of fashion. It is what truly makes NCT 127 a force to be reckoned with.
Want to dig deeper into NCT 127’s status as Fashion Darlings? Check out how the group made its way to the hearts of the fashion crowd here.