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Ugly Chic trend leads to happiness, drives sales
2019-03-18
The idea that everyone is beautiful regardless of their body size or height is changing how people consume.

Kim Hye-ryoen, who is in her 20s and lives in Jung District, central Seoul, gave a bralette to a close friend as a birthday gift last year. Bralettes are wireless and have less padding.

“I wore padded bras for over 10 years, so I wanted to give my friend the same sense of comfort I have felt wearing bralettes,” said Kim.

Cho, an office worker in her 20s, usually enjoys wearing leggings. A few years ago, she was reluctant to wear clothes that were too revealing. 

“I thought the clothes were only suitable for slim people before, but recently I started to love myself for who I am, so I started to wear comfortable leggings frequently.”

Positivity is becoming a new keyword in the consumer market. It means loving one’s body regardless of weight or body type. Nanaland is a new word adopted for the movement. It is borrowed from the movie La La Land and means we need to live in a world where “I,” “na” in Korean, am the center.

As positivity takes the country by storm, items in the fashion world that reflect positivity are trending. This phenomenon is particularly apparent in the market for underwear. Comfortable underwear true to its function is eclipsing products with fancy designs that accentuate the body line. 

According to shopping site G9, the sales volume of bras, including bralettes, increased 186 percent in the recent month compared to the same period a year earlier. The sales volume for wireless bras increased 20 percent, while the sales of push-up bras decreased 32 percent. As awareness about bralettes increases, a variety of products are being launched.

Shoe styles are also following this trend. While sales of shoes with high heels are diminishing, the demand for low-heeled loafers is increasing. 

According to G9, sales of loafers for women during a recent month increased 141 percent, while sales for men’s loafers rose 100 percent. 

The sales volume of low-heeled comfort shoes increased 350 percent for women and 50 percent for men. The sale of high-heeled pumps for women decreased 53 percent. 

The trend of being body positive is not confined to women. 

Freedom from traditional standards - like “men have to be taller than 1.80 meters [5 feet 10 inches],” or “old is not beautiful” - is becoming the rule.

According to G9, the sales volume for shoe insoles from last month decreased 59 percent. Fashion sites including “Smallman” and “Byslim,” for men who see themselves as cool even though they are not very tall, are thriving. The sales of Smallman exceeded 10 billion won ($8.80 million) last year, increasing 10 percent on year. 

Im, a 28-year-old job seeker who lives in Songpa District, southern Seoul, said that he had worn insoles since high school. All of a sudden, he felt that it didn’t matter.

“I decided to be a better person to someone who loves me as who I am and said goodbye to insoles,” added Im. 

“Ordinary” models are starting to replace tall, young models in TV commercials. Plus-sized models and older models are increasingly found in catalogs. It is a phenomenon that emerged after the public got tired of monotonous beauty. Now they are falling in love with a new concept: ugly chic.

“Two years ago, books related to self-esteem became best-sellers, and people started to look after themselves,” said Choi Ji-hye, a researcher at the Consumer Trend Center of Seoul National University. 

“As people reflect on themselves, I think they are trying to accept themselves as they are.”

“This trend is related to the recent trend of consuming small things that make people happy,” he added. 
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