Top 15 Online Korean Fashion Startups to Watch – Best of 2020

Seoul is becoming the fashion hub of Asia.  Seoul hosts its popular Seoul Fashion week twice a year. Fashion has always been a part of Korean culture and it is now bigger than ever. Online Korean Fashion startups are on the rise as Korean fashion continues to get global recognition. Korea’s startup fashion scene is trending among Korean venture capitalists as well. Record amounts of funding are being raised in Korea for many Korean fashion startups thanks to online shopping and Instagram.

Online Korean Fashion startups are on the rise due to online shopping and social media which connects startups and companies with their customers and also helps trends go viral. Many Korean online fashion startups have a successful social media strategy that allows them to compete with traditional players who lack a digital footprint. The advantage for Korean startups in the fashion industry is their ability to act instantly on feedback for maximum customer satisfaction.

There are exciting things happening in Korean fashion and technology is paving the way for innovation in the retail space. Therefore, this is creating a great opportunity for Korean fashion startups to improve sales, digital merchandising, retail experiences, and the ability to connect with their consumers.

The rankings were comprised by the Seoulz staff and are based on 4 factors:

  • Funding
  • Market Opportunity
  • The innovation of service or product
  • Growth Potential/Scalability

The Top 15 Fashion Startups in Korea

1. StyleShare

StyleShareStyleShare is our choice as the top Fashion Startup in Korea. The platform allows users to learn about the latest popular styles and trends. In addition, users can find out new fashion stories, stylings, and shopping reviews. Furthermore, their feed is updated in real-time and can share your fashion tastes with your friends. The platform can be accessed via mobile and desktop. They have millions of users from over 120 countries. In addition, StyleShare has already been covered by major fashion media like InStyle and VOGUE. It is currently the top mobile fashion app. Therefore, it is becoming Asia’s #1 source for not only fashion but beauty as well.

Think of StyleShare as a social network for fashionistas. It is a great platform to share and discover new fashion styles. The best part is that users can purchase clothes through the StyleShare store. Currently, StyleShare has over 5.5 million registered users. Their latest funding round brought in $21 million from Stonebridge Capital, KB Securities, and several other Korean investors, bringing their total to over $46 million.

StyleShare acquires 29cm

In 2018, StyleShare acquired 29cm, which ranks 3rd on our list. They acquired a 100% stake in the company for $28 million. Both companies are planning to grow together as strategic partners. This is because StyleShare and 29cm have a different customer base.

“The top priority before launching the company was creating a fashion community and now that is what differentiates us from other fashion platforms,” said CEO of StyleShare, Ja-young, Yoon.

2. Womanstalk

Korean Fashion Startup WomanstalkKorean fashion startup Womanstalk is a video commerce platform where influencers can introduce and promote products and gain a share of the sales revenue. Womanstalk benefits suppliers, influencers, and customers. Suppliers get marketing resources, influencers make money, and customers get products at the lowest possible price. Womanstalk started in the beauty industry but now has expanded into the fashion/lifestyle industry. They have over 2 million active monthly users and have over 250,000 products currently displayed on their site.

“More than half of online shoppers are already purchasing products using mobile devices and the most powerful and most produced contents on mobile are videos,” said CEO of Womanstalk, Kim Kang-il.

Womanstalk has over 100 active influencers that promote and sell products by uploading high-quality content on their SNS. Some of these content get over 1 million views. Womanstalk has gotten over $100 million in funding from venture capital firms like Korea Investment Partners, Intervest, IMM, and many more. In addition, the WOMANSTALK BApp (Blockchain Application) will be supported and pre-installed in KlaytnPhone by Ground X.

3.  29CM

Korean online fashion startup 29cmKorean online fashion startup 29cm sells not only sells clothes but also lifestyle goods, home appliances, food, and etc. They started out with fashion to give consumers a unique experience with local Korean fashion brands. They get over 1 million visitors to their site every month.  There are over 2,000 brands on their platform. Their site looks more like a fashion magazine than an eCommerce site. Their mobile app has also won many design awards. Korean fashion mobile app StyleShare is a major stakeholder of 29cm. In addition, they will work together to bring high-quality content and continue to discover new brands and products that will help expand their customer base.

4. GENTLE MONSTER

Gentle Monster GENTLE MONSTER is a Luxury Korean sunglasses and fashion brand. They have done a great job of making sunglasses fashionable by using K-pop stars and adding innovation. Last year, GENTLE MONSTER partnered with Huawei to launch a collection of sunglasses with integrated electronics. It has a device that lets users talk on the phone without putting anything in their ears. The bigger news has been the partnership with BLACKPINK’s Jennie. Last year, Jennie uploaded a cryptic Instagram post hinting at a possible collaboration with GENTLE MONSTER. It was a part of a new campaign featuring top fashion photographer Hugo Comte.

5. W Concept

W Concept Korean Fashion StartupKorean Fashion startup W Concept was launched by the Korean eCommerce platform WIZWID. W Concept is the digital marketplace that introduces independent mostly Korean fashion brands to a wider market. They have also started to integrate independent designers from the U.S. and European markets. W Concept does not hold all its own inventory. Instead, W Concept builds partnerships with independently run brands that don’t have the resources to do retail on a large scale. Once an order is placed the brands themselves send the items to W Concept who then send the item to the customer.

W Concept is now one of the top fashion retail sites in Korea. They have expanded to markets in China, Canada, and the U.S. W Concept has done a great job of finding the right influencers to raise brand awareness. In addition, their social media is one of their best tools for getting their brands out to the masses. They even have a concept store in New York that showcase the designs of limited collections from popular Korean and other Asian designers. Customers can not go home with the items at the pop-up store but they can scan a QR code and have the items delivered to them.

“With the amount of potential in Korean designer brands, that have been in the market for a long time, I’m very happy to see their aesthetic sense and hard work shining through,” said CEO of W Concept’s Cecile Kim.

6. ZIGZAG

Korean Fashion Startup ZIGZAGKorean fashion startup ZIGZAG is an online platform that collects fashion product information from different online shopping malls. In addition, the platform offers suggestions based on its algorithm for optimal recommendations. Their recommendations are based on the data collected from consumer’s shopping patterns. They offer a weekly ranking list that is specialized for each consumer. They also offer the latest fashion trends as well as an option to put items on their wishlist. Furthermore, their app offers a wide range of fashion brands and already has over 10 million downloads. They have already raised over $10 million in funding to date. Their focus for 2020 will be to expand into other regions across Asia.

“We strive to provide a step-by-step service that would help the newly entering shopping websites to adapt to the mobile platform,” said CEO of Croquis Inc. the parent company of ZIGZAG, Jung-hoon Seo.

7. RAWROW

Korean Fashion Startup RAWROWKorean online fashion startup RAWROW is an accessory online shop known for its practical designs. They are known for their backpacks, glasses, and luggage. They became popular in Korea through viral campaigns on Facebook. Furthermore, RAWROW did over $9 million in sales in 2018 and they currently export their products to over 13 different countries like China, Singapore, Japan, and Germany.

RAWROW signed a contract to get funding from Shinsegae International which is the fashion arm of Shinsegae. They will now focus on working with Shinsegae and their expertise in global brand management.

“Securing the management know-how and infrastructure to grow the business further is necessary for startups with brilliant ideas,” said CEO of RAWROW, Lee Eui-hyun.

8. Brich

Korean Fashion Startup BrichFashion startup in Korea Brich is an O2O service delivering the latest Korean fashion trends online. Their goal is to deliver a more personalized shopping experience to consumers. They focus on small Korean fashion labels and have already partnered with over 100 brick and mortar fashion boutiques in trendy areas in Seoul like Gangnam and Apgujeong. Brich gives these independent Korean fashion brands an online outlet. Therefore now shoppers can see their individual items or browse through the entire collection of brands in Brich.

Brich has raised over $6 million in funding from Korean VC firms such as Intervest.

9. LinkShops

LinkshopsLinkShops is a Korean apparel online shopping mall. They have over 1 million items from over 8,000 stores in Dongdaemun, the biggest offline shopping district in Seoul. Retailers can use LinkShops to shop at Dongdaemun 24 hours a day. Furthermore, they connected with thousands of Dongdaemun wholesalers and retailers to sell on their online platform. There is a membership fee for joining the platform. The newest styles are uploaded on LinkShops by wholesalers for retailers to purchase. In addition, LinkShops will help wholesalers remind them of shortages or if items are out of stock. Therefore think of LinkShops are the largest brokerage platform for the Korean fashion industry.

“Linkshops aims to provide a more convenient and efficient service for both parties,” said the Vice-Chairman of Linkshops, Young-Ji Oh.

10. DESIGNNOVEL

DesignnovelKorean startup Designovel is a fashion AI startup that uses data to offer various solutions for fashion companies. Their technology allows companies to create innovative designs/logos by providing them with data and AI solutions. They have already made partnerships with traditional and emerging fashion brands in Korea. In addition, Deisgnovel offers comprehensive reports on the fashion industry.

The company was the winner of the POSCO Idea Marketplace Best Startup Award in 2019. They have worked with Hyundai in the past who used their AI system to design a hoodie.

“While production skills were developing, design skills appeared to remain the same in the fashion industry. And as Korea’s fashion industry largely depends on people’s physical labor, there was little room for technology to join. So we thought our skill could contribute to the industry to make a less labor-intensive environment,” said CEO of Designovel, Shin Ki-young.

11.  Stripes

Korean Fashion Startup StripesKorean Fashion startup Stripes is a Korea-based apparel company that designs and manufactures men’s clothing products. They specialize in offering consumers personalized styling services. Therefore, consumers can personalize their clothes to get the right fit. They have a website as well as an app.  Both allow customers to get tailor-made shirts that fit perfectly. Tens of thousands of measurement data are used to offer the best fit possible. They can even choose their desired fabric. All the data is stored on their platform so customers can reorder with ease.

12.  Swatch On

Korean Online Fabric Shop Swatch OnKorean online fashion startup Swatch On sells a variety of unique, high-quality wholesale fabrics. Their aim is to make the process of fabric sourcing as easy as possible. They offer fabric visual guides and great customer service to make the ordering process simple. Therefore, Swatch On serves as a global community for up and coming fashion designers, as well as provide access to local South Korean fabrics. They have a large selection of over 170,000 products from over 2,000 wholesale suppliers based in Korea. In addition, they offer free fabric samples and if a fabric is out of stock they will recommend the closest match possible.

Their focus for 2020 will be to introduce fabric suggestion tools using AI technology and lower prices. They have a large collection of fabric swatches from Dongdaemun. Furthermore, the data contains a photo, detailed descriptions of the material, and a video of the sample being stretched and squeezed. All of Swatch On’s clients are based outside of Korea. Furthermore, their biggest client is the United States which represents almost half their sales.

13.  Codibook

Korean Fashion Startup CodibookKorean online fashion startup Codibook is an online shop that offers daily tips on the latest Korean fashion trends. Codibook provides several choices and recommendations from other satisfied consumers. They upload new and different styles of fashion items.  Therefore, once a consumer selects an item of clothing, Codibook will provide a variety of choices to go along with that item. Therefore Codibook becomes your very own personal stylist. In addition, they also have a mobile app that allows users to share items with their friends on social media. Codibook is a one-stop-shop for those interested in fashion tips and independent Korean fashion brands.

14. OMNIOUS

OMNIOUSKorean Fashion startup OMNIOUS develops fashion image recognition solutions using AI technology. They are able to recognize tags as well as product features such as color, materials, shapes, and print details. Their AI is called Omnious Tagger and it helps companies manage and analyze catalog with tag data. Therefore, fashion startups so they can offer their online/mobile users with a user-friendly search function and a personalized recommendation feature. OMINOUS Tagger offers an accuracy rate of 95% which is 20% better than global competitors. In addition, they have raised $1 million to date from Korea Investment Partners, Mashup Angels, and Big Basin Capital.

15.  ClosetShare

Korean Fashion startup ClosetshareKorean fashion startup ClosetShare is an app launched by The Closet Company. It allows consumers to earn money by sharing/rent their clothes and accessories in Korea. Therefore, users can share their items on ClosetShare as well as keep track of how much money they have earned and their rental status. In addition, those that apply for both sharing and renting their items are offered shipping and cleaning services through the ClosetShare app. Furthermore, they offer an insurance plan (5,000 won a month) for potential damages or loss of items. Korean VC firm Kakao Ventures has been early investors in Closet Share.

Closet Share is an exclusively domestic clothes sharing service that allows one to earn money by sharing one’s closet. We provide a fashion sharing experience that anyone can enjoy easily through updated services, including enhanced search functions and curation based on AI,” said CEO of The Closet Company, Juhee Seong.

HONORABLE MENTION

BALAAN

Korean Fashion Startup BALAANKorean fashion startup BALAAN is a platform that allows you to get the latest luxury goods in just 3 days at a lower price than overseas. The reason they are able to do this because BALAAN has made contracts with many European local boutique stores. In addition, they offer a wide range of luxury items for both men and women. Therefore, they sell everything from clothes to accessories to jewelry.

The Hair Suit Match

The Hair Suit MatchKorean Men’s Fashion startup The Hair Suit Match focuses on the craftsmanship of Korean wigs. Korean wigs are considered among the world’s best. There is less stigma about wearing wigs in the U.S. and China. Therefore, The Hair Suit Match does not only focus on wigs but also the style. In addition, the startup is affiliated with Premium Barber Shop. In addition, customers will get all the fittings, styling, scalp care, and shaving spa services in a private space.