Profile on Korean Influence in London’s High Street Stores

Written by on December 26, 2012 in Brands & Products, Special Report

Over the last year, a Korean influence has swept across London’s high streets. Whether on a retail therapy spree, Christmas shopping or just doing the weekly supermarket run, these Korean touches add excitement to London shopping. Here are just a few of them:

Accessories

London’s gone crazy for K-accessories! The trend dominating the high street this season is animal hats- a look that Koreans were sporting years ago. Now high street giants New Look and Accessorize, as well as budget fashion chains Primark and Peacocks have stocked their shelves with these winter warmers, and Londoners are looking cuter than ever.

Animal hats in Peacocks

Another accessory that has caught on is the phone charm. These are available from 99p from Primark, and are adorable as well as functional (we can all find our phones in our handbags far easier now!) Let’s hope other stores continue this trend- we want a full assortment of charms to decorate our otherwise drab phones.

Phone charms in Primark 

Stationery

At last, Londoners can find a lighter side to working or studying. Taking inspiration from Korea and Japan, where education is king, top stationery retailer Paperchase has led the way in brightening our writing materials. Who wouldn’t want a smiley-faced toadstool bookmark or dolly-patterned notebook to add an element of fun to their work? WHSmith and Tesco are starting to follow in Paperchase’s footsteps with some fun and colourful items (we’ve yet to spot any in Ryman, probably the most well-known stationer and office supplier, though.)

Cute stationery in Paperchase

Paperchase’s colourful, K-style notebooks

Food

Following the recent popularity of, and hype surrounding Korean food, Korean ingredients and brands have found their place in the fridges and kitchen cupboards of Londoners. However until very recently, the only place to buy Shin Ramyun was in a Korean store or Asian supermarket. Now, two leading supermarkets, Tesco and Asda, include Korean items in their World Foods sections. Available products include instant kimchi noodles, Pepero and seasoned seaweed. We can’t wait for the range to expand!

Kimchi noodles in Tesco

Korean products in Asda

Beauty

The beauty buzzword circulating London in 2012 has been “BB Cream” (“Blemish Balm” -or sometimes “Beauty Balm”- that combines moisturiser, SPF sun cream and foundation coverage in one.) Although this wonder-product was invented by a German dermatologist, it was the Korean market that brought it to the fore, and it has been a staple of the beauty regime of many Korean women (and men) since the 1980s. The flawless skin of Korean actresses is a perfect advertisement for the product!

Garnier BB cream in Boots

It’s now found its way onto the shelves of go-to beauty stores Boots and The Body Shop. For us busy Londoners, it’s an affordable, convenient addition to our make-up bags. UK Vogue agrees, and recently published a list of 10 Best BB Creams.

Music and DVDs

There’s an ever-growing market for K-pop CDs here in London, and HMV Oxford Street have been the first to recognise and cater for this. A selection of what’s currently in stock in their K-pop section includes Exo-K “Mama”, Shinee “Sherlock” and Super Junior “Mr Simple”.

As well as enabling London K-pop fans to purchase CDs instantly, in person and in their home town (rather than ordering online from Korea), this HMV branch has also become a K-pop hub. They facilitate DJ and flashmob-style dance events, and have created the Twitter handle @HmvKpop to keep fans updated with what’s in stock (and in turn to listen to what the demand is).

Korean cinema has also caught the imagination of Londoners, and a small yet varied range of Korean DVDs can be found in HMV and Fopp stores across London. The London Korean Film Festival (held in November) increases in popularity every year, and is a brilliant platform for K-film. Fopp in Shaftesbury Avenue created a temporary Korean Cinema section to coincide with the fest.

Korean DVDs in Fopp’s World Cinema section

Whether an immediate impact or a gradual affect spanning years, Korean style, products and culture are fast-becoming an everyday part of the London shopping experience. Londoners who already have an association with Korea will find pleasure and nostalgia in the influences mentioned above, while K-newbies may find a new affinity with them. London is a melting pot for many cultures and characters; Korean being just one; and this is what makes it such a welcoming and unique place to be. Let’s see which influences will next be embraced by London’s high streets.

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About the Author

Anne Cole

Annie Cole lives in South London, UK, but her heart and soul remain in Korea. After returning from a teaching year in 2009, she began to record her memories, thoughts and reviews on various blogs. She is a vegetarian foodie and a lover of horror films, indie culture, modern art, interesting literature, kooky fashion and anything cutesie. She has made it her mission to seek out, enjoy and share all things London/Korean.