K-Pop Girl Group Red Velvet’s Style Evolution

For a K-Pop group, visuals — be it through graphic and production design or styling and makeup — are equally as important as the music. Entertainment agencies place a lot of thought into nailing down a group’s EP or album release theme, commonly referred to as a ‘concept’. Every minute detail, from the album packaging to the color of a member’s nail polish, is the product of months of careful planning. In some cases, it is the concept that dictates how an upcoming release is going to sound and feel.

In the teaser for girl group Red Velvet’s last comeback for “The ReVe Festival: The Finale”, the members don long white veils over ghostly white (and in Wendy’s case, black) dresses, standing against what seems to be a dark forest while gazing eerily at the camera. While the poster didn’t explicitly give any details, the image alone was enough to communicate that this would most likely be a ‘Velvet’ concept.

Red Velvet was dubbed by Billboard as “the standard-bearer for girl groups’ conceptual versatility” due to their tendency to blur the lines between the cute and sexy concepts common to K-Pop girl groups. When the group debuted, it was revealed that they wouldn’t be boxed into a cute or sexy label, instead hinging on an overarching concept of duality. The ‘Red’ concept is meant to show their bright, bold, and abstract side, and the ‘Velvet’ concept is supposed to show their more elegant and mature side.

Gissella Ramirez-Valle, editor of Seoul-based fashion & culture magazine Mutzine, observes that K-Pop music video styling has become much more sophisticated over the years. “Korean society’s fashion taste has matured and mellowed out in a way, and they now value quality much more,” she says, pointing to how the music video looks tend to take on a more editorial feel these days.

A Red Velvet comeback music video typically introduces an average of three to four looks per member, with each look meant to reflect their unique personalities. These outfits also feature heavily in their album photoshoots (normally laid out just like a fashion editorial) and music stage performances.

“It’s not an RV come back if they don’t mix high fashion with fast,” says Rose, a fan who runs the @stylebyredvelvet style archive account on Instagram and Twitter. While they favor big names like Balenciaga, Prada, Gucci, Miu Miu, and other prominent Korean brands like YCH and SJYP, some of their looks incorporate fast fashion pieces from Forever 21, Zara, Dolls Kill, and H&M. Rose has been taking note of every single one of their outfits — onstage and offstage — since the Summer Magic era, and one thing she’s noticed is that the group’s stylists introduce new brands every comeback.

Gissella sees the reason for the investment in designer brands as deliberate. “The fashion conveys the personality of the song they are promoting. At the very least, you can see how much money was invested into the project by how the group is styled,” she says.

Similarly, while the styles that they showcase each time are consistently ahead of the trend and feature a couple of recurring motifs, like lace, gingham, school uniforms/tennis skirts, and cheerleader/sports uniforms, the group’s styling is just as unpredictable as their concepts. “You can’t put RV’s style in one box because they’re always full of surprises!” adds Rose.

Ahead of the release of Irene and Seulgi’s “Monster” mini-album, we go through some of Red Velvet’s most notable comeback style moments, from 2014’s “Happiness” to 2019’s “Psycho”.

2019

In 2019, Red Velvet released the ReVe Festival series, a trilogy consisting of two EPs and a repackaged album. To reflect the summer season, bright colors and crazy prints were all over the first two music videos.

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