Why K-Pop’s NCT Has Limitless Fashion Potential

There are now more K-pop stars than ever fighting for their share of the global stage, empowered by social media and a hungry international fanbase. Of the many rising groups, one stands out as far as fashion is concerned: NCT, a one-year-old boy band whose experimental premise suggests exciting style potential.

NCT is, according to their label SM Entertainment, limitless by definition: A limitless number of members, divided into limitless “teams” or subunits that hit different aesthetic beats. NCT stands for Neo Culture Technology, and they do in fact have a single titled “Limitless,” from the Seoul-based sub-unit NCT 127. Though that might feel a little corporate, the concept is more intriguing in practice, especially when it comes to the clothes. Last weekend, NCT 127 came to KCon New York’s Korean pop culture festival and took the stage in a hodgepodge of abstract printed suits and cherry red athleisure to promote their new single and mini-album, Cherry Bomb; on that new album’s poster, they feature a range of high fashion and streetwear, from Alyx’s white cropped denim coat with gingham pajama pants to a Louis Vuitton varsity jacket and beret from the recent Fragment collaboration.

Photo: Courtesy of SM Entertainment​

Compare this, says NCT 127’s Johnny, to subunit NCT Dream, whose youth-driven concept falls more in Alessandro Michele’s wheelhouse and demands boy shorts and jewel-toned Gucci sweaters. “NCT Dream is filled by members from ages 15 to about 18, so you can tell the clothes are a little cuter,” he explains. “NCT 127 is maybe a little ahead of what’s been seen in Korea. If you look at what we’re wearing, you might think it doesn’t match, but it does.” It does in effect give NCT a chameleonic quality, allowing them to directly use clothes to express different personas—what makes fashion fun in the first place.

It’s no wonder that Korean designers have begun to take note. At Supercomma B’s Fall 2017 show, Johnny, Taeyong, Jaehyun, and Winwin sat front row in simple logo tees and windbreakers, drawing an excited flurry of camera flashes; to shoot the brand’s campaign prior, members were dressed in slick street separates and tasked to dance. Their exposure to eclectic fashion has filtered into their own lives, too. “From wearing such unique clothes, I no longer think ‘Oh, that doesn’t go together,’ ” Jaehyun added, laughing. One might say that the possibilities are limitless.