North Korea’s ruling Kim family are certainly known all around the world. While they may be more infamous for running one of the world’s most brutal and oppressive regimes -- and even threatening to wage nuclear war against various assorted enemies --, they may have also been responsible for birthing one of Fall 2013’s most unexpected fashion trends: “North Korea chic.”
Fall fashion is in full swing, with many people sporting trendy military-inspired clothing. According to Elle Magazine’s Creative Director and fashion-stylist-turned-media-personality Joe Zee, a look that he has dubbed “North Korea chic” is one of this season’s biggest trends. “Some iteration of the military trend stomps the runway every few seasons. This time, it’s edgier, even dangerous, with sharp buckles and clasps and take-no-prisoners tailoring,” Zee wrote in his “A-to-Zee” trend report column in August.
Some of the suggested pieces designed to achieve such a 'Pyongyang' look include a pair of strappy gold high heels, featuring chunky buckles by Nepalese-American designer Prabal Gurung, retailing for $1,690 and a pair of $425 camouflage pants from online retailer ShopBop.com.
Though North Korea’s elite have been spotted with expensive and even designer goods, like current leader Kim Jong Un’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, who was photographed carrying a designer Christian Dior bag at an official event, achieving the Elle Magazine’s version of their local style is pretty much unattainable for most citizens of the pariah nation. Outside of capital city Pyongyang, where most of the country’s rich and well-connected reside, reports of crippling famine, crumbling infrastructure and a failing economy plague North Korean citizens. (According to USNews, the average North Korean family has an annual income of about $900).
Also, while thousand-dollar high-heel shoes are not only overpriced for even the privileged North Korean and also impractical, it seems that some North Koreans are able to get a few of life’s luxuries. The Kim family may be the only people in the country with a fleet of private yachts, but things may be changing for other elite and members of the isolated nation in a material sense. For example, North Korea has developed a locally made tablet device, the Samjiyon. In addition, according to a report by Time Magazine, in Pyongyang a market for more cutting edge fashion as emerged with the opening if a number of boutiques -- dressing the capital in high quality threads, especially compared to the rest of the nation. “The change has been most obvious over the last couple of years,” Simon Cockerell, General Manager of Koryo Tours, a Beijing-based travel agency that brings tourists to North Korea, told Time. “There is more stuff to buy,” he says, adding, “There were always clothes available, but now there are nicer and better clothes.”
Of course, this is not the first time that a Communist state has inspired fashion trends in the west -- in the 1960s, for example, Che Guevara's beret became a required accessory for young hipsters from Paris to Los Angeles.