N.K. women waking up to fashion following leader’s wife’s example: think tank

SEOUL-- A fashion industry is taking shape in North Korea thanks to the country's "first lady" Ri Sol-ju and an all-women band who are changing what was a dour, uniformity-driven industry into a more trendy sector, a local think tank said Tuesday.

Ri, the wife of North Korea's top leader Kim Jong-un, has often been photographed in modern western-style clothes, including short skirts and handbags resembling high-end brands. Members of Moranbong, the singing and dancing band of women created by Kim, were seen breaking tradition with their short-hemmed, glittery stage clothes.

According to KDB Future Strategy Research Institute, their public appearance has created a new perception of clothing for North Korean women, who have already started mimicking the fashions they see on contraband South Korean TV dramas and films.

The North's imports of precious metals and fashion accessories doubled from US$832,000 in 2012 to $1.73 million in 2015, the institute, affiliated with Korea Development Bank (KDB), said. Synthetic fabric is being replaced by natural substitutes that are softer to the touch and are easier to dye, and mass-produced factory clothing is giving way to custom-tailored attire, according to the institute.

While the state used to supply cheap clothing of uniform design, manufacturers are now taking orders for clothes popularized by fashion shows or from displays, it said.

These changes are significant compared to the past when out-of-the-norm attire was interpreted as ideological deviation and any English letters or South Korean labels on clothing were strictly prohibited. They also indicate that North Korea is shifting from a standardized society to one where personal expressions are permitted, the institute said.

The KDB agency said that the fashion industry will grow more in large cities that have textile mills and private craftsmen.

The changes, however, will be slow, it said, because a dress code is still heavily enforced and trendy fashion is limited to the country's rich elites.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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