Mizoram youth going K-razy

By Jessica Tochh

If you think Shillong is the undisputed fashion capital of the North East, think again and go for a reality check. Missed Mizoram on the check list? Well, that will be quite a sin if we are talking fashion because this northeastern state has been steadily rising in popularity and has gained a reputation for its high standard in fashion.

From fashion shows, festivals to cosplay events, Mizoram has been actively showing its creative side in the field of fashion, and much of the credit goes to the influence of Korean culture that has a deep impact on the youth in the state.

It all started with Korean dramas and series, followed by the K-pop culture. Now, the youth in Mizoram are riding on the Korean wave. From apparel, accessories, topics of conversation, restaurant themes to stationaries, one can clearly see the influence of South Korea’s entertainment industry on the youth of the state.

With the youth’s fashion so on point, you can see even children from various age groups dressing up and rocking their outfits like models.

Catherine Hmar, who is greatly influenced by the K-culture, says, “I think around 2010, it was the western culture that inspired majority of the population’s fashion choices but slowly hairstyles started to be copied from K-dramas or K-pop music videos, though some were still ‘emo’ (emotional; emo is a rock music genre) even in early 2014, that was when it actually became big I think BTS hit everywhere, everyone was wearing fake HBAs and what not. I think most Mizo youth of today have their own aesthetic or style now, the soft boys, the clean-cut ones, the soft girls, some grunge, most of these were inspired by ulzzangs (South Korean for good-looking).”

The Korean fashionistas and young celebrities are creating a stir especially for their simple but innovative methods of redefining the existing fashion.

Josephine Lalremmawii takes her fashion inspiration from Korean singer Park Jimin. “Since it can be rather daunting to keep up with the styles and trends being set by celebrities and the world’s goliath fashion scene, with the Korean minimalist style like layering garments, accessorising and mix-matching clothes, you can create a simple but unique outfit,” she says about what’s in vogue.

“Especially, how they would style their hair with different kind of clips is so cute which could probably make you a little bit less mediocre. And their minimal makeup which gives you a natural but sweet and a bit of sassy look which is amazing,” the 21-year-old is excited to explain the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of the trend.

Josephine, who was initially sceptical about the K-trend, had to make some effort to fit into the culture. It was not that difficult as the Korean fashion shuns esotericism and embraces street style.

“I learnt colour blocking and matching my outfits through watching Korean idols slaying and pulling off every type of style I could think of. I also learnt that costly and branded clothes aren’t a necessity. I thought Adidas and Nike T-shirts were the peak/top tier fashion and I would beg my parents for it. But now most of my outfits are thrifted or I just take a look at my father’s wardrobe and try the ‘oversized’ look,” said the exploring fashinista from Aizawl.

The youths whom the reporter spoke to are of the opinion that the K-culture has busted many myths about fashion. Josephine says she changed her opinion about white shoes after watching Korean celebrities. “I used to think they were such a burden to clean and take care of, but they never go wrong. It doesn’t have to be branded or classy. A clean white canvas shoe on an outfit never goes wrong,” she says.

Talking about white shoes, the style statement was made back in the seventies when Bollywood star Jitendra, nicknamed ‘the jumping jack’ for his dance moves, flaunted his shiny white boots on the dance floor.

“Everyone has their own special and unique style. It’s your mindset and confidence in what you wear that creates that your own aesthetic,” aptly says 20-year-old Benjamin Ralte.

The culture, however popular, has its dark side too. According to Catherine, the K-wave promotes “colourism”.

“Everyone has to have pale skin and be skinny in order to fit their beauty standards. That is one huge negative impact the Hallyu (Chinese term for Korean wave) has on Mizo youth, everyone edits pictures to look whiter and feel the need to be skinnier,” she says.

“I think it is safe to say the Korean wave’s impact on Mizo youth is a gamble, while some are pushed to feel little, some thrive on it by taking better care of their skin, diet and fitness. In conclusion, I don’t think to entirely put the influences of South Korea in one word — negative or positive — is possible,” Catherine concludes.

The Korean wave is certainly not confined to Mizoram as many youths in Shillong seem to hop into the global bandwagon that is getting popular by the minute. Maybe riding the K-wave, albeit cautiously, isn’t such a bad idea.

(The author is a student of NIOS) Photos sourced from author