The Korean Model blog currently has over 160,000 followers on Instagram and Tumblr. Korean Model showcases over 50,000 photos of Korean fashion models. In this interview Jacqueline, the sole maintainer for the past 4 years, shares her motivation for starting the project, her thoughts on what is contributing to the rise of the Korean model’s popularity, as well as her personal aspirations.
Interview Gissella Ramirez-Valle, Photos #KoreanModelStreetStyleProject, Perpetua Ip
When did you start your blog, Korean Model, and why?
Jacqueline: I started the Korean Model Tumblr in August 2011, if I’m not mistaken. I have always loved fashion and the modeling industry. Although I was also interested in K-pop back then, I’ve always been more interested in the modeling industry over anything else. The concept of my blog is like an online portfolio for all the models, that’s why I like to collect their photos. One of the biggest inspirations for starting the blog was Daul Kim. I was mesmerized by her.
Since starting your blog you’ve gained a lot of international followers and it seems as though the number of Korean models has also grown tremendously over recent years.
Jacqueline: That's right. Three years ago, no one was interested in models at all. Not even in Korea. I remember when Seoul Fashion Week was held I couldn’t find photos of the clothing or the models walking the shows, only photos of the idols who attended. Now runway photos are posted online almost immediately and there are a lot of new models that I can't keep up with them all!
Why do you think Korean models gained so much popularity?
Jacqueline: There's a variety of factors. Some of the models have made international debuts which gave them tons of fame in and outside of Korea. The main factor is that models in Korea are thoroughly supported by their own industry. All of the Korean high-fashion magazines often use their own Korean models, instead of using caucasian models for their editorials or covers. On the Vogue Korea 2011 Anniversary Issue, for example, there were 15 different covers featuring Korean models!
Korea's Next Top Model starting to air in 2010 also had an effect. Many models from the series have been able to establish careers and fandoms. Esteem and YG K-Plus are the most popular agencies in Korea right now. Models from those agencies regularly appear in MVs, dramas, variety shows and CFs alongside other popular celebrities. As a result of models crossing into pop-culture, the number of international fans has also grown which contributes to the high number of followers of the Korean Model blog.
I heard that in Korea the youth in particular are becoming fans of models over idols because models are more like real people and approachable. You can take a selfie with a model but not an idol for example.
Jacqueline: Korean modeling agencies also arrange fan meetings. They even arrange special events unique to the fashion community, like flea-markets. At these flea-markets you can buy the model’s gently used clothing.
Sounds like a win-win situation!
Okay, back to your blog! For me, the impressive factor isn’t just the beautiful photos, but the details you provide such as Instagram IDs of the models and photographers. How do you manage your blog and get those kinds of details?
Jacqueline: I always put my blog posts on Tumblr on queue. So even when I'm not online, the Tumblr still updates 24/7. I also have over 3000 posts on draft and once photos are posted, I will choose at least one from each set of editorials or photoshoots to be posted on Instagram. Finding the photos is not so hard, since now you can easily find the photos online either from the magazine's website or the agency's blog. I just routinely check those and gather the photos. I can identify most of the models by sight and recall their Instagram ID's from memory but I'm definitely having trouble with the newbies.
Do you feel pressure in always keeping the blog up to date?
Jacqueline: Sometimes yes, since I don’t always have time to update the blog with recent works. There are many fan blogs about Korean models. It's become like a competition. Those who manage these kinds of blogs want to be known by the models and public and to do that they must always keep up with the most recent work.
I saw that you debuted the #KoreanModelStreetStyleProject last week. How did that come about and what was the objective?
Jacqueline: The project idea came up during the recent Seoul Fashion Week. Alex Finch asked me if he could approach some models and shoot them under my blog's name. He said that some of the models knew about my blog and would like to be featured on it. Of course, I didn't mind the idea!
I know that Korean street-style photography has been gaining attention, especially when it comes to #ModelsOffDuty. So I thought why not make this project focus on the model's personal style, with Alex as the photographer. In order to make the photos exclusive, he even arranged the shooting locations to be where no other street photographer usually goes to.
I'm also working with models and photographers located outside of Korea for the project. I'm in Indonesia and whether a shoot is held in Korea or outside of it doesn't make a difference. Everything was arranged through Instagram DM's and Kakao Talk!
You also run the blog Indonesian Models. What was the reason for starting it?
Jacqueline: I started the Indonesian Models blog months before I started the Korean Model blog. Of course it's not as popular as Korean Model. The reason Indonesian Model was started is because I want people to know more about them. I think they have the same quality as Korean models but they just need more publicity.
I read somewhere that your dream is to open a modeling agency in Indonesia, is that correct?
Jacqueline: Yes, that's right. My dream is to open an agency here in Indonesia and help promote Indonesian models worldwide. But it's difficult, because fashion people in Indonesia tend to use a lot of caucasian models for their magazine editorials, covers, brand campaigns, and look-books. As a result, there isn't a wide range of Indonesian models. In Korea nowadays each season will have newcomers, and it's not just a handful, it’s an increasing number each season. In Indonesia, there's probably only five models introduced each year that end up working with decent local designers and magazines.