But in a fashion-conscious city that has gained a reputation for its noteworthy street style and world-class fashion exports, there’s one area where the industry still falls short: lingerie.
“Korean lingerie designs tend to be either very plain or overly frilly,” noted Caroline Bryan, US expat and lingerie designer. “Also, pretty bras don't go over a C cup. Everything else looks like something your grandma would wear. It's sad.”
This led the Alabama native to start Luna Lia, a luxury lingerie line that boasts designs that are at once feminine and bohemian, with unique details that mainstream designs lack.
“Many of the designs are sheer or very airy, so I'd say Luna Lia is for ladies who are more adventurous than most but also like to embrace their feminine side.”
Caroline’s line has garnered a great deal of attention, with the Anastasia and Lotus bralettes being some of the most popular. It’s easy to see why. The intricate designs create a subtle sexiness that embody femininity—perfect for more intimate moments, but also suitable for creating a unique summer look when worn under a tank top.
While Luna Lia is Caroline’s first attempt at lingerie, she has been surrounded by design and art her entire life.
“When I was a kid, my mom would make a lot of my clothes. If you could see the intricate details of the things she created, you'd be blown away,” noted Caroline. “She taught me how to sew and we used to make clothes for my Barbies together.”
Inspired by her mother, Caroline opted to study fashion design in Nashville, Tennessee. After graduating, she landed a job at a company designing “all those tacky t-shirts with angel wings, crosses and skulls that you would see the cast of Jersey Shore wearing.”
She quickly grew weary of spending her days behind a computer screen, packed her bags and headed to Korea to teach English. Five years later, she recognized the abounding opportunities in Seoul and decided to get back into the fashion industry.
“I'm not sure if there is a better place than Seoul for what I'm doing,” Caroline said. “Dongdaemun is a fashion mecca where you can find just about any fabric or trim, and then walk across the street to a factory and have your designs made. You can even have small-batch designs made, unlike other places that require minimum orders sometimes in the thousands.”
This is a big advantage for emerging designers, who often do not have the resources to place such big orders. Caroline also claims that the expat community in Seoul has been incredibly supportive of her work and her brand.
“It encourages me to work harder and try to come up with more beautiful designs that ladies would enjoy and feel sexy and confident wearing,” she says.
Caroline plans to soon launch a new collection of bolder prints and colors, as well as more matching bra and panty sets and a swimwear capsule collection. But don’t expect any couple lingerie—a popular look in Korea in which lovers wear matching underwear.
“I think it's super cheesy, but I guess different strokes for different folks!” Caroline said with a laugh.
Be sure to check out all of Caroline’s designs on the Luna Lia website and Instagram feed.
Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Photos courtesy of Caroline Bryan. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.