Read: Everything written down here is purely subjective; all opinions are taken from the author’s perspective/ points-of-view.
Fashion, to most who are indifferent and claim themselves to be strangers to the word and art – simply comes off as a way of showing-off; a way to claim spotlights wherever it enters. However, to those who think of it as more than a dictionary word, and knows how to define it better than publications – Fashion is an extension of the human mind, another part of the anatomy, and a sheer layer of the soul. In a sense, it is an outer-shell which contrary to popular belief conceals, actually reveals a lot more about the person carrying it.
Depending on geographical location, social norms, weather (this plays a really big part of course, as you know, in fashion, there are different collections depending on the season, such as Spring/Summer, Autumn/Winter, Holiday, Resort, Etc.), and of course, the third-fourth-and-so-on-so-on parties who act as audience to the the everyday runway shows. But a good dresser knows how to conform, and at the same time, uphold our definition of fashion as stated on the introduction. And certainly one name comes to mind: Wu Yi Fan.
Wu Yi Fan, for those who don’t have knowledge of him, was a former idol/singer in South Korea, whom at the age of 23, decided to leave the spotlight to return permanently to his home country, China, to become an actor. Wu Yi Fan is pure Chinese who was born in Guangzhou, but grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and spent his late adolescence and early 20s in South Korea. He first came into spotlight as a sub-unit leader/rapper for the KPOP group EXO; but after two years of fame in the said field, moved to become a young actor in his mother tongue. During his heydays as a KPOP idol, Wu wore the most dazzling and dramatic (in a sense that they’re designed to titillate the eyes) of clothes, which left him to express his own style only whenever he’s off-duty. These off-duty moments were mostly composed of flights to countries where the group was expected to perform, or short trips to the malls or coffee shops during breaks. Wu, during his time as an idol, spent talking about his interests in fashion during interviews, whenever confronted with questions about his realest (before reel-est) dreams.
Wu isn’t a designer or a stylist, but he is a power dresser in many senses. And a complex person at that. His ensembles, the ones that truly came from him, will tell both sides of the story, as we analyze his preferences and genres.
Safe, Cut and Clean – The Younger Days
Before EXO came to rise as a highly-talked about group (although they’ve always been talked-about, but that’s another story), in short, during the humble beginnings, it was only understandable that the members should always wear nothing but their faces. The personas should very much be be bare, because the public needs to remember the faces, and they should be easy to look at. It was a norm Wu had to conform, to, as well. But we wouldn’t call him a power dresser should he would have been eaten alive by the expectations. Wu, back in 2012, was safe and sound in dressing, cut and clean – but he had his ways to show who he was then: young, ambitious – but nevertheless a dreamer with potential future.
In the photo above, Wu tweaks the usual, casual look by sporting a raglan shirt with printed front. As opposed to the conventional short-sleeved shirt which makes for more boyish charms, he chose to wear a top with three-quarter sleeves which also gives accent to his long arms, and boosts an intelligent look despite looking comfortable. The print and dirty-washed jeans balance the look so that it wouldn’t look too stiff and too safe. Finally, the leather bag carried by hand adds a mature charm (which wouldn’t have been possible should he had used a knapsack).
While Wu finds it important to consider every piece accordingly, he also knows when to let it loose, especially when the overall look needs no exaggerations. Consider the photo below:
In the photo above, Wu Yi Fan wears a simple V-neck shirt with short sleeves. The way the hair is let down and how the exposure of the collar bones and arms are present, speaks for themselves since the ensemble is overall simple, clean, and laid-back. This gives an impression that while people with status have to always worry about things, there are also times for breaks. The accessories add extra charm to the look to prevent boredom.
Intelligence, Power, Authority – The Leader Look
As Wu started to live up to his labels, and as the one who usually holds the microphones more than anyone else during interviews, it was only a matter of time for him to exercise more authority through his clothes. It wasn’t a way to brag or boast, it was a way to respond to the expectations, and at the same time, level up his ensembles. Photos below show two of Wu Yi Fan’s early intelligent looks, taken from two distinct flights exchanged between South Korea and China. There were limits to the comfort overall as compared to the casual pieces, but the sophisticated finish started the whole ‘Fashion King/ Airport Runway’ mode for the young celebrity.
The photo above shows Wu Yi Fan strutting down (read: walking towards departures) while wearing a discreet button down front shirt, with three-quarter sleeves and flat collar. The contrast in the colors of the top adds a contemporary charm to the usual button-down shirts – making it distinguished from corporate dress shirts. The sleeves are held above elbows for that three-quarter sleeve illusion – again for a more mature appearance, while the slim placket on the front leads a discreet look. Upon close inspection, the surface is glossed, adding a stunning overall appearance. The semi-tapered pants balances the conventional and the modern, the tailored and the laid-back. The slip ons, as finishing touches, adds a dandy, boyish look. Overall, the ensemble is intelligent, tailored, and young.
The photo above shows Wu tweaking the ‘intelligent leader look’ a bit – with a bit of vibrancy. He sports a black top with a brown-colored blazer, a pair of magenta-colored straight leg pants, high-top sneakers in thick skin material, and finally, a beret with contrast color visor. The blocking of colors add vividness to the ensemble, but the color palette was also carefully chosen in such a way that the shades used were more toned-down and muted to avoid looking too loud. This gives an impression that Wu likes variety, but within control.
Simply Striking – The Redefinition of Simple
Travelling from one place to another, not to mention dancing and singing from one stage to another calls for ensembles that don’t fail to bring attention, but should surely also be considerate to its wearer. One of the things we should take from Wu Yi Fan with regards to dressing, is to not let simple fool you.
In Wu Wardrobe psychology, single wasn’t that common (which will be discussed later on with more details). But Wu also knows how to wear it toned-down, without looking common. Photo above shows the young man with a single, knitted top with printed prints. The edgy patterns contradict the the solid, sophisticated color of the piece’s surface – giving it a more urban look as compared to the classic knitwear. The generous sizing is reminiscent of the resident street jam, in contrast to the usual ‘sweater boy’ look.
The young man knows how to balance styles, as if it hasn’t been emphasized yet in the earlier parts. Photo above shows a side-view, revealing the side-swept hair fashion with one showing ear. This gives an effeminate look which stark a opposite to the more edgy, manly prints on the knitted top. Not to mention the dropping neckline which reveals the young fashionista’s collar bones. The end-result? Laid-back and comfortable; but never behind in style. All in a single top with multiple statements, and a simply-combed hairdo that goes beyond genders, revealing a flexible style.
Styling Prowess – The Transforming Look
In Wu Yi Fan’s dictionary, single isn’t always the best word. Exploring beyond limits, and pushing all possibilities in styling, the young man reveals himself to be a fan of transforming looks. And he does it without much effort, despite looking too keen and too dramatic about it. His fashion majesty’s favorite pieces are outerwear and button downs, and he wears them in a fashionable way that they come out of their respective shells, and go beyond what they were made for. Bias aside, Wu would have been a good stylist.
Photos above show before and after of a certain look Wu Yi Fan strutted down one day during flights. Originally, the traditional trench coat (complete with epaulets, just minus the gun flap) had been fastened with its double-breasted closures, worn with leather pants, white high-top sneakers, and gloves – giving a majestic air that has always been around the young man, just amplified. He boards the plane, and when he comes out again, the look transforms to a more careless, boyish look. Think of a CEO finally letting our steam after mounds of business deals to close, and he enters a bar where he drinks the night away. Letting the trench coat open speaks like letting a suffocating world breathe – and adding a snap back seems like trying to fit two worlds together. After all, Wu Yi Fan was a young man in his 20s, who loved kicks and vacations, before he’s a part of an award-winning group that earns millions for the company that manages them.
Photos above show Wu again on travels. First photo shows all layers of clothing (which reminds us of the Japanese Heian Period’s Irome no Kasane – or rule of layering) a coat, a checkered button down, a color block button down – all worn together. This gives his audience a peek at his complexities: Wu is a young man in his 20s, Wu is a KPOP idol, and Wu is a million-dollar figure. The thick layers of these three put together makes you want to peel and penetrate his personality – overall its gives a mysterious look with just the right amount of vent to catch your attention. Then he comes out with all layers peeled for the world to see his greater personality. The coat is draped on his shoulders (which give the shoulders added accent and manliness) just as how the million-dollar figure side of him is just on the surface; the checkered button down is tied on the waist (playful and dandy, if I must say) which says how the KPOP idol status is just a temporary layer than can be removed and worn back on; and how the color block button down shirt is left as the inner core – the most colorful side of himself that is his innermost personality as a young man with many interests.
Street Runway – The Bad Boy Diaries
Like most rappers, Wu Yi Fan also puts on that ‘bad boy’ look performers like himself wear like a uniform. When EXO returned to the scene with a Hip Hop, Urban R&B genre, Wu and his groupmates were blessed with a more, boyish, street style look to live up to the current image the group had. For Wu, though, it wasn’t a conformity or restraint, because the young man originally had eyes for contemporary fashion. Among his favorite streetwear brands include Virgil Abloh’s ‘Off White,’ Richard Stark’s ‘Chrome Hearts,’ and Marcelo Burlon’s ‘County of Milan.’
The charm and advantage of Wu’s physique allows him to wear a wide array of styles without trying hard. Not to mention the ‘bad boy’ side naturally radiates from him – most especially courtesy of his tattoos.
Back during the earlier days of KPOP group EXO, Wu was usually seen with three-quarter shirts, coats, cardigans. But the hip hop era of the group allowed more freedom in clothing, for the young men to live up to the ‘bad boy’ vibe. It was during this time that Yifan’s tattoos were revealed (despite fans knowing that already for years). Enjoying non-existent restrictions allowed the young man to wear tank tops, and he would usually complement with sneakers and kicks. His choice of prints like Christopher Kane’s Creature From The Black Lagoon, FUKK from + Fresh.i.Am + – were among the ‘baddest’ (in street terms) of pieces in his generation. In his arm, he wears a Borneo Scorpion tattoo – which is given to Dayaki warriors. The style of the tattoo also resembles that of an ‘aso/ mythical dog-dragon crossover.’ To Wu’s fans, he is a dragon (aside from the fact he was given that concept image as a KPOP idol) and an emperor. He has more tattoos, another notable one is in his back, which says ‘Normally Insane.’
Another noteworthy of Wu’s appearances is the excessive use of accessories whenever he can. Wu has several piercings on his ears, and puts a lot of rings on his fingers for the most time. Usually necklaces and bracelets/ cuffs also grace his skin, but it’s the earrings and rings that stand out the most.
Contrary to popular belief, accessories, most of time, aren’t just dazzles, blings, and sparkles on the skin. Accessories can also hold very deep meanings depending on the choice of designs.
Wu, for the most part, wears a lot of crosses, swords, pearls, wings – sometimes, mythical creatures such as dragons, phoenixes. Crosses are symbols of faith in general – the perfect reflection of how loyal Wu can be (actually is) towards really good friends, family, and even memories. It is no mystery to his followers that he maintains relationships he had even before he became an artist; and that he looks up to his mother more than anyone else. Swords are of course, symbols of courage and chivalry – virtues he had to assume as an only son and as a leader. Pearls are, according to folklore, ‘drops of tears from the heavens’ – blessings and precious – which allude to his optimism and belief of good days. Wings for his freedom-loving self; also what he likes to call his fans (angels). Dragons (known to be symbols of Chinese emperors; Wu’s fans often call him an ’emperor’ due to his status as a leader) for authority.
Fashion for Passion – Accents and Patterns
Wu openly stated in interviews about his childhood (read: original) dreams of becoming a professional basketball player. Given the height and the physique, there was no denying the young man played a good amount of ball games since his adolescence. The streetwear isn’t helping with denying this, neither does the love for sneakers he obviously flaunts on his personal Instagram account.
Photo above shows Wu in a simple white shirt, topped with a zip-up knitted cardigan, finished with washed vintage jeans. What stood out the most in this complementing, blue color-palette ensemble, is the pair of red sneakers from NIKE. The overall look gives us a stark contrast between a casual-looking boy, and a sporty young man – one who takes it easy, and one who has flames inside his heart.
Whenever Wu wears kicks, either they’re basketball kicks or the high-tops with the long tongues (remember Rick Owens sneakers). Aside from the fact that long tongues on sneakers are ‘fashionable,’ the long tongues actually help balance Wu’s huge calves (which he probably got from playing ball). Fashion exists for different purposes, after all. They’re not just for looking trendy.
By now, it is no mystery to most that all Wu wears most of the time are sneakers. No matter how intelligent and clean, how classy or dandy, or how formal or informal the overall look would be, he would always have sneakers on his feet. Why so? Wu also uses fashion to express his passion for something. His fanaticism with sneakers, which were of course, mostly used by athletes, makes it clear that Wu has no past to leave behind. Whether he’s suit up for a performance, press conference, he would always have sneakers with his attire – just as how he would always love basketball. Old habits die hard, and passion dies harder – hardest.
Vanity Fair – The Male Muse
Standing tall at 187cm, with long arms, long legs, slender body, and of course, the face that screams stunning, Wu could surely pass for a model. Even without contracts, friendly or professional, or more solid relationships with designers (he met with Marcelo Burlon, Levi Coltof, and even received an custom-made ensemble from Virgil Abloh, though), Wu Yi Fan has unintentionally become a male muse for different high-end brands though (Givenchy, Yves Saint-Laurent, DIOR, Armani, Alexander McQueen, Nike, Off White, Chrome Hearts, County of Milan). And he struts the pieces so well that everywhere turns into runways.
Photos above show Wu’s most famous ‘airport fashion’ looks/ ensembles, which includes some of the names already well-known and iconic in the industry such as DIOR, BALMAIN, GIVENCHY, YSL ; as well as more avante-garde labels such as Kokon to Zai. Wu likes to explore a variety of styles, all the while sticking to the real personality of his muse – which is himself. Between the highest-ends of brands, to the more underground and ambitious of brands, one can see similarities which speak for his own preferences. Leather, for an instance, has always been one of his top choices – which signify his taste for longevity, flexibility, and class. Wu likes to keep pieces for as long as he can. Coats, one of his top favorites as seen on his different ensembles, adds a mysterious air to his overall appearance (as someone who also likes to keep things private, as much as he is a public figure). Shirts, his favorite essential foundation piece, symbolize nostalgia and humility – for him who never forgets to look back to the basics of fashion. Sneakers, of course, as discussed earlier, is his hook to his most intimate self – the young boy who once dreamed, and is still dreaming.
The Emperor Finds New Clothes – The Way to the Runway [Bonus Section]
Wu Yi Fan has always expressed interest in fashion. His other dream, aside from basketball, was to establish his own label with his own distinct style. However it was that there existed a thin line between ‘liking to dress up’ and actually ‘having a passion towards style,’ Wu was that unique one who made the lines clear. His pursuit of style caught the attention of several fashion icons in South Korea during his days as an EXO member, and he was even invited and featured on a magazine (Celebrity Magazine Issue 007 May 2014) as he participated in re-designing and modification styling activities with top stylist Jung Yun Ki and leather craftsman/ accessory designer Yoon Young Sic.
His passion for fashion radiated from his core, to the other parts of world – where he met with one of his favorite designers, County of Milan’s Marcelo Burlon. Weeks after, he posts a photo of him on the streets with a custom-made Virgil Abloh (another of his favorite designers) Off-White ensemble.
‘Clothes make the man’ strongly applies to those who have a lot to express about themselves. As words are to a writer, songs are to a musician, canvas to painters – power dressers make the man (or woman) of themselves through their clothing. Fashion is a form of communication art, not only for others to get a glimpse of one person, but also for the wearer to connect more with his intimate self; and bring that self out in the easiest, and visual way possible.
One does not have to wear too much to express himself in fashion; just choose the right clothes which perfectly express a certain feeling or virtue. Wear a shirt to express the desire for a temporary vacation from stress; wear pants for an independent and modern look (especially for women), wear coats for protect yourself from exposure to anything physical or mental -wear sneakers for an adventure mood! Wu, my male muse, definitely knows how to do all of these. The young man does not have a concrete background in the technicalities and theories of fashion – but he knows to connect himself. So can you.
Photos taken from: Chanyeol-kris.com; weibo.com/blingling0817, weibo.com/scorpio901106, StarN, weibo.com/kriscorpio, kpopstarz.com, weibo.com/u/3682867577, latria1106.com, BNT International, weibo.com/angelaytl, krisus.net, weibo.com/beccaforkris, weibo.com/fruitxfruit, weibo.com/totwocrystal, arirang.co.kr, weibo.com/qingdaren112, TV Daily, weibo.com/krisoul1106, weibo.com/adoratory1106, Issue Daily, @moonhalo_ on Twitter, @marceloburlon on Instagram & galaxy_fanfan on Instagram.