Green tracksuits, white Vans slip-ons in high demand after Korean show Squid Game

Published 23 Oct, 2021 12:19pm

Everyone is scrambling to dress up like their favourite cash-strapped player from the show this Halloween.

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

It looks like Squid Game mania has made green tracksuits and white white slip-on shoes wildly popular in the days ahead of Halloween celebrated on October 30.

White slip-on shoes are becoming a hot commodity thanks to the wildly popular South Korean survival drama Squid Game, with sneaker maker VF Corp reporting a small increase in demand for its Vans brand.

The series, which became a global sensation and the number one program on Netflix, shows hundreds of cash-strapped players competing in hyper-violent games, sporting shoes resembling Vans’ all-white slip-ons.

“We saw a nice spike — well, I’d call it a small spike, but I’ll promise this is not a damned annual event,” VF Chief Financial Officer Matt Puckett said on Friday, adding the apparel maker would use this moment to build on Vans’ connection to pop culture. VF Corp missed Wall Street estimates for quarterly revenue and profit on Friday due to global supply chain disruptions and production shortfalls in Vietnam.

The 'Made in Korea' green tracksuits and pink boiler suits worn by characters in the show have also proven a pre-Halloween bright spot for the South Korean garment industry struggling during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

A 500-square-metre (598-square-yard) garment factory in the Seongbuk district of the capital Seoul was humming this week, green and pink thread flying off stacked spools off serger machines with loud knocking noises in a race to meet orders.

"October is usually a slow month for the sewing industry, but thanks to Squid Game and Halloween, we are scrambling to stitch," factory owner Kim jin-ja, 54, told Reuters. "We are now sewing 6,000 teal-green tracksuits for toddlers and children."

Kim says her annual sales of 1.5 billion won ($1.27 million) plummeted to a third of what she used to make after the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Most of her orders came from Japan but travel restrictions forced her to shut down in August and September.

She now hopes orders will last past Halloween and sees better chances of renewed exports with 'Made in Korea' labels. The South Korean garment industry had been in decline even before the pandemic with higher wage levels making it difficult to compete with China, Vietnam or Indonesia.

Of the 2,144 manufacturing businesses in Seongbuk, 70% - or 1,510 - are apparel companies, Seoul Fashion Textile Sewing Association chairman Oh Byung-yeol told Reuters.

"The two years of Covid-19 have been a tough time for domestic fashion corporations," said Seongbuk Mayor Lee Seung-ro. "(But) Squid Game, which has become a global sensation, has also made tracksuits popular domestically, leading to a flood of orders."

A child's Squid Game tracksuit was selling for 30,000 won ($25.50) in Namdaemun Market, the country's largest traditional market where stock ranges from kitchenware to jewellery. A garment vendor in the market said he and others did not have enough tracksuits to meet soaring demand.

Squid Game has been watched by 142 million households since its September 17 debut, according to Netflix, the world's largest streaming service, helping it add 4.38 million new subscribers.

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