The surprising new K-culture hit: British ceramics

K-culture is becoming more and more popular in the UK at the moment, and we’ve been watching the latest skincare, homeware, and media trends as they happen. BTS, a K-pop band, have played sold-out shows at Wembley, and many Brits have been enjoying Korean foods like kimchi, bulgogi and bibimbap. And of course, the latest Korean export is Squid Game, which recently became the most successful Netflix show of all time (iNews).

The Oxford English Dictionary has even added 26 Korean words to its collection in 2021, including ‘hallyu’, which refers to the rise in international interest in South Korean culture, also known as the ‘Korean wave’.

Some people speculate that this increased interest in Korea may be due to more people spending time on streaming services and internet platforms during the pandemic — and therefore consuming more Korean-made content on YouTube, Netflix and other services. The prevalence of many Korean cultural exports is no accident. Since the 2000s, the government has invested in creative industries, and supported them to produce hits that have been popular around the world.

But, you might be surprised to learn that it’s not just Korean culture that is popular in the UK — many British products are also taking off in Korea. In particular, British-made ceramics have proved to be a big hit with Korean consumers, with classic English brands like Denby Pottery reporting strong sales there. Here, we take a closer look at the phenomenon.

British brands in Korea

British-made ceramics are increasingly popular in Korea, as demonstrated by Denby’s Halo Tea/Coffee Cup — pictured above — featuring in episode 9 of the hit Netflix show Squid Game.

Even as far back as 2016, Denby was growing in popularity in South Korea, with this article in the Telegraph musing on the brand’s success. The homeware brand also has an Instagram page specifically for South Korean fans, where 18,000 followers keep up with the latest ceramic and homeware trends

The British brand is so popular there that it has even expanded its range of bowls with the Korean market in mind, including nesting, deep noodle, ramen, and straight-sided rice bowls, as well as extra small round dishes and soju cups. Now available to customers worldwide, these items have proved especially popular in the Korean market. The brand’s shallow Heritage bowls are also perfect for kimchi, among other things, and so are perfect for setting a Korean table.

But why are British-made ceramics so popular in Korea? Vikki Irvine, Head of Brand at Denby, thinks it’s because products made in the UK are synonymous with quality and craftsmanship. Vikki said: “People in Korea love Denby, as the quality is great and they’re drawn to the ‘Made in England’ element.

“Our collections are especially popular with younger generations in Korea, who like table-setting with beautifully crafted British-made ceramics. It’s also a move away from the traditional tableware their parents owned, as we see a shift in the Korean culture for the younger generation to have their own identity.

“We tend to find that clean colours and pastel-toned ceramics perform well in Korea — it’s a very popular look. Our Modus Moonstone, Jade, and Coral collections were launched earlier this year and are proving to have a lot of appeal in the Korean market for this reason

“To create a modern, Korean-inspired table setting, go for soft colours such as those found in our Modus and Impression collections and add a touch of Korean minimalism to your homeware, while keeping some classic British design elements.”

About the brand:

Denby has been creating fine pottery in the heart of England for 200 years. They use Derbyshire clay and decades of craftsmanship to create uniquely beautiful homewares and ceramics. Their designs have been refined over the years, and they have expanded to sell glassware and cookware.

To find out more about Denby’s Korean presence, visit: https://www.denby.co.kr/


Image credit: ©Denby