K-Pop's Most Fearless Girl Group, LE SSERAFIM, Is Set for Stardom

LE SSERAFIM x Who What Wear beauty cover.

(Image credit: Agata Serge)

You don't have to be familiar with Korean pop music (or K-pop) to understand its magnitude. Groups such as BTS and BLACKPINK have dominated global charts and expanded their fervent fan bases thanks to snappy music, eye-catching aesthetics, and shockingly synchronized choreography. As with any billion-dollar industry, there's stiff competition, but that makes success all the more extraordinary. When success snowballs into global stardom, well, that's a far-off dream that few have reached. LE SSERAFIM will soon be among them.

LE SSERAFIM is a five-person girl group that has all the trappings of a successful K-pop act and more. I'm connecting with the members via video call, and as the black screen lights up, I'm met with five expectant faces—Kim Chaewon, Sakura, Huh Yunjin, Kazuha, and Hong Eunchae. They're fresh off their first-ever performance at Coachella (I'm catching them between weekends one and two), and if they're tired from a schedule chock-full of rehearsals, fittings, and radio and TV interviews, they don't show it. In fact, they have a fresh-faced confidence about them. Although they vary in their assorted streetwear looks, each member has clear, glowing skin and minimal makeup. Chaewon has her hair cut into a trendy bob. Sakura has long, icy-blonde lengths flowing over her shoulders. Eunchae has an effortless-looking, beachy texture to her dark hair. Yunjin has vibrant red strands that stand out on the screen. Last but not least, Kazuha has opted for a simple, straightforward claw-clip style.

As they're sitting together on a couple of couches in the studio where our cover shoot is about to take place, you'd think they were an ordinary group of friends, and in a way, they are. Seeing them interact in this way—off-stage and out of the spotlight—I'd never guess that they've only been a group for such a short time, having made their official debut in May 2022. "We really felt like a team from the start I think, but as time goes on, we also feel like family," Yunjin says. "There's so much that clicks between us that it's kind of hard to wrap my head around the fact that we're all together and people like [my groupmates] actually exist. It's really special."

Kim Chaewon and Kazuha beauty close-up.

(Image credit: Agata Serge; Styling: On Kim Chaewon: No.21 top and skirt; Commando bandeau; Vanessa Schindler earrings; On Kazuha: Rick Owens dress; Vanessa Schindler earrings)

Becoming a K-pop artist—or "idol" as is the technical term in Korea—doesn't happen overnight. Each member of the group took a separate path to the same stage. After individual training periods (yes, K-pop idols go through formal training that can involve years of rigorous singing, dancing, acting, and media training lessons), it took a little over a year for all the members to come together and officially form LE SSERAFIM.

Chaewon belonged to a different K-pop group called IZ*ONE up until 2021. The group was formed as part of a competition show, and when their contract ended, she looked to her next move. "After that was over, I was kind of lost at one point," she says. "I didn't know what to do, and I had a hard time. Like destiny, I got a chance to become a part of LE SSERAFIM." Chaewon would go on to complete another year of training before debuting as part of the group.

At 26 years old, Sakura is the oldest member of the group and one of two who hail from Japan. She originally debuted as an idol at the young age of 13, eventually becoming a member of IZ*ONE with Chaewon. After that particular chapter ended, LE SSERAFIM was her next move. "I thought of LE SSERAFIM as my last group," she says. "After my last birthday, I realized I've spent half my life as an idol artist."

Huh Yunjin and Sakura beauty close-up.

(Image credit: Agata Serge; On Huh Yunjin (top): Hugo Kreit earrings. On Sakura (bottom): Tory Burch earrings)

Yunjin is Korean American and was born and raised in upstate New York. "I started training fiveish years ago," she says. "I ultimately thought that maybe becoming a singer wasn't my path. Even though I kept wanting to do it, I felt very hopeless. I decided to go back and finish my studies. In the span of two months, I did my SAT, ACT, and wrote all my essays. The day after I put in my tuition, I got a call saying, 'There's this team, and we really want you in it. Are you up to join?' I was like, 'There has to be some bigger meaning to all of this because how do I get this call literally not even 24 hours after I put in my freaking tuition?'"

Yunjin trusted her intuition and took the leap. "I think LE SSERAFIM was the pinnacle of all of my life lessons and experience," she says. "It was like, 'This is why you went through all that.' Even now, I'm constantly learning and growing as a person and as an artist. I'm really, really thankful that everything aligned." I tell her it's K-pop kismet.

Kazuha, who is also Japanese, is a former ballerina. When I ask whether her ballet training was useful in learning LE SSERAFIM's complex choreography, I get a thumbs-up. "I started ballet when I was very young," she says. "I think the result itself is very important, but I also think getting there is important." Now, as she hones a different creative skill, she says she cherishes her time in the group.

The only member of LE SSERAFIM who had a traditional path toward stardom is Eunchae. She's the youngest member of the group at only 17 years old. She was also the last member to join after the training period was over. "I've always been a big fan of K-pop," she says. "I dreamed of becoming an idol singer." With her entrance, LE SSERAFIM was complete. "I remember when [Eunchae] came," Yunjin says. "It felt like a team finally. She was the missing puzzle piece. I think she adds a lot to the group. She has this freshness about her."

Hong Eunchae and Kazuha beauty close-up.

(Image credit: Agata Serge; Styling: On Hong Eunchae: GCDS dress; Grace Lee earrings; On Kazuha: Rick Owens dress; Vanessa Schindler earrings)

Since success is never guaranteed, especially in an industry like theirs, it makes sense that they so easily recognize the advantages of their work—fostering relationships with their fans. I find them all to be so genuinely grateful. "If I wasn't an artist, I wouldn't be able to meet this many people around the world," Sakura says. "I think it's also very special that we receive a lot of love from our fans. We try to make it worthwhile." Eunchae agrees. "We don't want our fans to feel distant just because we're idol singers. We want them to feel like we're the same people, living in the same era, sharing the same worries and concerns. Through our stories, we want to cheer people up and empower them, and I hope they feel close to us," she adds.

Their genuine positivity and excitement are evident, but I know there's more to their experiences than meets the eye. After all, with intense training periods, busy schedules, and a relentless travel itinerary, the life of a K-pop idol is not all roses and sunshine. Sakura responds, "We have to continue to develop ourselves and improve and refresh ourselves to show new things. We can't be complacent. I believe that's the most challenging part of being an idol."

That exact challenge came into play ahead of the group's Coachella debut. They were the only K-pop girl group to be featured in the music festival's 2024 lineup, and they received the speediest invite of any Korean act ever—only a mere 1.5 years into their career. "Coachella was like a dream come true for us," Chaewon tells me. "We didn't expect this to come so quickly in our career, and it was such an honor to perform. Because we were doing this for the first time, we put a lot of effort into it. We tried so hard as if we were debuting again."

Huh Yunjin beauty close-up.

(Image credit: Agata Serge; Styling: Hugo Kreit earrings; Sportmax top)

The group's setlist included "EASY," one of my favorite LE SSERAFIM songs and the title track to their most recent mini-album, EASY, which debuted at number eight on the Billboard 200. It's followed closely by their song "SMART." Both are catchy enough to live in my head rent-free, but they're also accompanied by music videos that display the group's experimental and editorial approach to beauty. I wonder aloud if the group has an agreed-upon beauty aesthetic or if their looks are an amalgamation of their individual styles. "We are all very open in terms of experimenting with different looks," Yunjin says. "For each album, we're all trying things for the first time. We always do a ton of embellishments and try on different colors. We're always up to try new looks. I think everyone on our glam team is very ambitious. We're always looking at new ideas." When I share that I loved their looks in the "EASY" music video, Yunjin laughs and says, "We'll let our makeup artist know."

Funnily enough, their off-stage beauty aesthetics are quite the opposite, and each member describes their preferred approach to hair and makeup. Yunjin says she likes her natural wavy hair texture, which is why she keeps it a little bit "messy." Chaewon has a similarly simple preference. "I like to keep my hair short," she says. "I like the bob cuts." Sakura spices up her minimal beauty aesthetic with homemade hats. "I like to knit as a hobby," she adds. Yunjin won't let the moment pass without hyping up her bandmate. "She crochets her own tops and her own beanies," she interjects. "It's crazy!" I have to agree. After seeing a few examples of her work, I regret telling her that I'm learning to crochet as well. She's a pro.

Hong Eunchae and Sakura beauty close-up.

(Image credit: Agata Serge; Styling: On Hong Eunchae: GCDS dress; Grace Lee earrings; On Sakura: Courrèges top; Tory Burch earrings)

The same can be said about their off-duty fashion. Every single member describes their fashion aesthetic with one of three words—simple, comfy, or casual. At first, I found this surprising. After watching a few music videos and catching glimpses of their Coachella performance, I figured they wore boundary-pushing designer pieces at all times. Chaewon provides perspective: "As artists, we dress up a lot, and we wear a lot of fancy and glamorous clothes, so for my daily looks, I usually go for [something] simple, comfy." In other words, they reserve the statement-making looks for the stage.

"Our team's aesthetic start was based on runway concepts," Yunjin says. "Ever since our debut, we've been doing runway shows and catwalk trailer videos. With each album, our album aesthetic changes, and our styling aesthetic changes. If you think of LE SSERAFIM, you can think of model walking and sleek, cool silhouettes." I add "editorial" and "experimental" as potential descriptors. Yunjin gives a firm "Yes," and the rest of the group nods.

Huh Yunjin and Kim Chaewon beauty close-up.

(Image credit: Agata Serge; Styling: On Huh Yunjin: Sportmax top and skirt; Hugo Kreit earrings; On Kim Chaewon: No.21 top; Vanessa Schindler earrings)

"Sometimes, people have a certain idea about how an idol usually dresses, but we try to break free from that," Sakura says. "For example, I really loved Yunjin's outfit in the concept trailer for EASY. It was very bold. I think that well represents our team. That is us. [Fashion] helps express who we are."

That boundary-pushing style makes sense, especially considering the name LE SSERAFIM is an anagram of "I'm fearless." The group's ethos is built on confidence and empowerment, and obviously, fashion plays a big part. "We don't really like to constrain ourselves," Yunjin says. "We really like to experiment and try new things. It might look some way to others' eyes, but we like to cross lines and cross borders."

It's clear why they were signed on as Louis Vuitton brand ambassadors. Both LE SSERAFIM and Louis Vuitton look to the future while honoring tradition. "Louis Vuitton is really iconic and a big household name brand that has a deep, rich history," Yunjin says. "We were not able to wrap our heads around the fact that they wanted us. It was absolutely incredible, and we were so stoked to be a part of the team. I definitely think we resonate with a lot of the parts of the Louis Vuitton brand. They are a household name. We would also love to have that type of culture in K-pop. They helped create our looks for Coachella for weeks one and two. It's always an honor to work with them."

Sakura and Kazuha beauty close-up.

(Image credit: Agata Serge; Styling: On Sakura: Courrèges top; Tory Burch earrings; On Kazuha: Rick Owens dress; Vanessa Schindler earrings, Louis Vuitton ring)

At this point, I can't hold in the one question I've been dying to ask. What artists are the members of LE SSERAFIM inspired by? They talk among themselves, agreeing on several dropped names and occasionally displaying a pained expression of utter admiration for a select few. "I love listening to Taylor Swift," Chaewon says. "I also love listening to a Korean singer called IU. I love that all of her lyrics are so authentic and embody her vulnerabilities, which anyone can relate to and resonate with."

Kazuha chooses Doja Cat. "I loved listening to her songs before I saw her onstage, but when I saw her onstage, it was just astonishing. It was different from just listening. As an artist, I want to become a singer that can resonate with a lot of people and give a lot of surprises." Yunjin agrees, adding, "I get a lot of inspiration and spiritual, musical guidance from various artists, but I like Doja Cat. She's very involved in her stage presentation and her work in general. She definitely inspires me to be self-reliant in my creative process." She adds a few more artists to her list: "I also really love Frank Ocean. … Obviously, who doesn't? And SZA. Her lyricism and her flow are always so creative. I definitely feel like she has a different kind of soul."

Eunchae chooses Ariana Grande. "Back when I was training, I loved listening to Ariana Grande," she says. "I would just pick one of her albums and listen to the entire album or choose a B-side track. I would love to see her onstage and in person." Sakura is all about Beyoncé. "While I was preparing for Coachella, I was able to come across Beyoncé's performance again. I was just like, 'Wow, where does she get this energy? She's amazing.' She's like my role model."

Hong Eunchae and Kim Chaewon beauty close-up.

(Image credit: Agata Serge; Styling: On Hong Eunchae: GCDS dress; Grace Lee earrings; On Kim Chaewon: No.21 top and skirt; Commando bandeau; Vanessa Schindler earrings)

Yunjin points at Sakura, saying "She fell in love with Sabrina [Carpenter] watching her at Coachella this year." Sakura smiles, admitting she would love to collaborate with her: "She has this cute and adorable vibe, which I fell in love with. We don't have any summer vibe songs, so if we get the chance I'd love to put together a summer song with Sabrina." Yunjin laughs. "She's already planning. She already thought of something," she jokes.

I cross my fingers, hoping the collab can become a reality for them in the future. Why not? The pop-star power would be undeniable. Balancing ambition with gratitude, the members reflect fondly on the successes they've had and the landmarks they've reached. "Coachella was a really big thing for us," Yunjin says. "To think of something at this scale again is so crazy to us. We'd be so thankful for anything, to be honest. Hopefully, we'll be able to do a tour and visit more countries and cities. That would definitely be a big goal for us."

It's clear that LE SSERAFIM is on an upward trajectory—not just to fame and fortune but also to an elite echelon of K-pop stardom. I get a feeling that there are legions of people out there who are soon-to-be LE SSERAFIM superfans. They just don't know it yet.

K-pop group LE SSERAFIM poses for Who What Wear May cover.

(Image credit: Agata Serge)

Photographer: Agata Serge

Stylist: Lauren Eggertsen

Hairstylists: Oh Yumi and Ha Min at Bit.Boot

Makeup Artists: Lee Myungsun and Kim Ina at Woosun

Manicurist: Kim, Suji

Set Designer: Ali Gallagher

VP of Creative: Alexa Wiley

Executive Director of Entertainment: Jessica Baker

Director, Video: Samuel Schultz

Gaffer/AC:
Kyle Hartman

Producer:
Kellie Scott

Video Editor:
Ji Lee/Samuel Schultz

Kaitlyn McLintock
Associate Beauty Editor

Kaitlyn McLintock is an Associate Beauty Editor at Who What Wear. Although she covers a wide range of topics across a variety of categories, she specializes in celebrity interviews and skincare and wellness content. Having lived in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, she recently relocated back to her home state of Michigan where she works remotely. Prior to Who What Wear, she freelanced for a variety of industry-leading digital publications, including InStyle, The Zoe Report, Bustle, Hello Giggles, and Coveteur. Before that, she held a long-term internship and subsequent contributor position at Byrdie. When she's not writing, researching, or testing the latest and greatest beauty products, she's working her way through an ever-growing book collection, swimming in the Great Lakes, or spending time with family.