There’s no denying that in the year 2023, women rule the music industry. Pop powerhouses like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift are breaking touring records, while artists like Dua Lipa and Karol G are taking over streaming. Even within hip-hop, forces like Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, and Latto are shaping the cultural conversation and dominating the charts.
But for years now, there’s been a gaping hole within the industry when it comes to the girl group—a hole that Hybe (the K-pop entertainment powerhouse responsible for BTS, Seventeen, and other hitmakers) and Geffen Records are working to fill with their new series The Debut: Dream Academy. The show is set to premiere September 1 on YouTube, with new episodes airing over the following 12 weeks. The venture is sure to be binge-worthy, with 20 contestants (whittled down from over 120,000 submissions) from all over the world competing for a final spot in the yet-to-be-named supergroup. Think Making the Band meets the viewer-voting component of American Idol. It marks the first time a U.S. record label and a K-pop entertainment brand have teamed up to create an act with a truly global scope and reach. A documentary following the course of the competition will also premiere on Netflix in 2024.
Of course, a dream group requires a dream team behind it. Dream Academy has fashion and film industry veterans in key roles: Humberto Leon, the co-founder of fashion retailer Opening Ceremony, serves as creative director. Shirley Kurata, who has created costumes for Billie Eilish and Selena Gomez and who was nominated for an Oscar for her work on Everything Everywhere All at Once, is lead stylist. And Andrew Thomas Huang, the Grammy-nominated director of music videos for artists like FKA Twigs and Björk, is orchestrating visuals.
“Working with the Dream Academy trainees was an absolute delight. I was in awe of their transparent talent—from gymnastics to vocals to ballet to acting. Every individual trainee I met was so inspiring and a joy to collaborate with,” said Huang, who directed the video short announcing the launch of the series this week. “I’m honored to be among the first to capture them on camera, and it was such a delight to work under the creative direction of Humberto Leon—he is a true visionary.”
Kurata says Leon’s connection to the project is what sold her. “Anything that Humberto Leon is connected to, I’m always down for, because he has such a great vision for all things creative and I know that he’ll give it a taste level that is elevated,” Kurata told Harper’s Bazaar. “K-pop is also so universally loved and it’s so exciting to see, because growing up, it was usually such a niche thing. Now, it’s universal.”
When it came down to dressing the 20 contestants, Kurata considered the girls’ individual personalities as well as Gen Z style trends.
“Definitely having an understanding of Gen Z and what younger kids are into [helped prepare me for this]. There’s a big mix of Y2K, ’90s elements, and also of course pieces of K-pop style. It’s all young and fun and a bit hot at times. It’s empowering,” she said. “We had racks and racks and racks of clothes, and were reaching out to so many designers. Because Humberto owned Opening Ceremony, he knew so many designers and would be like, ‘What about this brand?’—more so than any [other] creative director I ever worked with. It was super fun getting to know the girls and figuring out what [fashion] they would feel represents who they are.”
Leon notes that incorporating vintage pieces into the contestants’ day-to-day wardrobes was also an important part of their styling. “I am overseeing the overall aesthetic of the group, as well as celebrating all of them as individuals,” he said. “The candidates have expressed their love of upcycling and vintage, so we are including a lot of that, along with young designers I discovered at Opening Ceremony. I am so excited to see fashion through this new lens.”
But more than the clothes—and even more than the music—the creative team is excited for how Dream Academy will resonate with young girls across the globe.
“It’s exciting to have an international group come together, and I think that sense of unity and world unity is so needed,” Kurata said. “To send that message through music and dance, and that it’s a universal language, and that it’s something that we can all connect with universally.”
You Might Also Like