News Pop Culture and Entertainment No One Is Doing Kpop Fashion Better (or Sexier) Than Wonho The crush-worthy idol talks about his new album "Bittersweet," his love of his fans, and his Halloween costume. By Katie Donbavand Katie Donbavand Instagram Twitter Katie Donbavand is an experienced, versatile editor and writer who has been creating content for digital audiences since 2007. As InStyle's BTS Editor, she speaks fluent ARMY and serves as their in-house Bangtan Sonyeondan (방탄소년단) expert covering fashion, new drops, and all else. She's also a Contributing Fashion Editor for PopSugar and has written for Sports Illustrated, the Chicago Tribune, and more. Additionally, she is an Audience Development Strategist and has worked with the Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, Martha Stewart Weddings, Barron's, MarketWatch, Daily Paws, and HelloGiggles. InStyle's editorial guidelines Published on October 24, 2022 @ 04:44PM Pin Share Tweet Email Photo: Courtesy of Highline Entertainment “Nightwing cosplay!” Wonho says, excitedly. “My fans recommended that for Halloween, I dress up as Nightwing from DC Comics, so I’m actually searching for a costume.” It’s that happily accommodating charisma — paired with an undeniable talent and unapologetic sexiness — that has earned kpop idol Wonho millions of worldwide devotees. It’s easy to forget that Wonho (born Lee Ho-seok) is a global superstar when you’re talking to him. Sure, he has that same honey-dipped voice that you’ve heard blasted through stadium speakers and on a million fan-made YouTube compilations. And, yes, those are the broader-than-a-refrigerator shoulders you’ve swooned over on Instagram, but when you’re with Wonho one-on-one, he makes you feel like you’re with a good friend. His warmth and soft-spoken humility is palpable even through a pair of translators and the expanse of time zones between us (when we talk, his late night is my early morning). Let me warn the newcomers: you are not ready for Wonho’s aesthetic. There aren’t a lot of men who could pull off jeans with thigh cutouts but, then again, not a lot of men are Wonho. Instagram @iwonhoyou With his stage costumes, Wonho has taken dopamine dressing to a new level: Mesh, sequins, vinyl — all are fair game. “For my stages and my performances, I really think hard about trying to show sides of myself that I haven’t shown before,” he explains. Thanks to that drive to constantly innovate, he’s managed to bring a new brand of unapologetically provocative sexiness to the kpop world. Wonho’s stagewear closet is filled with backless blazers, leather harnesses, peep-show jeans, fishnet shirts, and strategically unzipped turtlenecks, peeled back to reveal a set of abs that would make Thor do a double take. That risque wardrobe (and general aversion to wearing a shirt during concerts) means he can send the internet into a meltdown with just one performance. Courtesy of Highline Entertainment Kim Taehyung Eras That Prove He's Weaponized His Visuals Against Us “It is true. I started to work out for my physical health, but it has turned into somewhat of an aesthetic,” he tells me as the topic circles to his Instagram. Wonho’s grid is dotted with shirtless selfies and thirst traps worthy of a global idol between charmingly normal pics of him drinking coffee and sightseeing. “My physique,” he says, coyly, of the thirst traps. “I can show it to [my fans] every once in a while, because I like seeing their reactions.” When I ask what it’s like to be known in the kpop community as a sartorial boundary-pusher, Wonho is happy to take on the title, but firmly unbothered. ”First, thank you for recognizing me as a fashion icon,” he says, with a shy smile. “I don’t really think of boundaries when I am thinking of my own fashion. If it’s a fit for the concept or the style [of the performance], I’ll just try it without any hesitation.” No boundaries, no hesitation, all confidence. That’s Wonho in a heartbeat. Instagram @iwonhoyou Try Not to Faint: BTS Just Showed Up to the Grammys in Louis Vuitton Off-stage, Wonho’s preferences favor comfort. Sweats and Jordans. T-shirts and Vans. Easy styles that can take him from the studio to the gym to rehearsals to the airport. That casual, off-duty wardrobe is tweaked slightly when he’s continent-hopping. This past summer, Wonho launched his FACADE tour — his first solo sprint across Europe. The opportunity to perform for his fans there also gave him a chance to switch up his fashion “When I’m in London, I tend to style my outfits more clean-cut and dandy. Whereas, in Korea, I style them more comfortably and stylish.” And, as any jet-setting idol will tell you, practicality will trump fashion when the weather turns. “And, more recently, in Japan, my schedule was just packed and it rained all throughout my stay there, so I wore very comfortable clothing and raincoats and stuff.” Instagram @iwonhoyou Wonho’s fans can be cited as one of the sources of inspiration behind his whiplash-inducing fashion, but it’s clear that they’re also the motivation behind his music, as well. The rankings, the cynics, and all the other distractions that clog up your nerves and can kill an artist’s creativity — those are the obstacles that Wonho chooses, staunchly, to ignore. Instead, he only wants to make his fans proud. “My goal [as an artist] isn’t really chart-oriented,” he tells me with the help of those translators picking up the more nuanced questions. “I don’t really focus on getting any sort of ranking on the chart but, rather, I want to make music for as many years as I can. I also want to go on a world tour to meet WENEEs who are in all parts of the world.” The self-chosen moniker of his fans, WENEEs — the name equal parts silly and sweet — is short-hand for “WE are NEw Ending” or “WE NEEd.” Both phrases are representative of the symbiotic relationship between the artist and the fans who have been supporting him from the beginning, and will be there until the end. “[With this album,] I am making a promise to my fans to always be by my side, as they have always been.” Instagram @iwonhoyou Blackpink's Lisa Just Got the Beauty Job Her Fans Have Been Waiting For His latest project dropped earlier this month, a highly anticipated second single album named Bittersweet. It was a deeply personal effort for Wonho who doesn’t just sing his music but writes and produces as well, though he’s quick to share the credit with his team. “[I’m always] getting tons of support from all the staff and all the good people around me so I’m able to prepare and produce my albums very conveniently,” says the humble idol. “There are a lot of teams involved with the album production process so it comes out very smoothly.” The new album’s tracks, “On & On” (a smooth, pulsing dance track featuring Korean rapper YUNHWAY) and “Don’t Regret” (a powerful, tender ballad), are about all-consuming emotions and the Wonho-penned lyrics are as vulnerable as a baby bunny. What helps him to write and perform music this honest and personal is, in part, his impressive multilingualism. “It’s easier to express those kinds of emotions because I can use two languages, Korean and English,” Wonho says of his skill set, which also includes Japanese. “I can use both languages to express my thoughts and emotions.” The tracks add to Wonho’s consistently introspective and sentimental music catalog, making Bittersweet another compelling treasure from the solo star. Courtesy of Highline Entertainment Courtesy of Highline Entertainment 6 Times BTS Wore Louis Vuitton (and We Swooned) And then there’s that beautiful Wonho duality again, right there in the title of his album: Bittersweet. “I wanted to express a mix of emotions that are bitter, yet sweet. Exciting, yet depressing,” explains Wonho. “I believe our lives are filled with different emotions and they shape how we are.” That paradox of his album’s title and theme is an echo of his whole career and strengths as an idol. That duality is why the entire world has a crush on him. Wonho can do it all. He has a voice that is lovely and dreamy when paired with pulsing dance beats, but also soaring and gorgeous when singing full-chested ballads. He has an off-stage boyfriend aesthetic but is also an easy-to-worship glam god on-stage. Sexy and cute. A Disney face with a Marvel body, as fellow idol Jessi described him. But who needs superhero movies anyways when you have the adrenaline rush of Wonho’s duality?