Karina Is aespa's Intense, Attentive Leader

Karina Is aespa's Intense, Attentive Leader

Story by Crystal Bell / Photography by Mok Jungwook / Makeup by Jo Eun Bee / Hair by Yoon Seo Ha / Digital garments by The Dematerialised

Ask the members of aespa to recall their first impressions of KARINA, and they'll settle on one word: mysterious. Her beauty is often compared to AI, too unreal to possibly exist in the material world. On stage, she burns with Ariean intensity, harnessing her innate power to appear both fierce and masterfully aloof. In person, however, KARINA is all soft smiles and careful warmth.

As both the oldest and the leader of the group, the 22-year-old performer plays an important role in aespa's synergy. She's attentive, a generous listener and someone her members can easily rely on to answer the tough questions. On the topic of idols — the K-pop industry term for its artists — KARINA takes her time to articulate what the word means to her. She thinks deeply and offers a response even the group’s interpreter, Hannah Jihyun Park, describes as thoughtful and honest. She compares the word idol to that of a star: a luminous celestial body that shines brightly but also appears cold and distant. She's deftly perceptive in moments like this.

Maybe that's why she approaches everything with a keen level of awareness and curiosity. She always wants to know more, more about the aespaverse and more about the virtual world in which they exist. In collaborating with PAPER and web3 marketplace The Dematerialised on aespa's capsule collection, KARINA dove into the world of digital fashion and learned just how limitless clothing and style can be on the internet.

Within the broader aespa universe — the sci-fi lore, if you will — KARINA and the rest of aespa sync up with their four virtual counterparts, called æs, in a dangerous digital metaverse known as Kwangya to take down the villain Black Mamba and save the world. KARINA relies on her brute strength, an ability referred to as "rocket puncher." But it also speaks to her natural talents. She's a charismatic rapper, a sultry singer, a dynamic dancer and a kind leader, says her group mates. She can do everything, even go head-to-head with Black Mamba.

So there's no one better to kick off PAPER's series of aespa interviews than KARINA. And no one knows her better than her virtual best friend, æ-KARINA. After all, the æ was created using KARINA's data. Below, the duo SYNK up for their first published interview.

Digital garments: The Dematerialised

æ-KARINA: I’m so excited to see your magazine cover and be interviewing you for the story. Can you tell me more about PAPER Magazine?

KARINA: We love PAPER. We were so excited when they offered us the cover opportunities, and the fact that they are tapping into the metaverse to really highlight us as a group makes the whole thing even better. PAPER has been supporting us since early on in our careers and we are so happy with how everything turned out. Even better that our æ-aespas are interviewing us for the story.

æ-KARINA: I was ecstatic. The covers look so fierce and I love the clothing that you designed. I’m so happy for aespa to have this cover moment.

KARINA: Speaking of my outfit, what is your favorite part of the digital look that we the æ-aespas, aespa, DMAT and PAPER co-created together?

æ-KARINA: I think denim looks so good on you, hehehehe. You really know how to pull off a denim moment. I love denim pants, they make you look so tall. What is your favorite aspect of the look?

KARINA: I honestly love the whole thing. The entire process of working with PAPER and The Dematerialised on our outfits was a dream come true. Fashion is so fun to me. Outside of appearing on the cover of PAPER, it was so much fun to co-create a digital fashion line.

æ-KARINA: Outside of the clothing, I love the æ-pets that you and the rest of the girls created. I hope some of them can come to KWANGYA and visit. Which one was based on your personality?

KARINA: The cat was based on our personality. I think it is so cute, and hope MYs think so too.

æ-KARINA: I’m sure MYs will think the ae-pets are cute. I’m really excited for everything we have planned this year, KARINA. What are you looking forward to most?

KARINA: As you know, we’ve been working so hard to create some amazing things for MYs. I’m really looking forward to performing live again and connecting with MYs in person all over the world. What about you?

æ-KARINA: Well, we are already kicking off the year in a major way with five PAPER covers. I’m really excited to see everything that we will accomplish and all of the fun we will have together after this cover opportunity.

KARINA: 2023 is going to be amazing. Get ready, everyone.

Purchase Karina's ear cuff, here, and own an ae-pet, here.

Warner Records’ first K-pop act aespa, PAPER, The Dematerialised, SM Entertainment and Warner Music Group have released their digital capsule collection, alongside the unveiling of their first PAPER cover. The collection is available at TheDematerialised.com. The digital capsule collection co-designed by aespa, PAPER and The Dematerialised includes three tiers of products. Items from the digital capsule collection are available for purchase via credit card or cryptocurrency payments.

The most exclusive pieces from the collection are four, one-of-a-kind æ-fits. Each æ-fit is designed around the members of aespa — KARINA, WINTER, GISELLE and NINGNING — and worn by each member on the five PAPER covers rolling out this week. Each æ-fit comes with a ticket to an aespa concert, exclusive PAPER digital cover, bespoke virtual dressings inclusive of an AR filter and additional perks from DMAT. There is only one of each design and four designs in total, each priced at 2,000 EUR.



The next tier of the virtual collection consists of four æ-accessories. Created around each aespa members’ signature symbols, the individual æ-accessories are an anti-gravity collection of powerful bijouterie. All æ-accessories come with an AR filter to wear the piece, an exclusive PAPER digital cover and additional perks from DMAT. There is a supply of 200 for each accessory and each is priced at 100 EUR.



The widest available component to the digital capsule collection are unique generative æ-pets. Inspired by the first alien featured in the 1998 “Dreams Come True” music video by S.E.S. and reimagined by aespa, each æ-pet is uniquely generated by AI algorithm. Owners of the æ-pets can use them as a profile picture, play with their unique filter on TikTok and Instagram, and share their special powers online. These one-of-a-kind friends are here to make your metaverse journey extra mægical. There are 10,000 unique generative æ-pets, each priced at 25 EUR.



The project is minted on the Polygon blockchain, a leading carbon-neutral Layer-2 Ethereum scaling platform. Polygon’s tools ensure that aespa, PAPER and The Dematerialised’s digital capsule collection is as sustainable, inclusive, and accessible as possible. More information on Polygon’s sustainability efforts, including their carbon-negative footprint, can be found here.

Photography: Mok Jungwook
Style and visual direction: Kim Wook
Makeup: Jo Eun Bee
Hair: Yoon Seo Ha

Digital capsule collection production: The Dematerialised
DEMAT founders: Marjorie Hernandez and Karinna Grant
CGI and cover design: William Stapel
Garments and æ-pet design: Carola Dixon
Garment design: Jiyoon Myung and Joyxxi
3D accessories and AR: Romain Gauthier
AR: Schirin Negahbani
Head of production: Veselina Tsankova
Product manager: Alexandra Ilg
Head of partnerships: Gila Bonakdar
Head of marketing: Ann-Britt Dittmar

Editor-in-chief: Justin Moran

aespa management: Choi Seongwoo, Park Sungjun
aespa creative direction: Park Junyoung, Kim Hyunwoo, Mo Nari, Jo Woocheol, Son Saerom and Kim Wook
aespa IP business management: Park Seolah, Chun Jihong and Gil Minhyeong