Ningning Is aespa's Enthusiastic Daydreamer

Ningning Is aespa's Enthusiastic Daydreamer

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

NINGNING is in a good mood. It's more of a constant than an observation. The reality is that the 20-year-old singer has an immense enthusiasm for life — and for truly living. It's hard not to be pulled into her orbit, especially when aespa's youngest member emits the kind of laugh that makes everyone around her feel just a little bit lighter.

There wasn't a time before singing. NINGNING had been pulled to the arts from a young age. Growing up in China, she competed on several singing competition shows, including China's Got Talent and New Sound Generation. She joined SM Entertainment as a trainee in 2016, and, in the four years she spent honing her skills as a vocalist and performer, she also developed an artistic eye for drawing, painting and more visual tactile mediums like customizing her vintage wardrobe with her own doodles and designs.

The digital looks she co-designed with PAPER and The Dematerialised showcase her creativity. In envisioning her tie, she thought of something you could only wear in the digital world, an accessory that stretches the limitations of your own imagination.

In an industry that is often perceived as restrictive, NINGNING is a true free spirit. You can't put her in a box or temper her self-expression. It's one of the reasons she's become a muse in online stan spaces from TikTok to Twitter. (The "untouchable" edit from user @mieom_ee has over 16 million views and sparked a global trend that NINGNING herself even participated in.) Her members describe her as "quirky" or someone who often gets lost in her own daydreams.

It's not like she doesn't have experience turning those fantasies into reality. When aespa debuted in late 2020, NINGNING finally got to stand on stage and call herself an artist, a dream more than a decade in the making. She looks up to singers like Ariana Grande, Rihanna and SZA — pop and R&B artists who cultivate a presence. Her voice is her secret weapon; soulful and agile, NINGNING possesses a keen sense of her own dynamic artistry. She can be a baddie (have you seen this solo performance?), but she can also turn around and hit you right in your feelings with a single note.

From music to fashion to acting alongside her members in a web series inspired by aespa's lore, NINGNING approaches everything with an open mindset. Every endeavor is an opportunity to have fun. What is she looking forward to next? Her digital counterpart æ-NINGNING reached out from the FLAT to ask NINGNING just that, as well as to hear all of the behind-the-scenes stories about her first foray into digital fashion.

Digital garments: The Dematerialised

æ-NINGNING: The digital look you designed is incredible. Tell me about how you co-created it with PAPER and The Dematerialised?

NINGNING: You know I love a bold fashion moment. I think I look so cute in a mini skirt, so we started there in the design process. We then worked to create interesting accessories to pair with our looks. I think my tie is really unique and pulls my whole look together. I’m really excited to see our fans have the opportunity to wear the tie virtually. It is going to be really fun to see how everyone styles it on their own.

æ-NINGNING: I agree! MYs have the same taste as us, so I think they are going to love everything we designed. I hope our notifications go wild on launch day with all the MYs sharing their photos of our accessories and æ-pets. Speaking of the æ-pets, I love the bunny rabbit. Which one is your favorite?

NINGNING: I love pets so much and always get so excited when MYs show love for my cat, Roro. Honestly, I can’t pick a favorite between our æ-pets. I hope I can get them all.

æ-NINGNING: We have so much in store for 2023, what are you most looking forward to?

NINGNING: I’m most looking forward to releasing new music and seeing all of our MYs reactions. They have been so patient and I can promise them that it will be worth it. What are you most looking forward to?

æ-NINGNING: You’re going to be performing at Gov Ball in New York City in June. What is your favorite part of New York City?

NINGNING: New York City is such a magical place. I can’t wait to see MYs in New York City. When we were there last summer I was so energized by all of their support.

æ-NINGNING: I can’t wait to see everything you accomplish this year. Thank you again to PAPER and The Dematerialised for working with us on all these cool looks.

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 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