get to know: richard chun of idiel showroom

Richard Chun has been a friend and a valuable resource as we’ve been adding more and more korean designers to our brand roster. We sat down with him recently to discuss Korean fashion and it’s growth and impact overseas.

OAK: can you introduce yourself to our readers?

RC: my name’s richard chun – i’m the owner and founder of idiel showroom. we started this officially about 6 months ago, launching for the FW10 sales season. Before, I worked for the capsule tradeshow working in international promotion and PR – since I’m Korean I met a lot of international brands, in particular many from Korea. Since there were specialized showrooms with japanese and swedish brands, I thought why not feature Korean brands? Korean brands are just a starting point right now though..

OAK: Korean fashion seems to be having its moment – this has been apparent even in our store, but also many korean designers have been showing on schedule in paris recently. Korean designers are now finally looking outside of Korea -can you speak a bit about that?

RC: Yes, this is very true. For Korean brands there are two ways to go – either Paris or the U.S. When your brand is more contemporary or mass-market, you come to America, but for more avant-garde designers, they head to Paris. The brands I carry in my showroom are more sales-driven, and I try to maintain some balance between these two aspects of the brands.

OAK: Were you familiar with the lines you represent in your showroom before starting it?

RC: Yeah – most of these brands were really popular in korea, showing in seoul fashion week and are considered some of the top menswear designers there. It worked out well for both of us that they were looking to expand elsewhere as I am able to help facilitate that process.

OAK: What have been the challenges in introducing korean lines to the rest of the world? How have people responded?

RC: Pretty well, actually. Though this upcoming season was our first as far as sales we were able to bring our lines to many new stores, and people feel that the clothing is unique and novel. It hasn’t been too challenging as the clothes speak for themselves, but I think it also goes back to knowing your customer. for most American Buyers, I try to show them the more contemporary aspects of our lines, and when I’m in Paris I try to highlight the more avant-garde pieces from the lines. The designers I work with are emerging, but they put out full collections that are pretty extensive. It’s a different game in korea so I have to be able to show what I need to to each customer.

OAK: So what do you show us then?

RC: [Laughs]…Well, I make sure to show everything and let your buyers pick.

OAK: Can you speak a bit about the history of korean fashion, and seoul fashion week?

RC: Seoul fashion week has been around for over 20 years, but people from elsewhere have only been paying attention recently. This is partly due to support from investment and PR, and strategic partnerships. Starting from 2 or 3 years ago, many brands started testing the waters of international markets, and they were able to do so with homegrown support. SFW used to be more of our own event but that’s changing, and for the better.

OAK: Two of the lines you represent, Gear 3 by Saen and Vandalist by Vandal, are lines that we’re carrying this fall in our store. Can you introduce them to our readers?

RC: Gear3 by Saen is our bag line right now – design-wise they use a mixture of calfskin and synthetic materials – not really classic bags but very functional and a bit funky. Vandalist is a bit more avant-garde – a black, white, and grey palette, and it’s a bit drapey, but still a bit more contemporary. That way people can still take a risk and not feel like it’s too much for themselves.

OAK: Do most Korean lines manufacture their clothing there as well?

RC: Most do, actually, and all the lines in my showroom happen to do so. Korea used to be more geared to manufacturing, but as competition grew from other countries where manufacturing is much cheaper, that changed. There’s still a decent garment industry there – with a focus on craftsmanship that brings international business. Even Balenciaga manufactures in Korea – for handcrafted goods the quality rivals any other country, but they couldn’t compete in mass-production.

OAK: That’s interesting, then, how there was a shift from manufacturing to design, like in many other countries as well.

RC: Yeah, you can really see how that has happened in korea..

OAK: Also, There has been a lot of support from the Korean government to help young designers expand and grow – it’s a really positive thing to see. I know that the Seoul Municipal government has recently started a program to help send 10 designers to Paris to sell their collections…

RC: That’s correct – Seoul Fashion Week partnered up with Paris trade shows and organizations, and they’ve been selecting different groups to show their lines overseas. It’s getting to be a better time to be a young designer in Korea.

OAK: Who do you feel are the ones to watch, in terms of Korean designers?

RC: Well, Vandalist is one of my favorites, and I think the OAK customers will really respond well to it. People like Juun J and and Songzio are getting bigger, especially in Paris, but there are a lot of Korean designers that many people don’t know about. Beyond Closet, another line I carry is a bit more preppy (people call it the Korean Band of Outsiders), but I think they’re on the verge as well.

OAK: What’s the look in Korea like? What are the kids wearing these days?

RC: It’s not that different from New York, really. I think the kids there are just as savvy and conscious of what’s going on. They’re really into many of the same designers like alexander wang and other designers who would be considered integral to a ‘new york look.’ Though, there’s probably more of a split between darker/softer dressing and preppy/classic styling. Luxury is a big thing as well. It’s not rare to find celebrities and style icons in givenchy, balienciaga, etc.

OAK: Anything else you’d like to say?

RC: I’m always looking for brands with great concepts – even though we’ve started with Korean menswear brands we’re showing womens and will be representing Enzuvan CM cube and Johnny Hates Jazz, one brand you already carry and another that you’ll have this fall, right? Also, It’s not just about korean brands as I think there’s a lot of talent elsewhere. I think there are a lot of interesting things that are happening in singapore right now… you’ll just have to wait and see!

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