Photo by Yun Sukmu
In Korea’s well-entrenched world of fashion, Suh Sang-young’s reputation is that of the maverick. Trained in Parisian schools and fashion ateliers, Suh is quick to express his feelings about the way the industry operates in his home country.
“In Korea, fashion shows are still exactly that—a show or an event. The buyer, whom in other markets connects the manufacturer to the consumer, doesn’t exist. The department stores don’t buy collections, but only sell on consignment. High-end multi-brand shops have yet to open their doors to local designers. In this environment, I believed we needed something a little different.”
For Suh, that difference meant embracing technology to his full advantage. In a country with a reputed 70% broadband penetration, the Internet could do things for his fledgling line that less tech-savvy designers could only dream about. “As a person making clothes and creating an image, the Internet holds tremendous merits. It provides a level of accessibility unparalleled by other media.”
Earlier this year Suh presented his “Field & Air” collection in an online fashion show. Sponsored by Nike and held in conjunction with the release of the Air Max 360, the show generated so much Internet hype that visitors to the site from outside Korea were shut out by bandwidth limitations. “As a designer of high fashion from Korea, I want to be accepted in the global marketplace,” says Suh, and his strategies appear to be working.
Publicity and success comes at a price, of course. “The life cycle of a fashion product is about six months,” says Suh. “Frightfully, as soon as one season ends, the work for the next one begins.” The entrepreneur has learned what other larger, more entrenched fashion houses have come to know as a fact of life: once you’ve taken off from the runway, you have to keep flying.