A world of sophisticated home design in Apgujeong-dongIt’s been a busy first month at Tehome, a home furnishings store in Apgujeong-dong that opened Nov. 7. Fashion editors, models and photographers are eager to do their first photo shoot in the store’s beautifully furnished space. Reporters from just about every local media outlet line up to speak with the fashion designer behind the project, Jin Tae-ok.
Better known by the name of her brand, Jinteoc, Ms. Jin is one of Korea’s most influential fashion designers. Since the opening of her first boutique in 1968, she has had remarkable success. For the past 15 years, she says, she has anticipated dramatic changes in Korean society, and believed that she would eventually start a new business in home and living ― with the help of her second generation.
Ms. Jin’s three grown children, Victor Ro, Ro Seung-un and Ro Sang-won, are integral parts of Tehome’s business structure. The two sons, Victor and Sang-won, are chief executive officer and managing director, respectively; the daughter, Seung-un, an established fashion designer, is in charge of communication and coordination.
A graphic designer by profession, the elder brother, Victor Ro, designed the building and its meticulous interior. The younger, Ro Sang-won, who studied marketing in the United States, buys merchandise and manages nine staff and temporary workers.
“For the past three years, I’ve traveled around the world with them, often staying at some of the most expensive hotels and resorts,” Ms. Jin said. “If you have never experienced elegance and style, you cannot create elegance and style for others.” Their destinations were international furniture and home interior fairs; Ro Sang-won, 31, said Maison et Objet in Paris, Interiur, the biannual event in Belgium, and Macef in Milan were among his favorite shows.
The 450-pyeong (about 1,500 square meters) space, covering five stories, displays everything from kitchen- and tableware, bath products and art books to furniture. Ro Sang-won said Tehome carries about 3,000 items imported from more than 70 different contacts he made on trips around the world.
Ninety-nine percent of the merchandise is imported, Ro Sang-won said. Products include furniture from Italy’s Porada, simple kitchenware from Italy’s Zani & Zani, bathroom products from Portugal’s Clear Form, upholstery from Belgium’s Decopur and sophisticated objets d’art from Finland’s Al Bicante. There are even crafts handmade in Indonesia and India.
Interestingly, though, these eclectic items share a singular style that’s indicative of Jinteoc ― understated, minimal, artistic and refined.
So, if 99 percent of the stock is imported, what’s the remaining one percent? “My mother added only three of her designs: cushions, pajamas and pillowcases. She’s just a hired designer,” Ro Sang-won chuckled.
The family thinks Korea is finally ready for more sophisticated furniture and interior decoration. They have waited for the market to mature. “My mother had already tried the business in the mid-’90s, but found that the market was too premature then. Koreans gradually got used to locally developed items from brands like Room With A View and Sallim,” Ro Sang-won explained. “Now the customers who used to shop there are driving BMWs, and they are looking for better quality in their home.”
To Jinteoc, better quality means having her favorite natural elements ― light, water, wood and stone ― built into the Tehome building, whose features include a stream flowing from the first floor to the basement pond, and a bathroom faucet mounted on the walnut wall releasing water on a glass panel, creating lively shadows of flowing water on the granite floor.
Getting ready for another interview, Jinteoc summarized her philosophy: “Fashion can stylize one’s body, but stylish living starts from having style in mind.”
by Ines Cho
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