For designer, today Paris, tomorrow the world
“My first collection in Paris was scheduled for the Louvre Museum on a rainy Sunday morning, and even worse, there was a huge party the previous evening for renowned figures in the fashion industry,” she said. “I doubted anyone would come and see my show.”
“When the head of the Paris Fashion Association told me the show was great and asked how he could help, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.”
Ms. Woo will open her own flagship store in Paris on May 8, becoming the first Korean designer of men’s clothes to set up base camp in the fashion capital. Adding to the excitement is the location: It’s not set back in some suburb, but right on the Marais, the home of Paris’s artists. The closest thing Seoul has to it is Samcheong-dong, where a number of artists and bourgeois bohemians live.
“The male population in Marais is high,” Ms. Woo said. “I decided to try to sell my clothes more to residents than to tourists. Marais is the only region in Paris where shops are open even on Sundays, targeting Parisians who work on weekdays and shop on weekends.”
Rather than sell her clothes to other shops, Ms. Woo established a local corporation, Solid Europe, so she could run her own stores. Twice a year, she participates in a men’s collection in the city, not having missed a single one since 2002.
Yet Parisians, she said, are slow to react to new brands. “A new brand is usually evaluated within six months in Korea, but in Paris, it’s important to keep participating in collections. I’m still considered a new designer,” she explained.
Ms. Woo said her success is due in part to luck. “My second collection show was scheduled at 2 p.m. The treatment by the association got better.” After the show, a fashion reporter from a French daily newspaper wrote that she should “stop hiding” and told her to “open your shop in Paris.”
“I can still vividly remember that article,” she said. It’s what spurred her to set up her own brand in Paris.
Solid Homme was first recognized by foreign buying agents. Before opening her own store, she started selling through agents in France, England and Belgium in 2004, and later expanded to Japan, Hong Kong and Russia. In February, having expanded so much and so quickly, Solid Homme triumphantly entered Le Bon Marche, the department store that rich Parisians prefer.
Solid Homme is now 18 years old, and still popular. “I reached my current position thanks to my Korean customers. Korean young men, my main customers, are filled with energy. As the young read global fashion trends over the Internet, I had to, and I’ve tried to, accept change,” she said.
That means that in order to satisfy picky Korean customers, she has to be internationally competitive.
Looking at her designs, there’s not a single shirt on which flowers are printed. Ms. Woo said she designs clothes for the perfect man of her imagination. “In my dream, the perfect man is not soft. He’s neat and sharp.”
by Jo Do-yeon