Designer lends his style to E-MartFashion designer Choi Beom-seok is an internationally renowned designer who has presented his collection at New York Fashion Week every year since 2008. Along with these shows, he has launched his brand in two famous department stores in Paris: Printemps and Le Bon Marche. His brand is also well known as a favorite of local stars including Kwon Sang-woo, Jo In-sung and Ryu Seung-beom.
This year, the designer is giving us a twist, as his clothes are slated to start selling at E-Mart, the nation’s leading discount store chain, starting May 5. His W.Dressroom line, with t-shirts, jeans and jackets, will be featured in 43 E-Mart branches nationwide.
The clothes at E-Mart will sell for prices lower than the original prices at the main store in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul, and in other venues. The original prices for t-shirts range from 59,000 won ($52) to 120,000 won and jeans cost between 98,000 won and 170,000 won. But the price for t-shirts at E-Mart branches will range from 19,000 won to 29,000 won and jeans will cost around 59,000 won.
The designer stressed that local designers must start thinking about how to make their clothing more accessible. “This is the right direction and other designers should follow,” he said.
He went on to say that it was his experience that helped him form his philosophy on fashion. “Everything I learned about this business comes from my experience selling at Dongdaemun Market,” he said.
Dongdaemun Market, located in central Seoul, is a famous fashion market where fabrics, clothing and sewing supplies are traded. Choi worked at Dongdaemun Market from age 19 after graduating from Dongsan Informational Industry High School (formerly known as Wirye Commercial High School) in Seoul.
“After graduating, I was excited to launch my own line,” said Choi.
He got his start selling clothes in the Hongdae area in western Seoul, but he soon lost 1 million won on the venture. Afterward, he decided to start over at Dongdaemun Market and learn about clothes by first learning about the fabrics. When he turned 21, he finally opened his own store, MU, derived from the Chinese character for “nothing.”
Choi admits that he started with basically no knowledge of designer labels and thought that Prada and Salvatore Ferragamo were just fabric names, but he said he was full of passion. He always worked early in the morning and walked around fabric stores and manufacturing factories every day. In the afternoons, when Dongdaemun Market opens, he met merchants from all over the country.
“From a Jeolla merchant, I learned that people who live by the sea like bright t-shirts because of their tanned skin,” he recalled.
After Choi appeared at Seoul Fashion Week in 2003 as the first Dongdaemun designer, he created a sensation in the local fashion world. His clothes are often cited as easy to understand and more accessible than the clothes of other Korean high fashion designers.
“There’s no difficult philosophy in my designs,” he said, adding that designers should let go of their egos.
He recalled his first collection at New York Fashion Week in 2008.
“The venue in Seoul was crowded with 1,500 spectators, and about 300 people waited outside,” he said, “but at the first New York Collection, there were just 200 people.”
With that collection, he said that he was aiming to have a strong impact with conceptual designs, though he knew they would be harder to sell.
“I forgot what I learned in Dongdaemun for a while at that time,” he said. That prompted him to begin observing people and differences in race, age and gender, which helped him improve his collection.
“I finally gained recognition in New York after understanding what New Yorkers like to wear,” he said.
Choi said that he now designs clothes with the idea that clothes must be designed for the average person. That matched E-Mart’s concept of affordable fashion, and the two came together. Choi will be in charge of both design and manufacturing.
“I’ve sold more than 100,000 of the same t-shirts at Dongdaemun, so why not try it [at E-Mart]?” he said.
By Kim Ho-jeong [firstname.lastname@example.org]