Korean designers are having a moment.
While the top few mavericks leading the charge have yet to garner commercial — and international — success of K-beauty proportions, there are but a roster of brands that have the recipe for sucess down pat. Case in point: Sujinn Kim, creative director of Soulpot Studio. Despite being one of the youngest designers in the industry, Kim possesses a honest to goodness creative voice that deserves to be heard.
Anchored by a cachet of idiosyncratic detailing and a modern perspective on the feminine silhouette, she's a designer that doesn't require a loudhailer (we're talking sequins, ornamentation and the like, here) to draw attention to her work. A wide, stiff cuff nonchalantly flipped upwards, cords interwoven but intentionally left trailing, and a grommet to hold everything together, is much more her speed.
As we speak to the creative director about her passion and the growth of the Korean design scene in the past five years, it's apparent that Kim and her label are tipped to reach a wider commercial audience — it's just a matter of time.
Tell us more about yourself and how you started designing.
When I was young, I did not follow the ordinary education path in South Korea. Aiming to still graduate with a good degree, I made up my mind to enrol myself in one of the most renowned universities of fine arts in the country. During my college years, I majored in media arts and had a keen interest in other fields such as film, humanism and theory of design and as I learnt more about wearable technology, my interest in fashion grew. Soulpot Studio was created while I was pursuing my degree. Not long after graduating, I made my debut as the youngest designer at Seoul Fashion Week's 'Generation Next' series. Also, as I was growing up, I was constantly surrounded by nature, and Soulpot Studio's concept and inspirations are based on the simplicity of that.
What does the name Soulpot Studio mean, and what do you hope to offer women with your designs?
Soulpot Studio is derived from the pouring of one's soul into fashion. I think we speak to women who represent elegance and, values herself inside and out.
How do you think your background in media art contributes to your designs, and does it help you set yourself apart from other Korean labels?
Sometimes, I get praised for converting conceptual art into art in fashion. It allows me to design my collections with an unconstrained view of things, processes and compositions that in turn, makes the message I want to get across, stand out.
What is the vision you have in mind when designing your collections?
I have my own rules of designing for every collection. The most important thing is to convey what truly inspires me, into reality. I do not start preparing for collections by researching trends or viewing other brands' collections. Staying true to the theme and my inspiration for each collection also represents my strong will to develop clothing that are relatable to consumers both spiritually and physically.
And, what did you hope to achieve with your latest collection (FW16)?
In the FW16 collection, signature details are key. A brand imprinted in a person's memory has a long life cycle and, having a signature design allows people to recognise your work even without the brand's label.
How important is quality and aesthetic to you? Tell us more about the production process of your clothing.
To me, it's important that these two traits are connected, rather than compared. Aesthetics and quality go hand in hand. We are unable to produce high quantities for many pieces as they're created with precision. Also, when grading all sizes, new rules are applied differently to each piece, ensuring that each size fits perfectly. Of course, we pay more attention to pieces with handmade details. I believe in the idea of adding handmade elements and the pouring of one's soul into the making of apparels.
People continuously develop new labels but uniqueness doesn't come from this. I survived by presenting a unique brand identity and creative ways to express my brand values
What are your thoughts on the Korean fashion landscape at the moment, and how do you think the Korean fashion industry as a whole has grown over the past five years?
In the past, the Korean fashion industry focused heavily on producing fabrics. It was easier for Korean fashion designers to run their businesses. These days, due to the rapid growth of fabric and production in Vietnam and China, there is a need to develop the design process as a core ability in the Korean fashion industry. Due to this, Korean designers turn to marketing their brands internationally and some enjoy great exposure and success. Having insufficient capital could be a struggle for some Korean designers, and I can see the similarity in their designs precisely because of the lack of capital.
In your opinion, what does Soulpot Studio bring to the Korean fashion industry and the international fashion scene?
People continuously develop new labels but uniqueness doesn't come from this. I survived by presenting a unique brand identity and creative ways to express my brand values. The most important change we brought to Korea's fashion industry is from the shift of focus on the celebrities who attended your fashion shows to the theme of the show itself.
Let's talk about the growth of your brand. Are you intending to expand your presence in the Singapore market? Where do you see Soulpot Studio in the near future?
Our brand awareness is gradually expanding in Singapore and internationally, as being exclusive to multi-label online boutique, SocietyA, plays a big part of it. So far, we haven't made or varied the fall/winter collection for the South East Asia market especially due to the knowledge that this market is active, but still conservative. We hope the market share and the brand awareness will grow in the next five years, and we look towards developing brand further in this region.