This industry is not an easy one to make it in. It's riddled with businesses and companies trying to come out on top, but in this cut-throat world of fashion we choose to look at the little guys. In an attempt to get into the minds of the small businesses who have been finding their own successes, Richard Chun from IDIEL showroom will start off our new series of Small Business Chats. Here's to the take-away of tips and tricks from the inner circle of success.
We Are The Market: Congratulations on 5 years in business! You decided to open Idiel having had very little actual work experience at a showroom (with the exception of an awesome internship ;) ) and now you're well established in the marketplace. To what do you attribute your success?
Richard Chun: I think the timing was very good when I was planning to begin in the NY showroom businesses. As you know, there are so many showrooms in the city, and I figured that the only way I could survive in the competition was to focus on somewhere that had not been exposed yet. I thought of Asia, especially Korea, as the market that I wanted to introduce into US market.
Which brands do you carry?
I currently represent over 20 brandsmens, womens,and accessories including, Beyond Closet, General Idea, CY Choi, Drink Beer Save Water, Tee Library, KYE and more...
What is some advice you'd pass on to someone else thinking of starting a showroom? What were some of the pitfalls of running a small business that you were able to overcome?
As I mentioned before, targeting a new country that has not yet been exposed in the market is the most important thing in terms of beating the showroom competition. Obviously, the hardest part of running a showroom business in the beginning is attracting buyer traffic. We are introducing unknown young emerging talents to the market, and it takes time to convenience buyers to invest in new products. Patience is a very important part of being successful in this industry. This is my 11th season and only now are we recognized in the industry and are finally dealing with good retailers.
What are some of the things you've learned or problems you've experienced that have made an impact on how you run your business?
Obviously, since I didn't have much of business experience before I start this, I learned everything as I went along. This industry is easy to enter, but very hard to survive in due to the competition. I have experienced so many things over my 5 years and can't even begin to list everything I've learned. The most important thing is that I'm still surviving! I think that is good thing, haha!!
While you also have designers from Australia and Japan in your showroom right now, you made your name as a showroom for Korean designers. Why did you decide to focus on that?
I aim to focus on the countries overseas that are not exposed yet. In the beginning, Korea was my target country. Honestly, I don't want my showroom to be seen as a Korean showroom. I want to be seen as the showroom that is focusing very heavily on countries overseas, especially Asia. My current interests are Singapore and Thailand. I'm traveling to Southeast Asia a lot these days in hopes of finding new talent.
Korean designers are in hot demand right now in the international market. Why do you think that is? What do buyers look for when they seek out Korean brands? And what do consumers equate with Korean design? Who are some of the hottest Korean designers to watch right now in your opinion?
Korean brands are now thought of as very unique. They offer creative designs while maintaining a competitive price point. Opening Ceremony's recent collaboration with Korean brands has helped a lot in terms of market exposure, which helps my business. Thank you OC!!!
Right now Juun J is the hottest Korean designer for menswear and I think KYE (you can see KYE at Capsule Vegas!) will be the next top star in Korea. Of course, there are so many!
How have Korean designers developed their own design and business skills over the past few years, in your opinion?
As I mentioned briefly, there are so many young talented designers in Korea at the moment. The generation is changing and a lot of them have been educated by major fashion cities such as NY, Paris, Milan. Because of this, they are, at a young age, very familiar with the industry. In addition to that, there are many fashion-related sponsorship programs in Korea that help young designers set up businesses globally.
How do select the brands you work with and how do you determine if a brand is ready for the international market? What are some of the pitfalls you try to avoid with young brands?
I used to look solely at the the visual side of the brand such as uniqueness of the designs. However, I've since realized that brands need to be systemized to do international business in the long run and that matters much more. You can have a beautiful brand that isn't able to create collections as fast as you might need them. Creativity takes small parts in this industry. Brands need to understand fully how this business operates in order to be successful.
Trends / key items what are some hot trends right now or best booking pieces from your showroom?
I think high-end streetwear is the biggest trend at the moment. I'm calling it "High Street". Inspired by Givenchy, there are many streetwear brands that are attempting to bring the level up to 'high-end'. I think Hood by Air, En Noir, and Mark McNairy are very good examples. We are offering a lot of high street brands like KYE and General Idea, especially for menswear.
Richard Chun is the co-owner of Ideil Showroom. Many of their brands are viewable at Capsule Vegas
Photography by Will Foster. More work by Will can be seen at dubfoster.com