September 09, 2014 08:30
A young fashion designer dreams of making hanbok or traditional Korean dress as popular as blue jeans around the world. Hwang Dew (27) runs her own hanbok boutique and has recently published a book about her success story.
Even though she did not major in fashion design, she opened an online shopping mall specializing in traditional clothes. In only eight years, her business flourished enough to buy a small property.
She recently hosted a fashion show in Seoul in early August to promote practicable wearable hanbok for any occasion, and now she hopes to tackle overseas markets like New York, Paris and Rome.
"I rarely bought clothes for myself and was uninterested in fashion and hair style. I was so shy that I wanted to remain inconspicuous," Hwang recalls of her youth. But a costume play at university changed her life.
At an event by the cartoon club at Chonbuk National University in 2007, she took part in a parade, clad in a hanbok she designed after a famous comic book. People asked her whether it was of her own making and praised the work, so she decided to sell it online.
One took five days to sell and a second another week. She found that people were more interested in her fusion hanbok than she expected, and she thought she might have a stab at launching her own business.
Immediately she started focusing on her task, only shuttling between her house and the library and barely finding time to socialize. She delved into books about how to open an online shop.
After only three months of preparation, she opened her business with a meager investment of W45,000 (US$1=W1,025) to register it and using leftover fabric from her parents’ bedding store.
She targeted at niche market and her strategy proved successful. Customers are largely women in their 20s who need dresses for performances, special events or parties. She added modernity to the traditional clothing by decorating it with lace or velvet, while making it washable by using cotton or hemp.
Customers also appreciate that the online retail channel keeps prices down to less than W400,000.
"Initially, sales stood at around W1 million a month, but I got more and more orders by phone and e-mail, and many people encouraged me," she says.
Now, monthly sales reach around W25 million.
"Don't worry what people say and feel free to express yourself," is her advice to budding entrepreneurs. "Don't hesitate because you have no money or experience. If you have an idea and passion, that's enough to open your business."
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