Saturday, October 25, 2008

Korea - Summer 2005

My summer in Korea was a low point, and I struggled with depression while I was there.

Previously, most of my trips to Korea had lasted two weeks at most. The one exception was the summer before I started college, where I spent two months there. However, that summer had been one of self-indulgence. Having finally gotten into college, I allowed myself to do as I pleased -- partying with my friends, spending the money my relatives had given to me, and enjoying one of those perfect summer flings.

This trip was vastly different. I learned that two weeks was probably the best length of time to spend in Korea. Beyond that period, you realized that there was little to do for fun in Seoul besides get drunk. Furthermore, I was there expressly to make as money as possible so I could study in Paris. That summer taught me that I could never make my sole existence about making money. I felt like my soul was dying each day I went to work. Despite getting along with most of my coworkers, and having the chance to become close with my friend Christina, I despised my boss, who promised one thing and gave us another. Despite the strides in technology and other forms of modernization that Korean society was still fairly sexist. I also felt stifled in such a homogenous culture, one which seemed to reject creativity in favor of conformity. I couldn't dress the way I wanted to without expecting to receive stares in the subway or on the street. My relatives told me I was fat, as the ideal was to be stick skinny, with a body more like an adolescent than a woman.

I stayed at my grandmother's house while in Seoul. My grandmother lives with two unmarried aunts and I became close with them -- another of the few good experiences I had while in Korea. One of them in particular was an amazing cook and I loved eating her food.

However, when it was time to leave Korea, I was ready to go.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

PS - Part 2

Weronika had learned production the hard way -- by being thrust into it and having to figure things out as she went, encountering one disaster after another. She showed me the ropes and I quickly learned that everything that can go wrong generally does, which made me understand how Weronika had become very paranoid and OCD about things. Whether it was calling and visiting the factories every day, sometimes multiple times a day, or mastering the art of following up -- especially with the Italian mills, who had a tendency to take at least twice as long as they said they would, she taught me the importance of being very careful about clear and direct communication with all parties involved in the production process. I also learned how to think quickly and come up with solutions to problems. One time, I spent days with different interns painting skirts because the print had come out spotty.

Most of the Korean factory owners were delighted to have a Korean person to talk to, and I quickly developed a rapport with them, who were all a little crazy in their own way. Like my parents, once they found out about my academic background, they tried to convince me to switch career paths.

For production, the patterns used for pieces in the show are generally slightly altered to fit a more average shaped body. Once the patternmaker had made the alterations, they were sent to the graders to be marked and graded. Meanwhile, after the orders had been taken, the fabric was ordered in bulk from the mills, who made the fabric specially for us. As I mentioned, the fabric was often late, which was a problem because buyers gave strict deadlines for their orders. Once the delivery date passed, buyers expected discounts or in worst cases, cancelled the order all together. This possibility made our jobs stressful, and we were constantly pushing everyone in the process to get their jobs done quicker.

Once the fabric arrived, it was sent directly to the cutting room, a factory that dealt specifically with cutting fabric in bulk. The markers (basically the patterns in a range of sizes) were sent to the cutting room, and placed on top of the fabric to be cut. Then the cutters sent the cut pieces to the factories, who would have been prepped by us with trim, notions, and labels. The factories would start working on the pieces, although we would have to continually harrass them as they would put our orders to the side to work on bigger orders by other designers (like Marc Jacobs).

When the pieces were finished, we would come back and do an extra quality check on them (generally the factory has someone in-house to do this as well). We would ask the factory to fix anything that we thought would likely catch the eye of a buyer, who often looked for excuses to return items if they didn't sell. Then we would have the factory polybag the pieces and we would ship them to the stores, hopefully by the delivery date. Let's just say that I memorized both the US and International numbers for UPS. The worst part was when they would lose a package that we had made an effort to get out in a timely manner.

Because the company was small, I soon found myself handling other responsibilities as well. At the time, the company had inked a deal with a distribution company called Bluebell, and I ended up taking a trip to Tokyo to present the Fall collection to them. I also helped Shirley in working with Bonnie, our point person at PR Consulting, with press responsibilities, which in one case included dropping off a motorcycle jacket at Rosario Dawson's apartment. Eventually I was put in charge of hiring and managing interns, whose resumes came into the general mailbox daily.

Working at the company was very exciting and I learned a lot quickly. However, after two seasons I became disillusioned with my job. Unlike some other people, it wasn't enough for me to simply be working at one of the hottest companies in New York. I knew in my heart that what I really wanted to do was design, and for my own label. Despite the advice of my close friends and family to the contrary, I decided I needed to quit and go back to school for fashion.

I had always wanted to live for a time in Paris, and I remembered the Chambre Syndicale that my fellow intern at Dior, Karin, had attended. I looked up courses there and found that they had a Formation Continue, courses designed for people who had worked in the industry, since I didn't really want to pursue another full "degree." Because I didn't have the support of my parents (initially), and I was broke, I set up a summer job in Korea tutoring SATs (my expertise) and doing college admissions consulting through a friend to make enough money to pay for a few months of classes in Paris. I had originally planned to take a vacation in May, and instead made that the day I would quit. Shirley hired two different interns to replace me and I spent a couple of weeks helping them get settled in their new posts. After a brief vacation to the UK and Ireland (including my first trip to Scotland!), I was off to Korea.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Episode 12

Watch it here:

New items in the shop -- 25% off with discount code: FALL25OFF

Dear Nicolas,

I wish I could afford your clothes.