SUK CHAI INTERVIEW "SCHAI"

November 03, 2014 1:51 PM

“My hands and eyes ooze desire to create when I touch something special.  When I touch the “right” fabric, I usually close my eyes and visualize all the things I can create.”

 

“I am inspired by and seek mentorship from people who are genuine, intelligent, incredible at their unique craft, persevering, and paving path for newness.”

 

“Most of times it’s just an emotion that inspires the entire collection.”  

 

Growing up the youngest daughter of a fisherman, Korean-born Suk Chai’s wardrobe was not her own. It was oldest brother’s first, and then the next brother’s, and then her sister’s — but waiting taught her about timeless silhouettes and the value of materials. By the mid-90s Chai was a young single mother putting herself through design school in New York.   Her own clothes came from 10-dollar stores, but her dreams came from the then-dying legendary houses of Givenchy, Ungaro, and Alaia. After school, the award-winning FIT graduate spent twenty years designing, directing, and producing womenswear for elite brands —fourteen of those years at Nordstrom, innovating and exacting for the luxury department store clientele — but swift and steady success in the industry eventually gave way to a boomerang. She began to see fashion as a surface-level art form, and ultimately vacated her coveted senior design director position. It wasn’t until a chance encounter with the rich cashmere of a Lanvin coat, some two years later, that the soulfulness of refined fibers and precision craft pulled her back in.

S C H A I  is her personal debut. Although Chai continues to work outside her brand as a creative consultant for major Korean and American fashion companies, her collection represents her own intellectual and intuitive beliefs about beauty, longevity, and comfort.  Each season exhibits the brand’s DNA: a dedication to finely milled Italian fabrics and luxe vegetable-dyed animal skins, New York City-based manufacturing (with satellite production in Korea), elegantly modern shapes and cutting-edge architectural lines, and an intrinsic wisdom concerning color, shade, and tone. 

“Softly spoken but powerful hues are what seduce you to touch a garment,” says Chai.

When felt,  S C H A I  garments command even more attention—when worn, body, mind, and materials are transformed.

 

 

1. Describe your journey to becoming a designer?

S: I found myself not being able to breathe without being deep in it.  Despite a couple of occasions where I was completely burnt out from the industry, I found designing is what my makes my heart beat faster. 



2. What is your favorite part about being a fashion designer?

S: Fabric sourcing.  Textile is an integral part of design.  My hands and eyes ooze desire to create when I touch something special.  When I touch the “right” fabric, I usually close my eyes and visualize all the things I can create.  However, this is also the part I hate the most, because I cannot use all the fabrics I love.  



3. What were your inspirations for the designs you created for the shoot?

S: I titled the S/S 15 collection “Water”, and it’s a secret homage to my father who was a fisherman in Alaska.  

Water is immense, yet transparent.  It is mysterious yet purifying.  It is vast yet vulnerable.  

These emotions coincided with my experience as a little girl fishing with my father.  My father, who is now hospitalized, is the strongest, most driven person I know.  Although we didn’t really speak much on these trips, I remember the emotions that I collected each time we went fishing together.  I wanted to capture these memories in the collection.


4. How did you select the materials you used?

S: I sourced materials that show structure and durability like what a fisherman would like, but feels soft and worn, such as Feather Lambskin, Cotton/Linen Denim, and Crackled, Splatter Leather.  I also wanted to balance the collection by juxtaposing structured materials with extremely fluid and sensual fabrications in strong lines, such as Stretch Crepe with a Vintage Washed Hand-feel and Voile Stripe and Stretch Viscose from Italy.  For accents, I used the Copper Shimmer fabric that represents the shimmer on the surface of the water as the sunsets in the Pacific Northwest.




5. What are materials that are challenging for you to work with?

S: Drapy fabrics.  They are harder to cut and sew as they tend to “slip” as you handle them.  Seams can twist and warp, but when done right, a beautiful drape can wrap around a body in the most sensual way. 



6. What would you think when some high-end brands challenged you to create haute couture clothes and accessories out of trash and recycled materials?

S: It would be a challenge.  But I like challenges. I remember having to design something with carpenter’s tools while I was at FIT.  It’s fun to be able to use unexpected materials and achieve something extraordinary.  

 

7. Can you tell me one of your most challenging moments as a designer?

S: Having to be the designer, the CEO, the janitor, the assistant, the merchant, and so on.  I am really good with multi-tasking, but the challenge for an emerging brand is that it is constantly growing and the designer often has to do-it-all.  For over 16+ years in management positions, one of my biggest responsibilities was to “delegate” tasks to my team members, but now I must undo what I learned to do. 



8. Who/What is your inspiration?

S: My surroundings and my family.  Most of the time it’s just an emotion that inspires my entire collection. 



9. Which designers do you admire? / Why?

S: Haider Ackermann.  I don’t think this needs any explanation.  His work is magical and transcendent. 

 

10. Which designers have you been inspired by or learned from?

S: I am inspired by and I am always seeking mentorship from people who are genuine, intelligent and incredible at their unique craft, perseverance, and paving the way for newness. 



11. What's your favorite style?

S: Slightly androgynous, which translates ageless, timeless and also is versatile between street and high-fashion. 

 

12. Where do you think the most fashionable city in the world is?

S: I don’t think there is such a thing.  Fashion is such a subjective matter.  I think it is most fashionable when a person or a city is confident, creative, eclectic, artistic, intelligent and open to versatility and change.  I will say the most unfashionable city is a city where the citizens are stuck with one belief.



13. Can you tell me one of your childhood memories regarding fashion?

S: My family was not able to afford a Barbie back when I was growing up in Korea.  My sister and I used to design our own paper dolls and their outfits, including handbags, hair accessories, and shoes. 

 

14. What do you like to do in your spare time?

S: Friends and Family gatherings.  I wish I was able to do more of it. 



15. What are your favorite musicians/songs/bands?

S: I love a good mix of house music when I am working and everyone around me knows that I hate lyrics in the music when I am working.   When I am driving, I love great vocalists such as Adele, Amy Winehouse, Sade…. 



16. Do you have any spots that you always visit in NYC? Any places that you get inspired from?

S: Lower East Side.  I love the fact that I can walk across the Williamsburg Bridge, and I can have the most amazing coffee at Cafe Vita (from Seattle, by the way!) Cafe Vita is my favorite roaster. I can walk around feeling the neighborhood, and there are amazing eateries as well as the coolest shops around.  All of this without the tourists!

 

17. What are your favorite restaurants/bars/nightlife in NYC?

S: For breakfast, wherever there is a great espresso.  Coffee is not like Seattle.  I am happy to see that better cafes are popping up though.  

I am not much of a bar-goer, so I do love going to great restaurants like Freemans.  For me, being able to chat all night long is the best “nighlife” in whatever city I happen to be in.

 

18. Where would you like to travel to get some ideas or inspirations from?

S: Africa.  Middle East. Vietnam & Laos.  New Zealand.  Australian desert. 


19. Where do you see yourself in 3 years / 5 years?

S: By 3rd year, I would like to have the collection established and recognized by great boutiques around the world.  In 5 years, I would love to create a beautiful coffee table book to celebrate the 10th season. 



20. How would you describe yourself in one word?

S: A labyrinth.

 

 

 

INTERVIEWED & WRITTEN BY: RACHEL IIMURA

 

PHOTOGRAPHER : FIONA PEPE AND SARA MARIE D'EUGENIO

 

 

 

 

 

related posts

R.I.P Chek Wu

We at TWELV are deeply saddened to announce the passing of talented photographer, boundless free-spirit, and our friend, Chek Wu.

November 28, 2018 12:00 PM  |  People

GatherNYC: Everything We Love About Church With No Weird Stuff

GatherNYC is Everything We Love About Sunday Service With None of the Weird Stuff

 

November 17, 2018 3:00 PM  |  People

NEW TYPE #33: Catherine Casias Inteview

If fashion is an expression of experiences, Catherine Casias has a lot of area to cover. She has excelled as an Olympic volleyball player, a philosophy major, and a fine artist....

October 12, 2018 4:00 PM  |  People

Party Czar Carmen D’Alessio, Empress of the Sun and the Queen of the Night

You may not know Carmen D’Alessio by name.

October 08, 2018 10:00 PM  |  People
Shot by CHAMA

IKEMEN #39: JORDAN HENRIQUEZ

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

August 28, 2018 5:00 PM  |  People

IKEMEN #38: WARREN KAY

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

August 07, 2018 5:00 PM  |  People

NEW TYPE #32: ALEXANDER ROYS INTERVIEW

"Introducing an innovative Men’s designer to inspire you with the visions of future and the rise of technology."

June 26, 2018 4:00 PM  |  People
Silvia Mella (right) with Thomas De Bruyne for "House of Molteni"

Branding in the Worlds of Art and Commerce According to Silvia Mella

Branding is everything. For an entrepreneur, it is the difference between viability and bankruptcy. On social media, we are all our own brands.

May 21, 2018 4:00 PM  |  People
Jackie Yang, Creative Director of Chelsea and Walker. Video Still.

Interview: Jackie Yang, Creative Director of Chelsea and Walker

TWELV sat down with Jackie Yang, Creative Director of Chelsea and Walker, in the brand’s New York City...

May 21, 2018 2:00 PM  |  People
Krystal and Marilyn Lavoie

New Type #31: Angela Mitchell – Krystal and Marilyn Lavoie Interview

We are living in the age of fast fashion, and even Europe’s most storied luxury brands have been moving their factories to Asia to reduce costs.

May 17, 2018 3:00 PM  |  People

Ikemen #37: Dominik Halas

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

May 03, 2018 12:00 PM  |  People
Bianca Allen, Carolina Sarria, and Samantha Deller

New Type #30: Carolina Sarria & Bianca Allen Interview

Both Carolina Sarria and Bianca Allen knew they wanted to become fashion designers from a young age.

April 16, 2018 5:00 PM  |  People

Interview & Backstage: Christian Siriano Celebrates 10 Years in Fashion

After the successful launch of his book Dresses to Dream About, a decade-anniversary celebration on the runway, and a whirlwind of striking celebrity looks on the red carpet of...

March 09, 2018 11:00 AM  |  People
Jackie Astier. Photo: BFA.

New Type #29: Jackie Astier Interview

Astier places its identity within the advanced adaptation skills of the modern New York woman.

February 24, 2018 11:00 AM  |  People

INTERVIEW: Meet Kiko Arai, Miss Japan-turned Face of Balmain and Zara

Kiko Arai hails from Osaka, Japan, and after winning the title of Miss Japan 2012, the now 27-year old is captivating a new audience– the fashion world.

February 06, 2018 12:11 AM  |  People

Interview: Parisian Designer Frédéric Robert's Debut Shoe Collection "ME.LAND"

A vibrant brand of Italian-made shoes for men is emerging this year as one-to-watch.

January 26, 2018 10:00 AM  |  People
Maxime Tiliouine and Quentin Hernandez

New Type #28: the Design Duo Behind Maxime Hernandez Interview

The streetwear phenomenon in the fashion establishment is not slowing down anytime soon.

January 12, 2018 2:00 PM  |  People

MICHEL NAFZIGER INTERVIEW

With a wealth of experience shooting some for some of fashion's most renowned clients (Yves Saint Laurent, Guy Laroche), ...

December 29, 2017 2:00 PM  |  People

IKEMEN #36: Jérôme LaMaar

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

November 27, 2017 12:00 PM  |  People
Alcone Backstage Set Designed by Roger Padilha. Photo: Santiago Felipe.

Alcone 65th Anniversary @Capitale: Interview with CEO Maria Stewart

No make-up company has a more storied history firmly ensconced in New York showbiz.

November 13, 2017 4:00 PM  |  People

Ikemen #35: Zaher Saleh

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

October 31, 2017 5:00 PM  |  People
Keith Kattner

Interview: Neurosurgeon-turned-Artist Keith Kattner on the Surgery of Classical Painting

Dr. Keith Kattner does not have the typical background one would expect of a successful neurosurgeon.

October 25, 2017 4:00 PM  |  People

New Type #27: Nika Tang Interview

San Fransisco-based designer Nika Tang has emerged as boldly committed to her ideology as to her pieces. Her namesake brand centers...

October 06, 2017 11:00 AM  |  People

TWELV ARCHIVE JOE McKenna INTERVIEW "Call Me Joe"

CALL ME JOE

October 04, 2017 4:00 PM  |  People

Interview: Becky Donnelly's Fashion Creatures

Quirky girl from Dublin with a penchant for drawing fantasy creatures relocates to London after art school.

October 02, 2017 12:00 PM  |  People

New Type #26: Herman – Raif Adelberg Interview

Authenticity.

September 29, 2017 11:00 AM  |  People
Brooke Candy & Kaimin. Photo: Mark Hunter

Kaimin Interview & S/S18 "Slut from the Future" Presentation @ the Top of the Standard

Pulsing with a heavy beat and hazy with a deep rouge glow, the Top of the Standard is as glamorous a place to be as ever. And tonight it is packed with partygoers.

September 28, 2017 10:00 AM  |  People

Yasmina Alaoui Interview & Opera Gallery Exhibition

Yasmina Alaoui burst onto the international arts scene in 2003 with "Tales of Beauty," a collection of nude...

September 11, 2017 5:00 PM  |  People
Søren Solkær

Søren Solkær Interview

Stepping out of a cab into the urban symphony of Midtown, the entryway to The Quin Hotel was easy to spot— with classic architecture and...

September 11, 2017 10:00 AM  |  People

Kyra Ross of Mona Liza Studios Interview

TWELV sat down with the charismatic Kyra Ross, founder of Mona Liza Studios which falls under his larger moniker "...

August 28, 2017 11:00 AM  |  People
Photo by Giorgio Codazzi for Gioia Magazine

Ira Sumbaeva Interview

TWELV sits down with model Ira Sumbaeva to give a glimpse into the story of the cutest Belarusian...

August 25, 2017 8:00 AM  |  People

Benjamin Shine Interview: Master of Tulle

Benjamin Shine is an award-winning international artist whose work stretches across industries from fashion...

August 16, 2017 4:00 PM  |  People
Sarah LeBlanc

New Type #25: Mémère – Sarah LeBlanc Interview

Upon arriving to the Mémère studio, it felt like stepping from the bustle of New York City...

July 26, 2017 10:00 AM  |  People

NEW TYPE #24: JOHNA STONE INTERVIEW

July 21, 2017 11:00 AM  |  People

IKEMEN #34: GABRIEL LIBERTY

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

July 03, 2017 3:00 PM  |  People

NEW TYPE #23: ANE AMOUR – IYALA ANNE INTERVIEW

“Introducing a talented designer giving sophisticated femininity an edge”

June 23, 2017 1:00 PM  |  People

Pages

SITE BY: monocomplex©Marbles & Marbles International Inc. Drupal Development by: DivDiv, NYC
▲ back to top ▲