Sung-Joo Kim

Many luxury brands will boast about insight into Millennials but with 85 percent of the customers at MCM identifying as such, you could say owner Sung Joo Kim knows a thing or two about them. Notwithstanding Kim’s 28-year-old daughter, who according to the South Korean businesswoman is “always saying ‘Mom, you’re so ignorant!'”

In a conversation with WWD editorial director James Fallon, Kim described younger consumers as anti-establishment, and shared how they are consuming in a way that’s more a cultural movement than a lifestyle.

“They are enfant terrible. They are so smart. They play with digital [and are] not only born with it,” Kim said.

While the industry talks about the sped-up pace of consumer choices, it is down to a matter of mere seconds, she said.

“The definition of luxury is changing from my point of view,” Kim went on. “Before, it was a high ticket price and just a big logo — we are very logo driven, too — and an established name. Millennials have only an eight-second attention span. Scary enough, but Gen Z has three seconds. We have to deal with [it].”

Agreeing with comments made earlier in the day by Tod’s Diego Della Valle, she also expressed that the relentless demand precipitates a level of creativity that supersedes the traditional single creative director structure.

“The market has become very diverse — not just East and West, old and new, all different needs, and really unprecedentedly emerging,” she said. “Therefore one super brain, one so-called creative director cannot cope with that, one in-house team cannot cope with that.”

Using Moncler as an example, which produces eight different collections under eight separate creative directors, Kim said, “I think that is correct. Now the market will not wait for that, they are already moving along. This three-second, eight-second generation has much less loyalty.”

This year, to keep consumers on their toes, MCM sponsored a film about female hip-hop artists shown at the Tribeca Film Festival. Films are something Kim wants to do regularly, although not annually. Other collaborations include with Beats by Dr. Dre and a shoe with Puma.

Kim’s is not your typical entrepreneur story. Born into a billionaire family whose money was made in the energy sector, she was kicked out by her father after she chose to marry someone he didn’t approve of — albeit another billionaire.

“That really gave me the motivation,” she said. “I started from scratch; meanwhile, my brothers all started with a thousand people worshipping them.”

Distilling her business mission into three main components, she said the first is to inspire women. Secondly, it was to operate a business in a way that would impact society in a positive way.

She said: “When I started my own business, there were a lot of difficulties coping with not only the  big boys’ club, heavy drinking parties, geisha parties — certainly I cannot do it. And also bribing, kickbacks and corruption. I said, ‘Somebody has to set a good goal’. Not only transparency, but charitable. [To be] not just a money-making machine. Maybe it’s coming from my mother’s Christian background or teaching, I guess.”

The third aspect is more to prove a point: that a small player can succeed on a global scale.

“I just want to show a good case on how you win it. It’s going to be a very good example for the next generation. Everybody is starting from a one-man show, from their desk, from their kitchen. You can win,” she said.

“One blogger, even if she is a teenager, a kid, if she has a brilliant idea can have 10 million followers, bigger than WWD. That’s the good part to show that it’s not the scale of the money you have, the influence you have. It’s just creativity. That only matters.”

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