SEOUL — Samsung is still best known globally for its smartphone and technology empire. In South Korea however, the conglomerate is associated with almost every mundane aspect of daily life and consumption, from apartment buildings and construction sites to amusement parks, packets of sugar, instant ramen and even fashion brands.
Samsung Group’s fashion arm, Samsung C&T Fashion Group (formerly named Cheil Industries), has launched several ventures over the years, including domestic brands such as Beanpole and Eight Seconds — perceived by many as South Korea’s answer to fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo. The firm has also added a handful of established ready-to-wear designer labels including men’s wear brand Juun.J to their designer portfolio.
Contemporary women’s wear brand Kuho is one of Samsung’s most successful designer label acquisitions, yet the brand is expecting to see over $100 million in sales in South Korea alone this year, according to Jean Colin, vice president of global expansion at Samsung C&T Fashion Group.
The brand was founded in 1997 by designer Kuho Jung. The label was sold to Samsung in 2003, where Jung became creative director, heading all of Samsung’s fashion enterprises until 2013.
Since his departure from Samsung and Kuho, Jung has taken over the helm of Seoul Fashion Week as executive director, overseeing local shows and fostering new talent. Kuho, the label, is now overseen by head designer Kim Hyun-jung, who joined the brand in 2000.
Given its continued success as a homegrown brand, Kuho celebrated its legacy by launching its first flagship store in Seoul last month. Located in Hannam-dong, a quiet, upscale neighborhood in central Seoul, the 6,760-square-foot, three-story store boasts a minimalist cement exterior framed by a panel of glass windows. Inside, the shop’s sleek interior is almost all-white, save for a few rooms featuring curved wood-panel walls.
The new flagship is also located next to the Samsung C&T Fashion Group-owned Leeum fine art museum.
“Once you’ve developed your brand, you want to show the world of Kuho,” said Colin. “Seoul is part of our DNA, so it was time for us [to launch a store here]. It’s a very fashionable city,” she said, adding that Hannam-dong sees a lot of tourism, and Chinese visitors in particular.
In terms of global expansion, Kuho will not be following in the footsteps of fellow Samsung brands like Eight Seconds, which launched its flagship in China last year.
“These days, our customers are very global,” said Colin. “We don’t target customers based on [national] background, it’s all about the lifestyle that works for them.
“We [only] started selling outside South Korea three seasons ago, we continue to grow as and meet our targets,” said Colin, adding that Kuho will show at New York Fashion Week next season.
Outside South Korea, Kuho is currently available at Bergdorf Goodman and Hu’s Wear in the U.S., as well as Ssense in Canada, Lane Crawford in Hong Kong and Club 21 in Singapore. The brand’s collection retails for between $260 and $500 for tops; $390 for pants, and up to $1,250 for a cashmere-blend coat.