LONDON — Hear her roar.
The Korean-brorn Rejina Pyo may be one of London’s lowest-key designers, but not when it comes to business, where she’s been expanding rapidly with no outside funding. The designer, who runs the business with her husband, Jordan Bourke, is opening up new categories and channels, has a unisex line set for later this year and is preparing a capsule collection that will launch with Net-a-porter in April, among other projects.
Earlier this week Pyo was nominated for the BFC/Vogue Fashion Fund award, which will be revealed here in May, and in December she nabbed the Samsung Fashion design award. She plans to make a statement during London Fashion Week, too, with a show that will see her take over Burlington Arcade, a luxury stretch of shops that runs parallel to Bond Street.
Pyo launched her contemporary women’s wear brand in 2014, and is known for her bold colors, plays on proportion and elegant, oversized silhouettes. Neiman Marcus and Selfridges are among her newest stockists, while the Net-a-porter capsule will be filled with signature items such as a Japanese linen stripe suit and her bow-shoulder blouse, which is known as Michelle.
She said Net listens closely to customer demand, “so we based a lot of pieces on what they already had, and it was about working on pieces that represented Rejina Pyo,” said the soft-spoken designer and new mother of baby Luka. The nine-piece collection includes shirts, dresses and shoes and is priced from 335 pounds for a shirt to 775 pounds for a dress.
“Rejina Pyo is one of the headlining brands from our contemporary labels at Net-a-porter. Her collections are always directional yet playful, and she’s now one of the fastest-growing brands on site,” said Elizabeth Von Der Goltz, Net’s global buying director.
Von Der Goltz added that Net has more than doubled its buy since last year and is continuing to see sales of the label rise.
Bestsellers include Pyo’s signature puff sleeve dresses and asymmetric knitwear. The Pyo capsule is part of a larger offer of contemporary brand offer set for April.
Other plans include the creation of a unisex line and the expansion of her accessories offer to jewelry. The designer said she plans to launch a unisex range later this year and looked to her husband, the company’s commercial director, and Luka — who turns one on Feb. 27 — as inspiration.
Although she designs for women, she’s noticed that male customers are buying the oversized pieces from her line and will often send her pictures asking when she plans to launch men’s wear. Although she doesn’t have a name for the new collection yet, she said it will have a casual, workwear aesthetic.
Pyo also plans to expand her accessories offer. She has collaborated on sunglasses with the Korean brands Projekt Produkt and introduced a handbag range for spring 2018 that will land in shops starting at the end of February. She’s also been doing her own footwear collections after collaborating in the past with another Korean company, Yuul Yie.
“I think people are more curious and willing to take risks on accessories from new brands,” said Pyo. “So we have this signature sculptural heel. It’s a natural shape that I love,” said Pyo of her heel shapes, which resemble stones, curved bits of wood and chess pieces.
She’s in the process of talking to developers about jewelry. “I love vintage jewelry. There are a lot of things that are so beautiful — but then maybe not so modern to wear. But I want to kind of revisit those vintage aspects and play with modern styles in what a Rejina Pyo girl would wear,” she said.
While Pyo would not disclose revenue figures, she said the company’s sales have nearly doubled over the past year. The brand is sold through more than 100 stockists including Mytheresa.com, Lane Crawford and My Boon.
“I am not very good at numbers and I don’t think it really matters what your goal is in terms of numbers because I am not a business person,” said Pyo. “In my experience, things kind of follow when you have great product and the brand is relevant. When you offer desirable products people just come to you and it become something tangible. Instead of, ‘Right, this is our goal.’
“Of course I want the brand to have truly global awareness — and things like that — and I also want the brand to have longevity and to be sustainable,” added Pyo. “I’d rather have a smaller company where people are happy than a company with angry people. I want the brand to stay even when I’m gone. I think it is so important to be sustainable, a slow burner.”
Her husband calls Pyo “the modest Korean, because she always talks about having that natural relationship with people, which I think is why the brand has done so well.” (Pyo and Bourke, a professional chef, cowrote a cookbook in 2015 called “Our Korean Kitchen,” and are unapologetic foodies.) “I think you can get that sense of whether there is an honest ambition for growth behind the brand or not. Or whether someone is just sitting behind a white board saying, ‘We need to improve sales here.’ It’s never really been like that,” he added.
Pyo said the U.K. is the brand’s strongest market, followed by the U.S., Germany and Asia – in particular Japan and Hong Kong. She pointed to the Middle East as an area for growth and Australia as the newest geography for the brand.
Last December, Pyo set up an office in Seoul that houses a small team, including her production manager and production assistants. She has been producing her collection in the U.K., Holland, Spain and Portugal, but now plans to transfer production to South Korea. Shoes, bags and all accessories will continue to be produced in Spain and Portugal.
Elsewhere, the designer is also planning to revamp her web site, with a greater focus on customer service. “I think of myself when I shop online because I don’t have time to go around. Then if I want something, I can just order it and try it at home. I want to offer the same experience to my customers. We’re doing our best to offer customer relationships service and we want to speak to them one-to-one.”
There could be other product categories in the pipeline too. Pyo said she is eyeing homeware, and while there are no definitive plans, she admitted her penchant for lamps, cushions and furniture.