NEW YORK — Maeja Kim, a South Korean knitwear designer, has brought her retail and wholesale business to the U.S. and is projecting a combined first-year volume of $1 million.
Kim has been producing her knitwear line, Maeja, for 22 years from her own knitting factory in Seoul, employing about 100 people. She owns eight Maeja boutiques in and around Seoul and also wholesales the line there. The total business generates $5 million.
In late June, Kim opened a 4,000-square-foot, three-level boutique at 1061 Madison Ave. at 81st Street here, and she began selling the U.S. market for the first time from her new showroom in the Galleria building on 59th Street.
Kim and her daughter Soo Jung Yang, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, design the line, which ranges from casual weekend styles to elaborate evening looks. Kim’s other daughter, Soo Jin, is attending graduate school in New York and helps with the business.
The focus of the line is on head-to-toe knit dressing. Kim specializes in interesting stitches that give many of the designs a very textural appearance. She often uses a high-quality viscose imported from Germany and Japan.
The top floor of the boutique houses evening looks; the main level carries sportswear, knitted separates, suits and accessories, and the lower level has some separates and sale merchandise.
Sportswear pieces retail from $149 for a ribbed viscose turtleneck to $600 for a jacquard wool and viscose poncho. Evening styles average $2,000 and knit suits range from $800 to $1,700.
Other styles include a long black lace knit tunic in polyester and viscose for $450 retail, wool blend ribs for $350 and acetate knit twin sets, $225 for the short-sleeve top and $350 for the cardigan, in eight colors.
Kim wants to develop her wholesale business in the U.S. slowly. The company is negotiating to have Neiman Marcus buy the line for spring. She plans on selling one New York account.
Because the Maeja line is produced in Seoul, Kim plans to set up a small production area on the lower floor of the boutique to handle special orders and buyers’ needs for immediate goods.