Merc’s head of design also teaches, and says this has given her career the perfect balance.
What does your typical week involve?
Usually answering our suppliers’ questions, solving product development issues and having meetings with production and sales teams. I have to approve colours, fabrics and samples, but I’m involved in the design process too. We are a very small design team - there are three of us - so we take most decisions together, but I have the final word. We are working on the autumn 15 collection and looking out for the new trends at the moment.
What meeting are you most looking forward to today?
I’ll be having a meeting with our shoe supplier, Shoe Volution. It is bringing in new designs for the spring 15 collection and we will develop our ideas for the new range. It is a different kind of enjoyment to be able to give my opinion and ideas on someone else’s designs.
What task do you wish you could postpone?
I’m waiting for a reply from a supplier regarding a development issue. This has to be done, but I’m worried the outcome won’t be the one I’m looking for.
How did you get to where you are today?
I did a BA in Fashion Design in Seoul and then worked in rebranding Gianni Lo Giudice, a high-end Italian womenswear brand, for the Korean market. Then I was head designer at Benetton in Seoul before coming to London to do an MA in Fashion Design at London College of Fashion. I then worked for directional brand Fake London, before joining a denim brand in LA called A&F [Always & Forever]. Then I launched my own label Onjoo Mac in 2003, but closed it in 2007. I’ve been head design at Merc for four years now, and at the same time I teach design and pattern cutting at LCF.
What has been your career highlight?
Actually it’s two things. The first has to be having my own label, which required lots of hard work. But I enjoyed it a lot and developed my skills not only in the design, but also in business. It was great for acquiring marketing and sales skills, which I had no experience of before. The second is making the Merc image a contemporary one. When I joined the team four years ago, Merc wanted to become more upmarket, but without losing its 1960s mod culture style. Now there is still a mod element
in colours and patterns, but it’s modernised.
Who is your mentor?
My husband John and one of my teachers, Sue Alston at LCF, are my mentors.
Even though my husband isn’t in the fashion industry - he works in IT management for a bank - he has been very supportive whenever I’ve needed help or encouragement. Sue Alston guided me and helped me become a lecturer and gave me lots of advice.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
My husband always tells me “you will achieve your goal if you believe and keep trying”. Even if you fail, if you’ve done your best it doesn’t matter, just move on and learn from it.
How do you see your career progressing?
My career is wellbalanced, because I enjoy the creative business side and teaching people, so I see myself working in both environments for a while.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
A design career is very competitive. Creativity is mandatory, but good knowledge on the technical side can also come in handy.
Get lots of work experience, learn as much as possible and keep trying.
If you could work in another area of fashion, what would it be?
At one point I was thinking of becoming a buyer. I love the idea of selecting garments from different brands and recreating, in a way, a whole new collection.
- Salaries for this position range from £65,000 to £85,000 (estimate provided by Le Pont)
2010 Head of design, Merc Clothing
2004 Lecturer, London College of Fashion
2003 Creative director, Onjoo Mac
2001 Head of womenswear, A&F
2000 Womenswear manager, Fake London
1999 Graduated MA Fashion Design and Technology, London College of Fashion
1996 Head designer, Benetton, Seoul
1992 Italian licensed brand Gianni Lo Giudice, Samsung
1991 Graduated Fashion Design BA, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul
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