After building its reputation on the back of outerwear, the classic womenswear brand has responded to feedback from buyers to offer a complete collection
Korean-born Suwha Hong practised corporate law in New York and Boston for five years before ditching the day job, travelling the world and settling in London to study at the London College of Fashion. In 2007, after a stint working for womenswear designer Avsh Alom Gur, Hong launched her own label, funded by her savings.
From the beginning, Suwha has remained anchored to classic outerwear silhouettes but autumn 10, the label’s fifth season, sees the introduction of a full collection. It includes dresses, shirts, skirts and trousers - elements the brand has only flirted with until now.
Hong says: “Buyers said they wanted to present a full Suwha look and this will make that possible. My ambition is to double sales this year and this will be an important part of doing that.”
Hong says the last annual turnover figure was “about £100,000”.
Currently the UK stockist list is small but includes Austique on London’s King’s Road and London mini-chain Fifi Wilson, as well as a sprinkling of commuter belt boutiques. The select list of stores also takes in Tui in Naas, Republic of Ireland, a handful of US stores, plus two in Italy and one in Japan.
“Price-wise we are solidly in the contemporary market,” says Hong. Hats start at £180, dresses from £250 and outerwear prices go up to £450. She adds: “I’d consider it achievable luxury, sort of like a bridge brand, and I would like to really grow more in the UK.”
Hong recognises the need for more visibility in terms of marketing but has already hit a purple patch with the glossies. “The press love us and word is getting out. Only yesterday a woman came on the tube wearing one of our coats, so that was a thrill,” she says.
The range includes treated cotton canvas trenches, shirt dresses, cropped woollen jackets, high-buttoning double-breasted coats and long-line belted coats in soft, camel-coloured wool.
Oversized buttons, leather belts and printed linings add a twist. Hong says: “I like to keep lines pretty lean and classic but play up the details to make it modern and fresh. I use a lot of menswear fabrics, which I source from Italian mills. It’s all about creating for an adventurous woman with a masculine side. It’s a somewhat androgynous, cool, chic urban look. But the details are more feminine.”
The palette also veers from masculine to feminine but is often eye-catching, with platinum metallics and light sea foam green alongside tweeds.
The brand, which since its inception has shown at the Exhibition at London Fashion Week every season, is manufactured in the UK and the Far East.
Wholesale starting price for outerwear
Mark-up on the collection
Number of pieces in the autumn 10 range