Korean S(e)oul: iise SS17 “Collection 004”

Seoul-based accessories and apparel label iise showcases yet another impressive selection of progressive, bio-washed sportswear staples inspired by traditional Korean architecture in their spring/summer 2017 “Collection 004”.

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The offering is a sensible follow-up to their first athleisure interpretations in their fall/winter 2016 “Collection 003”. Comprised of lightweight fabrics perfect for the summer heat, the color-blocked and paneled apparel takes design notes from Korean Hanok architecture. A muted, earthy toned color palette is made up of jade green, ocean blue, charcoal black, and cream white on modern sportswear-inspired t-shirts, shorts, and various outerwear pieces.

iise utilized a new bio-wash process that allowed them to create unique streaks and textures to the nylon (synthetic) fabrics to give more life in the garment for the wearer. This continues their history of pushing boundaries and experimenting with new production processes and finishes to their past meets future concepts.

Collection Standouts

Long Jacket $355.00

  • 100% polyester
  • Exterior pockets
  • Two-way YKK zipper
  • Dual layer back panel

Sweatpant $210.00

  • 100% terry cotton
  • Embroidered detailing
  • Banded waist

Bare Bomber $330.00

  • Poly 100%/Nylon 100%
  • Inner & outer pockets
  • Dual layer paneled back

Hanbok Jacket $375.00

  • 100% polyester
  • One size
  • Exterior pockets
  • 3/4 length sleeves
  • Raw white tape interior

Wide Cropped Pants $210.00

  • 100% polyester
  • Exterior pockets
  • Banded waist

“Collection 004” is currently available for purchase on their online shop and at select stockists.

Company Overview
iise – \ˈē-ˌseˈ\

1. Korean word meaning “Second Generation

iise is a Seoul-based fashion label established by two second-generation Korean-American brothers that mixes modern streetwear aesthetics with traditional Korean clothing. The merging of inspirations from the past and the present allow for the brand to create unique, innovative designs that are fashion-progressive.

The two brothers officially started iise when they traveled back to Korea for the first time since their early childhood in 2011.  Originally born and raised in New Jersey, they didn’t have extensive exposure to the traditional art, design, architecture, and overall Korean heritage outside of eating a few popular cuisines.

They traveled to the popular tourist attraction of InsaDong that is filled traditional arts, crafts, food, clothing, and other buildings. Here, a Buddhist Monk wearing traditional Korean clothing and carrying an aged, sack bag walking down a street next to both traditional Korean style homes and sleek, western-style skyscrapers immediately stuck out to them.

Witnessing the timeless, unchanged essence from the past juxtaposed with the contemporary, sophisticated skyscrapers in one of the most modern cities in the world was enamoring for the two. They loved the feel of the natural textiles, as well as the Korean culture’s infamous organic dyeing method.

Interactions with older generation Koreans and taking part in various traditional customs allowed the guys to fully embrace their heritage and encouraged them to share this information with the rest of the world through quality products and an authentic brand story. The duality of being second-generation Korean-Americans and exploring all throughout their native country are the reasons why the label was founded in February 2013.

The two young entrepreneurs started their clothing venture by investing personal finances and savings into creating their first mini-collection made up of two bag styles: Monk and M2.  After they sold these pieces, the label struggled to produce any type of revenue which lead to traveling to Korea for a couple of months to seek potential investors in the new start-up. On the brink of going back home to the States and settling for a “real job”, the duo spontaneously found a company willing to work with them going forward into the future on both bags and apparel.

The Come-Up Story
It’s incredible to think that these guys possessed no experience within the realm of fashion prior to starting the brand in 2013. Having to run every business function within their operation (design, production, sales, shipping, marketing, etc) made the label take some early setbacks in terms of growth their first couple of years. Language barriers, low market segmentation distinctions, and sourcing problems are only a few of the issues the brothers ran into early on.

Quickly realizing the many difficulties in creating a lucrative footwear business, the brothers resorted to producing a backpack accessories company with a designer through their father’s connections. Instead of ordering large size ranges for a seasonal niche market, the creation of The Monk knapsack bag allowed for low minimums and easier marketability to a larger audience segment. These knapsacks were handmade in Korea with natural organic dyed leather.

After running into creative differences with their designer before their official launch, the duo decided to produce twenty-five bags with their remaining funds and document the whole process on their Tumblr page. In an interview with Hyperlush in January, they explained that their behind-the-scenes footage lead to the brand gaining customers and loyal followers. “We blogged every step of the process of making the bag and our followers were growing with us. We kept blogging and letting them know when our bag was going to be launched and we had our first sale the very first minute it went online. We sold all of them in one week.”

The one resource invaluable to the company’s breakthrough in garnering revenue from consumers and brand awareness within the industry was staying active on forums and blogs, most notably Hypebeast. The brothers were heavy into sneaker culture from their high school and college days of buying and selling the most coveted sneakers at the time, which gave them their first interest in fashion. Observing how their fellow Hypebeast peers became overnight influencers (Lupe Fiasco, Odd Future, Street Etiquette), they used this platform to share their interests and products with site owner Kevin Ma and were later contacted to be featured on the front page of the site.

Proving itself with much-needed market buzz, Terrance and Kevin obtained a six-figure deal with a South Korean investment firm, Dreamplus, to build a new office and website for label. In addition, they struck a side deal with the Gana art family (Gana Art Gallery and Seoul Auction) in hopes of future collaborations on furniture, ceramics, candles that are Korean-inspired. Ultimately, they envision owning their own store like the Japanese shop Muji.

Although based in Korea, iise holds over 90% of their sales within the United States. This evidenced by their social media platforms being geared towards the American market. The amount of traffic the company amasses on Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit are astonishing, considering how little the brand has been around. Expanding their seasonal offerings from only accessories like bags and wallets to full-range apparel has panned out great so far. With consistent budgeting and willingness to push progressive-forward designs, the future looks bright for iise.

Follow iise

Author: Mike Doering


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