Basic and minimalist fashion has infiltrated even the most OTT of wardrobes and Korea is definitely one of the fashionable cities heading this trend. Like the Uniqlos and J.Crews of the world, South Korean label, Second Move, knows the way into most men’s hearts and wardrobes is through functional, utilitarian clothing. But that’s also where the line starts to deviate… Apart from inscrutable basics, the ‘Made in Korea’ label fronts an artful yet relaxed aesthetic, but its quiet, soft-spoken delicacy is a foil for the creative undercurrents bubbling under its skin.
Founder and creative force behind Second Move, Park Sung-gook, recognises the transformative power of clothing and the changes it can effect both within and without. The well-groomed CEO was a student of architecture before founding his own fashion business and incorporates a finely-honed aesthetic sensibility to his treasured fashion offspring. One might even say that Second Move is an extension of Park’s individual style — a build-up of sensible preppy classics with a flash of youthful ruggedness.
We chat with the founder on his earlier struggles and learn how it only takes a little faith and a whole lot of perseverance to truly go the distance.
Tell us a little about your background.
I was born and raised in Seoul. Before I started my own business, Second Move, I was an ordinary student. I studied architecture in university, but my real passion lay in fashion. I’ve always loved clothes and playing around with new styles was something I found joy in doing. I used to spend a lot of time at my favourite shop just browsing through the racks, discovering new designs and reading up on fashion trends. As soon as I had some financial independence, I was trying and buying anything that caught my eye. Upon my graduation from university, I decided to conceive my own business plan. The only reason that I started my fashion business was my passion for clothes; I love clothes. Nowadays, I feel so thrilled when I meet customers who like our clothes. I am doing what I really love. I hope that I can give customers a chance to experience the same powerful transformation with our clothes.
What prompted you to start your own business?
There was no special motivation to start my own business. At first, a friend of mine prompted me to work in the apparel industry. While I was helping him to launch his fashion business, he suggested for us to work together. I was apprehensive about starting out in an area in which I did not have any expertise or experience. It was as good as telling me to climb Mount Everest! However, I made the firm resolution to try my best. As soon as I made my mind up to venture into fashion, I immediately left for the fashion capitals of the world such as New York, Tokyo and Milan to find Second Move’s unique atmosphere and point-of-view. Soon after launching Second Move, I found that I enjoyed every moment of my work. I also felt an overwhelming sense of joy whenever my customers express satisfaction with the clothes. It’s been 10 years now since I started my business. I will keep moving forward with passion.
What were the challenges?
The current fashion industry needs to be radically changed to keep up with rapidly changing economic trends. From what I know, there are only two ways to approach customers — through online stores and offline stores. I thought this placed a limit on the way we could market ourselves. Hence, last season, I proposed a crowdfunding campaign to launch our premium goose down parkas. With crowdfunding, we can provide quality products and reasonable prices to customers. Also, it helps us to gauge the demand for new products and lower the risks. Through this crowdfunding system, the goose down parkas hit sales of more than $50,000. This experience taught me that we should always adapt to changes and not fear challenges.
What does a typical day of work involve for you?
I think there is always something to be learnt from everyone you meet, so I try to meet as many people as possible — whether they’re from the clothing industry or any other field.
A typical day of work usually starts with a staff meeting. Everyone is encouraged to speak up and offer opinion without hesitation at such staff meetings. We discuss how to create and communicate Second Move’s uniqueness and identity. Recently, some Chinese markets have taken an interest in Second Move. If there is a chance, I hope to have a presence in Asia and perhaps even beyond.
How has living and working in Korea helped drive the business?
As the biggest and busiest capital city of Korea, Seoul is brimming with passion and energy. City icons like the Dongdaemun Market never fail to inspire me. The place is teeming with tourists and artists. Anyone who has seen it is impressed by the energy and atmosphere of the market. Sometimes, I visit the Dongdaemun Market to get inspired.
What is your definition of dressing well?
It is simple. I believe there is no crystal clear definition of dressing well. No matter what style of clothing you choose, it is important to dress to suit your mood. I also think that donning expensive suits does not make you well dressed. Luxury does not equate to style. People judge others and feel judged because of what they wear. However, how you look to others is not as important as how you look to yourself. If you are satisfied with your own style, you are well dressed.
How would you describe your sense of style?
I think that my sense of style is the result of various experimentations. I don’t allow fashion stereotypes to get in the way of trying new things. I prefer to create my own independent style. Once I find a look I’m comfortable with, I keep to it (at least for a while) — just like Steve Jobs!
What would be your dream creative project or collaboration?
Second Move has been very active on the collaboration front. We’ve collaborated with Vaivattomasti, a designer shoe brand on a series of ten special edition shoes. Admittedly, it is hard to find a like-minded partner who is able to devote plenty of time and energy into such joint projects. That’s why Second Move is constantly on the lookout for passionate and like-minded partners we can work with. Brand collaborations allow us to create unique and progressive products that go beyond our usual style. I like that it gives customers something unexpected to look forward to. There’s a Korean saying , “Stagnant water is bound to corrupt.” Therefore, I will keep expanding the limits of our creativity in order to make progress.
Which other creatives do you admire and why?
Among many other creatives, I really admire Band of Outsiders. I was really shocked when I heard that the brand is now defunct because it helped me to break my conservative thoughts on fashion. Band of Outsiders continually broke the rules by presenting classic fashion in a way that was fresh and inventive. They were the chief inspiration for Second Move’s comfortable and refined clothing. That said, I do admire all of South Korea’s designers. Korea has a sea of creative talent and I believe that all of us should cooperate with each other to innovate and develop the fashion industry here.
What’s been the biggest lesson so far?
The biggest lesson I have got from my experience is that working with great people with the right energy is very important.
Is there anything you wish you had known when you were first starting out?
There are lots of things that I wish I had known when I first started out. Korean fashion trends are constantly evolving. I had to learn to adapt to new trends quickly while staying ahead of emerging ones. Of course, chasing fashion trends is not the only answer to leading my own business. Marketing is another component that one cannot afford to overlook. I always consider how I should approach and appeal to customers effectively and efficiently. These days, I am reading a lot of books on marketing strategy and systematic management to help me to improve.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? How have you benefitted from it?
The best piece of advice I have heard is from Jack Ma who is a Chinese business magnate and philanthropist. He said: “Never ever give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.” His words inspire me to keep moving forward without hesitation and frustration.
If you weren’t working in your profession, what would you be doing?
I have never thought about it. Well, I guess I would be working as an architectural designer since I majored in architecture in university.
What are you working on now and what are you looking forward to?
As a director of Second Move, I’m managing many parts of the company. If I have an opportunity, I am looking forward to extending my business to Asia and North America.
Where can we find you in your free time?
I’ll most likely be at home. Whenever I have free time, I’m always with my family. I have a gorgeous wife and two beautiful daughters. Even though I have been very busy with my own business, I always try to spend time with my family.
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