Samsung heiress enjoys success with fashion venture

Samsung heiress enjoys success with fashion venture

Lee Seo-hyun, president of Cheil Industries' fashion division, clearly has a knack for making money through fashion.

The 41-year-old younger daughter of Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-hee has recently added fashion brand NONAGON to her success list.

Targeting teens and those in their early 20s who are attracted to street fashion, all NONAGON products sold out within three days of its official launch, the company said on Sept. 15.

The biggest factor behind the popularity was the muses who inspired the brand's designs - entertainers of influential K-pop agency YG Entertainment were among those muses, and they posed for the teaser videos ahead of the brand's launch.

For Lee, it was a big risk, for there was no guarantee of success.

Cheil also had to push for new strategies, such as setting up a joint venture with YG, to stay on top of promotion activities.

It also decided to focus on supplying to pop-up stores, mostly in South Korea, China and Hong Kong, instead of aiming for traditional outlet stores and online shopping malls.

To minimise the inventory risk, all NONAGON products were sold through wholesalers.

"The success of NONAGON highlights that there are still new ways to approach retailing and marketing in the fashion business, which has conventionally been regarded as a red ocean," a fashion industry insider told The Korea Herald, requesting anonymity.

"I think Lee regarded the launch as a test bed for other Cheil brands that are preparing to go global, as Lee has the vision of becoming more international," she added.

According to industry watchers, Eight Seconds, a Samsung apparel brand, would most likely follow in the footsteps of NONAGON. In 2013, Eight Seconds garnered 130 billion won (S$158.6 million) from regular and online sales, just two years after it was launched.

The company management has expressed its intention to eventually export Eight Seconds to China in 2016, followed by the American and European markets, before it stakes out global territory with its more famous sister brands such as Bean Pole, Le Beige and KUHO.

"Lee has always wanted a global brand that is operated by Korean designers and talent, and she thinks the time is ripe. Eight Second's recent participation in designing the uniforms for the South Korean national squad for the Incheon Asian Games reflects her desire for global recognition," a fashion critic said.

Meanwhile, Lee's business acumen will also soon be put to the test, as Cheil Industries applied for a share listing on South Korea's main bourse on Sept. 19.

The Korea Exchange said the listing could take place as early as the end of the year because the company has shown a strong performance throughout its 51-year history.

"The success of NONAGON and other fashion brands operated by Cheil can only be a bigger plus," an industry insider said.

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