"Even as a child, my parents would have to drag me away from staring at shoes and clothes - it still happens today."
Creative director of Blanc & Eclare, Jessica Jung (above), on her love for fashion
She was ousted from mega K-pop group Girls' Generation three months ago for allegedly making the band play second fiddle to her fashion ambitions.
Now, sans the group, singer-turned- "fashionpreneur" Jessica Jung is ramping up her business plans - but does not rule out making a musical comeback some day. "Today, you have singers who act in movies and dramas, or pursue emcee roles for shows and radio. I chose to pursue my passion for fashion," says the Korean-American Jung, 25, on wearing different hats as an artist. "I like being diligent and working hard. Singing is certainly something I will continue doing," she adds, in an e-mail interview. The creative director of fashion brand Blanc & Eclare has been jet-setting to promote her label. An autograph session with her fans at a Chongqing mall is slated for today. She will then fly to Seoul to attend another signing session.
Jung's solo profile has also been boosted by other fashion endorsements.
This month, Chinese sports brand Li-Ning released a set of promotional photographs featuring her in sports gear. And, with her younger sister Krystal, 20, she appears in advertisements for South Korean bag brand Lapalette.
Last week, she was crowned the Most Searched Korean Female Artist at the Yahoo Asia Buzz Awards in Hong Kong.
The Blanc & Eclare collection is available at its website (blancgroup.com), and in stores across Asia, such as in China, South Korea and Thailand. In Singapore, the brand's eyewear line is sold in the Salon by Surrender boutique at the Marina Bay Sands.Fashion retailer Surrender tells Life! that fans have been inquiring about the US$250 (S$330) sunglasses even before the store stocked them, and one of the nine styles is already sold out.
"I hope to see my fans in Singapore sooner rather than later," says the busy star. "They have been so supportive and kind to me."
In September, news broke of the expulsion of the popular Girls' Generation member, sending shock waves through the K-pop scene.
Jung revealed her exit in a post on her Weibo account to her more than 3 million followers on the China-based microblogging site: "I was excited about our upcoming fan events only to shockingly be informed by my company and 8 others that as of today, I'm no longer a member."
Girls' Generation's management agency SM Entertainment then confirmed she was leaving the group due to disagreements over her involvement in her fashion business. The agency stated that it would continue to manage Jung. Speculation was rife that the real reason behind her expulsion was due to her plans to wed rumoured boyfriend Korean-American Tyler Kwon, who is an investor of Blanc & Eclare. K-pop idols are known to be banned by their managements from dating to protect their pristine images.
Jung and Kwon, without confirming that they are in a romantic relationship, have since clarified that marriage is not on the cards.
In her interview with Life!, she declines to talk about issues related to SM Entertainment. She does, however, explain why she roped Kwon in to help with her fashion label: "Tyler is an accomplished entrepreneur. He agreed with the vision I had and has played an integral part in the success of the brand, supporting my vision and surrounding me with the right team and partners."
On how her love for fashion blossomed into a business venture, she says: "I was always intrigued by fashion. Even as a child, my parents would have to drag me away from staring at shoes and clothes - it still happens today.
"I found myself wishing for small changes to clothes that I wore."
California-born Jung and her sister were spotted by SM Entertainment talent scouts on the streets of Seoul, when the family returned to Korea for a trip more than a decade ago. Jung was 11 years old then. She signed on with SM, and went through more than seven years of training before making her debut with Girls' Generation in 2007.
"One thing led to another over the years, and here we are, Blanc & Eclare," she says.
She launched her fashion label in August to an eager fan base - the label's website crashed due to overwhelming traffic at its launch.
The creative director, who is also head designer, says she is constantly sketching and scribbling, which is why she keeps pen and paper at hand.
"I lay out thoughts throughout any given day. They're not always pretty though," she says. "Then I have meetings with the Blanc & Eclare team to put these into execution. I love working hands-on with them on all aspects of the brand."
Her fashion must-have is a pair of sunglasses. "An appropriate pair puts the finishing touches to a particular outfit," says Jung, who has also launched a collection of scarves in time for Christmas. The doe-eyed beauty, whose fashion idol is the late Grace Kelly ("her style is timeless"), describes her style as classic. She says: "I like mixing and matching. I don't have to be in high-fashion designer labels from head to toe. I like pieces that are simple individually but, when put together, result in a clean look with elements of complexity."
Comparing herself with her sister, Krystal, who is a member of girl group f(x), Jung says: "My sister's style is probably a bit more boyish and chic, which is where I would consult her for that part of the Blanc & Eclare line.
"She is definitely in the know of what we have cooking at the brand."
This article was first published on December 20, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.