Headline Seoul goes upmarket

South Korean fashion label HLS (Headline Seoul), which has made waves with its affordable and trendy designs, is serving up a dose of luxe with its new sister line HLS DSGN (HLS Design, photo).

Launched two weeks ago, the upmarket line features premium fabrics, such as Italian yarn and Japanese tweed, while retaining the easy-to-wear aesthetic and flattering cuts found in the main line.

Naturally, it comes with a higher price tag, which ranges from $89 to $289, compared with the main line that tops off at $99.

There are dresses in an H-line silhouette - a straight silhouette with a slight accent on the waist - which are perfect for just about any body shape. Shirts in a boxy cut will also help to hide any imperfections. The line also includes jackets, skirts, pants and culottes, which are now back in trend.

For the debut collection, blueish hues of azuline, azure and aquamarine take centre stage alongside cobalt and paint a fascinating seascape.

The launch of the new line is part of the brand's expansion strategy, says Ms Ann Kositchotitana, 38, who co-founded HLS in April 2012 with South Korean designer Brandon Hong. She also runs multi-label boutique Front Row and French label A.P.C's Singapore boutique.

The new line is being launched not long after HLS was dropped by department store Tangs, which was one of the Singapore-based brand's major retailers. Tangs Orchard and VivoCity had, till June this year, stocked HLS for a year.

"Due to Tangs' rebranding efforts, HLS does not fit into its product mix as the price points are too low. The new line will allow us to be in more premium department stores and hip multi-label boutiques," says Ms Kositchotitana, a Thai-born Singapore permanent resident.

HLS DSGN is available at Front Row and the HLS boutique at Wheelock Place. It is also available online at the brand's new e-commerce store www.headlineseoul.com.


Although HLS is still in its early years, the brand hopes it can become the next H&M of Asia. The brand takes Korean fashion trends and tweaks it for a more global market.

For instance, three-quarter sleeve tops, which are popular in Korea, have chiffon or organza sleeves so that they are cooler to wear in humid countries.

"Although there is a great demand for fast fashion, there is still a big segment of the population that appreciates quality and premium fabrics," says Ms Kositchotitana.

It remains to be seen how the premium line will do, but her fashion business has made huge leaps within the region in the past two years and is expected to grow even further.

HLS has 12 points of sale across Asia in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Singapore. This includes a mix of stand-alone stores and store-in-stores. By the end of next year, Ms Kositchotitana is expecting 30 stores worldwide.

Overall, company revenue for this year is expected to grow by 30 per cent from last year.

While its roots may be in Singapore, global expansion is the main priority for Ms Kositchotitana.

"One shop in Singapore can get us four shops in bigger markets. Rental here is not sustainable in the long term," she says. HLS is also stocked here at multi-label stores W.E. at 313@somerset and The Assembly Store at The Cathay.

When franchisees offered to open up three points of sale within the span of six months in Malaysia this year - two in Kuala Lumpur and one in Malacca - much of the stock from Singapore was sent across to cope with the opening.

"Our distributor decided that they wanted to open within a month. You can't say no when someone comes along and wants to open a shop for you," she says.

With the premium line set in place, the energetic serial fashion entrepreneur has moved on to the next big project - a make-up line.

Set to be launched in collaboration with a major Korean cosmetics manufacturer next year, it will include blushers, lipsticks and nail polish, says Ms Kositchotitana, while showing off a blush pink nail colour that she has been testing.

"I have such a great interest in this business. I don't think I can do anything else. None of this feels like work."


This article was first published on Nov 21, 2014. Get a copy of Urban, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.