By

 

designerWhen he first showed his designs in New York eight years ago, Bumsuk Choi and his label, General Idea, were already well known in his native Seoul, South Korea, admired by many and frequently worn by actors and K-pop stars.

New York was a stark change.

“I didn’t know anyone,” Mr. Choi said. “At my first show, there weren’t a lot of people. It made me sad.”

The tepid reception didn’t stop Mr. Choi from returning again and again, slowly building up an audience over time. This season at New York Fashion Week: Men’s, his packed show had attendees crowding into the standing sections, and guests like Milandou Badila, a.k.a. Young Paris, a musician who recently signed with Jay Z, and Jack Griffo, a Nickelodeon star, sitting in the front row.

“I made a T-shirt that was a mess, but I cried because I was so happy I made something,” he said.

He started his label, General Idea, at age 25, and for the first three years, very little sold. He readjusted his vision, started using a variety of fabrics besides cotton and added thoughtful details to his designs, something he has become known for.

So much has changed since those early, invisible days that the theme of Mr. Choi’s fall 2017 collection was his struggle to find a balance between his two selves: the designer who receives significant attention in South Korea’s press, and the anonymous man who is Bumsuk Choi. “I feel like I’m living with a mask on,” Mr. Choi said (he was, in fact, wearing a pair of dark sunglasses at that moment).

The collection combined simple forms with flourishes like oversize shoulders, oval shapes, wide collars and long, exaggerated sleeves. Duality was expressed in the use of mixed fabrics: A coat that refers to workwear in the front with gray, somber wool appeared to be a stylish puffer jacket from behind. Eyelets were everywhere, with belts snaking through them, representing, Mr. Choi said, the squeezed feeling he gets when the pressures of being a designer weigh heavily.

“The flow of trends in Korea is fast and quick,” he said. “If there’s a big trend, all the designers follow it, and after a month, people move on to another one.”

Mr. Choi is firm in his desire to follow his vision at his own pace and avoid the style stampedes. But at the end of the day, he sees his role in the United States as in the service of his country.

“I think of myself as an athlete,” he said. “I want to represent all the other Korean designers.”

Mr. Choi, 39, is no stranger to setbacks. Growing up the son of a street vendor (his mom sold rice cakes, his dad “never worked,” he said), he had little exposure to fashion besides his own personal interest in clothes. At 16, he dropped out of high school — a big no-no in South Korea — and went to work at a clothes factory. “Everyone was saying, ‘You’re not going in the right direction,’” he said.

Mr. Choi kept at it, picking up pattern-making and sewing skills at the factory and learning about design while selling fabrics at a wholesale market in Seoul. Eventually, he tried constructing a piece of his own.

http://3gmediaonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/investibanner2.jpg