Come Across a Luxury Brand that is Made in USA

For the last five seasons we’ve been lucky to be working with the amazing woman behind SCHAI, a luxury womenswear brand developing and producing in the heart of NYC. Seattle based, Korean-American Suk Chai has over 30 years of technical fashion experience under her belt and we’ve had the opportunity to see her inspiration and experience come into play each season. As we start production for her Spring/Summer 2016 collection we interviewed the designer to share the concept and process behind “Soul”, the riding theme of the season. Experimenting with the notion of designer as artist as well the inner spirit of the individual as well as the inside construction of a garment, Suk took those themes to create functional and beautiful garments emphasizing raw edges and luxurious crepes. Hope you will enjoy the interview below!

Johnny’s Fashion Studio: What was your inspiration for the SS16 Collection?
SCHAI: The collection is called “Soul”.  The inspiration is to show the “artist” in the “designer”; to show as if the collection is in its stage of being created.She invites us to see the look book at which has the
pre-face on the first page and it gives us a very eloquent intro to the collection.
JFS: In the process of the sample development, we could see structured garments and very delicate garments. Could you tell us more about the fabrics that you are working with for this collection?
SCHAI:  All of the materials are from Italy and Japan.  They are handpicked after months and months of research and editing process.  Though the materials can be structured, they have, I wanted to show the rawness and artisan side, by showing the raw edges and deliberately unfinished seams, while the inside of the garments are perfectly tailored and beautifully crafted.
JFS: We have made successfully all of the patterns and samples for the SS16 collection. What could be a review about working with Johnny’s Fashion Studio?
SCHAI:  This season, particularly, everyone at Johnny’s Fashion Studio poured their heart and soul to make sure every detail was taken account, and finished thoughtfully.  I felt that they all became artists and “soul-sharing” party to this collection, and I am extremely proud of the results of S/S 2016 collection samples, and be able to showcase them to the world.  This was also the first season where we showed in Paris as well as in New York, and we received some amazing feedback.
JFS: What does New York have that the rest of the fashion world doesn’t have? 
SCHAI:  Energy. Efficiency. Excitement.  Resources.  Also the sense of significance in fashion, the quality and passion for the way things are done “right”.   We take pride in this industry more than any other city in the US.
JFS: What could be an advice for the designers that don’t support “Made in USA” yet?
SCHAI:  You are opening a whole can of worms for me to rant about. I don’t think there is a single designer who doesn’t want to “support” “made in USA”.  I believe we all want to do business here.  However, designer are also businessmen, who realize   there needs to be a balance in want vs. reality.  The reality of the cost and investment to produce in USA does not always equal to the return, and therefore many designers have to make decision to produce elsewhere, or completely re-think their design & material choices.  There is always a compromise.  No designer wants to buy cheaper fabric. US has a high labor cost than rest of the world, the quality may not always equal the cost.  And the material costs are rising. So in order to be competitive with pricing so that we can sell to customers, we are forced to look at other options.
We, Americans in general, complain that we are “out sourcing” our jobs.  This is because WE are the ones demanding cheaper and faster goods.  Fashion is extremely affordable in US in comparison to other countries around the world.  People in China and other parts of the world are coming to US to buy off-price, fast-fashion goods while they are made in their own countries.And we still ask for cheaper and better prices.  How ridiculous does that sound?  Over 2.6 billion USD is spent every year on Halloween costumes!  BILLIONS!!!  Apparently, Americans are willing to spend so much money on things that you wear only once in a year, that will probably be thrown out after the first or 2nd wear and goes into the landfill. But we are not willing to pay for goods that you could wear for many years down the road.  We don’t want to spend extra money on fixing or changing vintage used clothing — because “new” and “fast-fashion” is cheaper.   We have to do some soul searching to really understand our own needs. We are all in it together, and we are the ones who can make a difference.