In order to create something strong, one needs a strong foundation. The designers of RYU RYU Clothing believe in just that; a strong foundation is key to creating a sophisticated effortlessly chic wardrobe. We got to interview them about their journey as emerging fashion designers. They stressed paying attention to finances early on, staying true to your vision as a designer, and taking what you love to do and using it towards greater good. While RYU RYU gives us essential basics for our wardrobe, they also teamed up with the NK Children Support Program to provide essentials to the youth of North Korea; which is where their statement of their vision comes from, “Satisfy a desire. Fulfill a need.”
From your experience starting your own brand, what is one piece of advice that you’ve learned along the way that you could give to a starting out designer?
One piece of advice I’d give to a designer that’s just starting out is to manage the business/finance side well from the get-go. Luckily, I have my business partner/husband (Jung) who handles that aspect of the company, so that I can focus on development and production but it can definitely be a huge factor in whether a company fails or succeeds. You have to constantly crunch numbers from development to sales to production to make sure you’re not overspending or even overselling!
RYU RYU does all its manufacturing in NYC. Through its Fashion NYC 2020 initiative and others like it, NYC Government is seeking to help designers get their start. Do you think that more can be done to help designers get their start?
Yes, we manufacture all our garments in NYC. There are actually a lot of initiatives to assist emerging designers especially here in NYC, but you have to do your research. As a newer brand, we’ve been able to take advantage of many of the programs that have been available to us. They help tremendously especially when they connect us to those that are passionate about helping our company grow. However, I do think more can be done to help designers maintain their brands; if you see the statistics, there are a lot of new emerging brands but unfortunately, there’s also a lot of turnover within just the first couple years of establishment. It’d be great to see a program that helps designers carry out long-term plans for their companies.
How has RYU RYU evolved from it’s beginning and where do you see the brand in the next 5 years?
RYU RYU started off as a line carrying classic pieces and seasonally, we’ve been adding novelty items to complement the signature collection. We’ve noticed over time that our stores and customers gravitate toward our essentials, which makes sense because they’re classic and very wearable. With such a high demand for fast fashion nowadays, the market’s been lacking a line that has quality, timeless styles which doesn’t look like typical office wear and/or won’t fall apart after just a few wears. And I think the customers are now realizing the need for well-made essentials especially since they’re the items we tend to grab the most. So we’ve decided to expand our signature collection and focus on pieces that are less seasonal and more foundational; this is the direction we’ll probably continue on for the next 5 years.
Do you find it easier or harder to manufacture in the U.S.? What are some manufacturer’s that you use in NYC?
It’s hard to say. There’s definitely a tradeoff: it’s easier in terms of quality control and convenience, but harder due to high costs and limited resources.
The manufacturers that we work with in the Garment District are mostly all within a 3 block radius from us, which makes everything so much easier.
Most of the people that we work with have moved from company to company as many have shut down over the years with brands outsourcing most if not all of their labor overseas. We’re grateful to be working with such highly skilled individuals that have endured difficult times due to the industry’s decline in the City.
What is your favorite piece of your current collection and why? What inspired this piece or pieces?
My favorite piece in our current collection is our Genese Dress. It’s cut from the same sandwashed silk as our signature button down shirts and has a relaxed yet sophisticated feel to it. I love that it’s so versatile: you can wear it belted with a blazer for the office, but dress it up with accessories and stilettos for after work hours. It comes in both Scarlet and Black. The entire collection was inspired by the idea of purity: clean, refined styles crafted in a modern way. Simplicity feels really fresh when it’s done right–like a clean canvas; you can do so much with it!
How do you measure your success?
We measure our success by how true we’ve stayed to the vision of our company to create products that satisfy a desire which then more importantly, fulfill a need. Jung and I constantly try to remind ourselves that we’re working towards something that’s bigger than ourselves, our own success. We want our company to become a vehicle for the greater good. And our hope is that if it’s God’s will, He’ll make it happen!
How has partnering with NK Children Support Program affected RYU RYU and vice versa?
It’s definitely been fueling the passion behind the brand. It’s a very unique organization which brings in food, clothing and other basic essentials to children living in rural areas of North Korea, where the need is the greatest. As a newer brand, we’ve definitely have had our ups and downs and there have been days where I think I would have thrown in the towel if it hadn’t been for our partnership with this program. Last year, we made our first annual contribution to the organization and although it wasn’t a huge sum, we know that it went towards aiding those who really need it. We feel really blessed to partner with the NK Children Support Program in contributing to this important cause and we hope our customers realize that as they make a purchase, they are fulfilling a need.