South Korea is in vogue. Berlin trade fair Premium is dedicating a new area to brands from there or deeply inspired by it. Besides, Seoul Fashion Week has become a hotspot for eclectic street styles. Indeed, all these images have misled everyone to think that ordinary people dress like Japanese Lolitas. But nothing could be further away from the truth: Seoul has also some bonafide denim stores like Mode-Man. Owner Daesung Shin worked in a couple of footwear and vintage fashion stores before opening his own one in 2007 as a selected shop which imports and sells various Japanese brands. In this interview, Shin explains how he runs his business and the brands that make his heart beat faster.
When and how was Mode-Man born? Please, explain the origins of the store.
Mode-Man was founded in 2007 as a selected shop which imports and sells various Japanese brands. Afterward it focused on Denim which is loved by fashionistas and non-fashionistas as well as myself and became the specialized denim shop that has the best denim brands.
How did you end up in the fashion and jeanswear business?
In my teenage years, I enjoyed shopping with friends and started working in fashion and footwear retail stores since I was 21 years old. I was especially crazy about Levi’s denim and bought all the pieces from the Vintage collection. I think it is the cornerstone of Mode-Man.
What is your favorite denim fit?
My favorite fit is Slim straight. I tried different fits and found slim straight fits me the best which compromises my body shape. When to choose denim, it’s very important to try different brands and find out the best fit for yourself.
What denim brands are causing a stir of excitement right now? Which ones are selling very well?
First of all, I would say Naked & Famous, because it uses the highest quality of Japanese selvedge fabric and has released various types of selvedge raw denim. I haven’t found any other brands that have such a big collection of selvedge raw denim.
Moreover, it releases a special model with newly-developed fabrics each season, which hasn’t been shown on the market. I always look forward to the new styles each season. Naked & Famous denim occupies the majority among the top 10 bestsellers in Mode-Man.
The next brand is Fullcount which represents the three denim brands in Osaka. I believe they are the best brand based on long tradition and know-how. They use 10 different yarns in one denim and also offer a high-quality clothing collection.
What features are interesting for you when adding a new denim label to your assortment?
I review if the brand identity is clear, whether it has a different character than other brands so that we can explain customers the differences between the stocked brands. The brands we sell in the store are already the best. Newcomers won’t catch anyone’s interest unless they have an own strong identity.
I think the majority of denim brands in the world are more or less similar each other. So expect to see more major brands looking for their own specialty.
How do you discover new, interesting labels? What are your sources of inspiration?
I attend different exhibitions abroad and try to visit local brands that have a unique concept. Besides I do research for new brands online, in webzines and magazines. If I find one, I figure out their uniqueness, specialty and purchase some of their current garments to decide whether to work with them or not.
Which trade shows are you visiting abroad?
Every time, I visit Capsule, CCshow, Liberty, Magic. And I also got interested in Selvedge Run recently.
What do you prefer for ordering: trade shows or showrooms?
With new brands I would rather listen carefully to the sales partners. I don’t really care to either order at tradeshows or in showrooms. Moreover, I prefer to see the whole season collection rather than each product so I don’t purchase at the trade shows or showrooms, but just collect all the information and then, discuss with the team before the final orders.
What attributes do you think a young entrepreneur must have in order to succeed as a denim retailer?
Each one has their own way; I would recommend selecting the brands which suit the concept of their store since there are various concepts of denims on the market from vintage to modern. And strongly recommend wearing the products before buying.
What do you like about your location, Seoul?
People with different backgrounds are living in Seoul, so we have a big diversity of cultures, fashion styles in a similar way to New York. It really inspires me while running Mode-Man.
46 Yanghwa-ro 23-gil,