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Space Mue: The K-Pop Institution with Fashion Credentials

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  • BoF Team

SEOUL, South Korea — Situated in Cheongdam-dong, Seoul's fashion and retail hub, Space Mue's high fashion credentials are immediately apparent from its unique and imposing architecture. As a leader in South Korea's trend-mad menswear marketplace, Space Mue stocks the most avant-garde of global fashion in order to satisfy its customer base. Popular culture is an important factor in Space Mue's retail concept and strategy. South Korea's widely followed and ultra-visible popular culture dictates that its male stars go further and further in their fashion choices to keep pace. Space Mue positions itself to capitalise on their constant need for new merchandise, and tap the huge numbers of men that are influenced by it.

BoF sat down with Cho Joon Woo, head buyer of South Korea’s most directional retailer, Space Mue.

BoF: How does Space Mue approach global fashion in servicing the South Korean menswear market?

CJW: When we buy, we have a strong Space Mue men’s ideal concept. When we buy the items we always think whether they are chic or edgy. A too natural concept is not ours. We always see the structure at the core; the detail is not as important as the silhouette. When we select the items, we buy some commercial pieces, but we always buy very strong pieces that represent the designers and their characters. Mue means there is no two. It is a Chinese character, Mu is nothing and E is a two, so it means, ‘there is no other.’ It is like the store, the product and our clients.

BoF: How does that impact Space Mue’s merchandise strategy?

CJW: We really respect the designers and if you come to Space Mue you can see the most trendy, high-fashion labels and designers. We have many of the top designer labels like Balenciaga, Valentino, Lanvin. Most of the store is high luxury, high fashion, but we always focus on the trendy item, so for example if the military outer is very popular right now, we will buy the item that our consumers want, regardless of the brand. So if you come to Space Mue you can see from very top, high-end designers to very young, talented new designers, all in one. The store is always under pressure to deliver the season's newest must-have items.

BoF: Why is so much focus given to trend-led merchandise?

CJW: The entertainment business is very impactful for fashion for Korean guys, so they always follow what the big stars and the K-pop stars and other Korean celebrities wear, which are very aggressively fashion forward looks. So nowadays it is very common to see people dressed like this. The entertainment business is a big market in Korea. The male Korean pop stars and other celebrities are always photographed, and it is a very important here that celebrities should wear more and more, so that their style is more and more. They really need the top international designer labels and fashion forward designers, so if we prepare those kinds of items, they really like it and they always come to our store. The interior concept is like a gallery, which was inspired by the artist Shirya. We really give the customers a very special and private place to shop. And then, obviously the Korean guy, who really likes the K-pop stars and celebrity way of dressing, also comes to our store.

BoF: How do you identify key trends for the upcoming season?

CJW: This is the most difficult thing for us, to capture the next trend. Before we go buying we always see the stream of all the designers’ items and sometimes it is very easy to find the common themes. We go to around 100 showrooms, but it’s not always easy. So of course we study as well before buying the season. We have a six-person team that is constantly studying the next trends.

BoF: Who is the Space Mue consumer?

CJW: Our customer is from early twenties and into their fifties, but the thirties is the most important. It depends on the job, but most people are still wearing suits to work, and buying designer labels for the weekend. I think in Korea most people are really interested in the fashion, and now with the Internet our consumers know about all fashion trends globally. In Korea actually I can say that in the weekends, if [people] go to a department store to shop, they really dress up, because they really enjoy their fashion. If they are buying the very expensive designer labels, they tend to have dinner or go out to show it off. The most impressive thing is that when Seoul fashion week is held, so many young guys are much more fashion forward, and aggressively fashionable, than [during] Paris Fashion Week.

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