Being a k-pop/k-drama fangirl who constantly style stalks idols and actors, I have always wondered, "where do they get these cool clothes and accessories from?" Yup Park Shin Hye, i'm looking at you!  And for those who've tried shopping from Korean sites, we know how the prices can quickly add up and before you know it, the deal you scored isn't a deal anymore. Thanks $15 standard shipping!! 

But now, thanks to Seoul-based Sophia Hong's latest online boutique (FREE SHIPPING), Sophistique, everyone has access to some of South Korea's hottest indie brands that are sure to get you stopped in the street, supermarket, subway...well you get the hint, right?! We caught up with Hong to find out how to shop like a K-drama celebrity and put together a stunning summer wardrobe that's fit for a drama queen!

Can you tell us a little bit about why you decided to launch Sophistique?

I’ve been living in Seoul, Korea, for the last three years after having lived on the East Coast (US) my entire life. I’ve admired how fashion forward this city truly is. It’s a city full of people that appreciate design aesthetics and style while maintaining a high standard for content and quality (therefore producing K-pop, K-dramas, K-Beauty, etc). There are so many great products and brands with fashionable design, strong attention to detail, and meticulous craftsmanship, and yet, I felt they have remained largely under-represented and undiscovered by the rest of the world. I wanted to create a platform that gives voice to emerging designers here.

Also, I remembered that I was getting tired of the poor quality in fast fashion but did not want to overpay for high quality brands back in America. What a chore it sometimes felt like to find quality products with fair prices! When I shop in Seoul, the production and quality on many of these Korean products are quite high, and the mark ups are reasonable. I recognized immediately that I would have to pay 4 or 5 times as much for the quality of products I get in the states. It was just a matter of brand recognition, marketing, and market demand. I wanted my friends back home to have access to some these goodies. So my work cut out for me: I just have to get the word out and let people in on the secret!

What is the design approach for the brand and what makes it different from its contemporaries?

I’m not sure that there are other platforms that help discovery of Asian brands and emerging designers that are out here. They’re certainly not well represented in the global retail environment, where generally the bias is toward European brands. As much as Sophistique is a curation shop of different brands here, I try to select items that I would personally buy and recommend to friends and family. I look for detail and style, as well as value. I’m big on quality and practicality /utility as well. I also often take a cue from fashion forward celebrities and online influencers who are early adaptors and fashion innovators.

I’m constantly thinking of my friends and family back in NY when I discover brands here. As an example, fashion and comfort are both important to me, and that’s how I came across Acrobat Shoes, which was one of the first brands to begin selling with us. At that point, many of the K-pop girl groups were already clued in, because the stars would wear them on stage and appear in public events with these fashionable shoes. They were go-to dancing shoes because of how comfortable they were. When you’re in a city like Seoul, where there’s a ton of walking, non-slip, walking-friendly soles are very important, and this brand had it down! In fact, many of their shoes are latex cushioned for added comfort. They’re hand crafted by merticulous artisans here. I immediately thought of my friends back in NY who are constantly changing shoes when they get into the office. Oh, and because it’s customary to take your shoes on and off often here, the straps are actually disguised as easy, one-steps hooks. Brilliant! And of course, they look fabulous on.

The second brand we took on is a lesser known brand that began as an Internet purse brand, designed by a Korean actress, Jung Joo Eun, called Tove Bag. (Tove means “good” in Hebrew) She was tired of overpaying for so many different designer purses, so she partnered up with a local factory and came up with a much more reasonable, versatile option. Plus, all their designs are simple and classy, and the leather, top-notch! They became an instant hit and have a cult following now but available only on-line through her personal social media accounts. I definitely wanted to make these available to my friends back home. (And also my mom, because these bags are so light and easy to carry, especially the Perfect Minis.)

We just added sunglasses and I’m testing out swimwear at the moment. I hope to create a community that provides feedback and we can discuss the selections. I hope to be interactive, through our social accounts, even though we are an e-commerce site, and add more brands over time.

If you could bring one piece of clothing or a particular style from the past, what would you pick and why?

Trends and styles of the past are always circulating and interpreted in modern ways, which is what makes fashion fun. I love seeing iconic looks of the decades reinterpreted, like the Gatsby era and the classic 50’s, or hippie 70’s. It’s also fun to see how different fashion is born of various cultures and histories and environments. (Like the soles and straps on Korean shoes.)

Personally, I’m a very practical, utilitarian shopper, so I’m a fan of timeless, classic, simple designs that remain, with an edge or a detail. I’m also a big believer in shoes and bags making your outfit, which is probably why I was compelled to start with those categories. I could wear any jeans and a shirt, and depending on the shoes and bag you pair, you have a completely different outfit. Add sunglasses and your look is complete, easy. That’s why I chose the categories that I did! (I know I didn’t really answer your question, but it was hard. Haha.)

What's the one tip you would give girls looking to add some Korean inspiration to their wardrobe?

It’s all in the accessories- shoes, purse, shades- done!

What's your current favorite piece from the collection and why?

This is SO hard, as I curate items that I already love and already in my closet. And plus, I like something different every day, depending on my mood , the weather, and the look I want to create that day. I’m going to go with shades I wore out today, because it’s sunglasses weather- the Ralphie by Fake Me Eyewear (mine are in black and silver). It’s got all the elements I like- slightly embellished and cat-eye like, which are pretty “in” at the moment, but it’s more subtle, so it suits many different outfits. Also, they’re universally flattering.

With summer around the corner, can you give us five must-haves from your collection every girl must have in her wardrobe!

LOVE: https://sophistiqueshop.com/collections/acrobat-shoes/products/acrobat-jane-abocado?variant=41523742535" target="_blank">The Jane's from Acrobat Shoes 

The perfect go-to, all-occasion, four season basic pumps that make your legs and feet look good too! \

LOVE: Speculum Charms 201’s 

A celebrity favorite! These shades upgrade any outfit!

LOVE: Tove Bag’s Three-Way Clutch

The bag comes with two alternate straps in case you want to turn it into a cross-body messenger or over your shoulder with the shorter, elegant gold chain! 

LOVE: Open Swim retro swimwear

Summer is coming up, and I think these high wasted two pieces are just too cute. The scallops give off a slight feminine flare. It’s lovely!

LOVE: Fake Me Eyewear’s Lemming series sunglasses

Great shades really upgrade your entire look, and I have to tell you- this brand is taking off with celebrities and fashion innovators here! 

Thanks, Sophia for that fabulous summer shopping list! Want to explore more of Sophistique? 

Website: www.sophistiqueshop.com

Instagram + Facebook: @sophistiqueofficial (Instagram and FB page)

The website is also currently running a launch promotion! So make sure you cash in on these great discount codes:

  • l5% off Acrobat Shoes with Launch Gift
  • l$100 off The Perfect Bag,
  • lBuy 2 get $20 off of The Open Swim
  • l10% off Speculum Eyewear

Happy Shopping!

COMING SOON

Circle: Two Worlds Connected

Starring Yeo Jin Goo and Gong Seung Yeon

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