Sunhee Oh

04.27 2017 INTERVIEW DATE

Edit Seoul, Creative Consultant & Fashion columnist

Sinyeong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Just like Seoul, the fashion trend changes quickly. And amidst such speed, Sunhee Oh, a former fashion editor with a 9 years experience, today runs various projects based on fashion. Though unsure of the definition of her current job, she clearly states her plan for a future life, loves her hometown in Jamsil but is ready to leave the city any time. We met Sunhee Oh at her house in Segeomjeong, nestled in tranquility, like the little temple in the woods.

Yoojin Jung

Please introduce yourself.

I was formerly a fashion editor for <Harper's Bazaar Korea> (below as <Bazaar>) and now I run a company called ‘Edit,’ engaged in consulting and branding throughout the fields of fashion and lifestyle. Last year we published a Seoul guidebook called <Edit Seoul>, introducing people living in Seoul talking about Seoul, and currently we’re preparing web platforms for <Edit Seoul> and <Edit>, a fashion journal, along with producing our own product that strictly embodies our taste. Bags will be our initial project.

 

You were a fashion editor for nine years. Were you always fond of the fashion world?

My major in college was totally different but in the end I decided to quit because I lost interest. After that I wanted to learn fashion so I attended a fashion academy for two years but realized that I didn’t have the gift in making clothes. I wasn’t sure what to do and in the meantime I was curious about other countries so I blindly took off to travel when I was 23. And after I came back, I started working for a company called ‘Fanasoki.Com.’ It was a company that produced, distributed and sold articles and footages, known as ‘one source, multi-use,’ which is today very common, but looking back, I think it was a bit too ahead of our time. I quit after about two years and the editor-in-chief of <Vogue Korea> and a senior of mine, Kwangho Shin, who was an editor for <GQ Korea> back then, suggested and assisted me in applying for several magazines. I kept failing then made it to <Bazaar> on my last try.

An ‘editor’ was a bit of an unfamiliar job at that time.

It was the summer of 1996 when I first came across <Vogue Korea> and it got me wondering what an editor was. I had no idea whether it was a job that took the photographs or wrote the articles. But no matter how much interest I had, I didn’t consider myself qualified for that job because I never finished college, was only a high-school graduate, I never studied abroad, nor was I raised in a wealthy environment. I thought fashion editors had to have all that. Nonetheless, I boldly went for it and made a portfolio. I wrote a collection of articles, even wrote an ‘editor’s letter’ and put as much effort as I could. I walked into the interview room for <Bazaar> with it and finally got accepted. It was very tough at first but after about a year, then editor-in-chief Hyunsun Jeong gave compliments on my article for the first time. And that sparked a change in my life as an editor.

 

 What was the article about?

It was about designers like Raf Simons and Martin Margiela, titled ‘On The Edge.’ After the compliment, I figured I should keep writing articles on similar aspects and befriend with people with such tastes. It was like I was standing before a new path. And from then on, work was so much fun, entertaining and stress-less. I gradually became friends with photographer Hyeonseong Kim, creative group Moim Byul and fashion designer Sangyoung Seo. There was a time when I interviewed male fashion designers like Ukjun Jeong, Guho Jeong, Seoryong Kim and Sangyoung Seo, which also became a turning point.

What triggered you to engage in fields other than fashion as well?

Fashion is always fun but I didn’t want to bound myself strictly inside it. I’ve always thought the range of fashion a little too narrow for me. Besides, I was pretty much interested in the realm of feature editors. I purposely followed them to meet architects, musicians and artists, and also referred to their list of favorite books and movies. After I quit the job, I spent two sabbatical years in London, where I met a very innocent, monk-like boyfriend who influenced my interest in nature and lifestyle. It happened to be around the time when fashion was no longer exciting as Martin Margiela stepped down from the fashion world. After publishing <Edit Seoul> last year, I began receiving proposals for projects from non-fashion brands.

 

For a Seoul guidebook writer, what’s your view of the city?

I was born and raised and lived the longest in Seoul so it’s as familiar as my family or the air. And that’s why I was able to confidently publish a book about it. I’m very grateful for my beautiful childhood I spent in Seoul, which also sourced my ability to notice and appreciate the beautiful things in particular. There are a number of places I like in Seoul. The street that connects Buam-dong and Segeomjeong, the one that stretches from Tongui-dong and Gungjeong-dong, the street behind Chosun Ilbo Headquarters and the afternoon at ‘Hart,’ a studio owned by my friend Yu Huh in Gye-dong. But I’m not so sure I can live the rest of the my life in Seoul only.

If you were to live in a different city, where would it be?

I’ve been thinking about moving to a different city for quite a while actually. I haven’t decided when but I’m getting ready for it. I have this ‘drifter’ blood in me so I have trouble settling in one place. I think I’ll be heading to Germany. With my work experience, I figured the city with the highest possibility in granting me an artist visa is Berlin. I really appreciated the city vibe where no one thought different of me, probably because it’s a city with artists from all over the world. And it seemed like a great city to lead a decent life. The largest reason I was drawn to the city was that compared to other cities in Europe, the common, general standard was remarkably high. Even at a tiny supermarket majority of the products were organic and an organic market opened every weekend. Moreover, I’ve been in love with pilates for 3 years now and thought it might be nice to dig deep with that kind of exercise there. I think it’s not such a bad idea to grow old in such environment. But oh well, who knows, I might end up not leaving.(laugh)

If you moved to Berlin, what would you miss about Seoul the most?

My hometown of course, the 5th Jamsil Jugong Apartments(below as ‘Jamsil Apts 5’). I always miss it whenever I’m overseas. Actually, before I moved to this place, I thought of living there for just two years and leave for Berlin. The Jamsil Apts 5 has an amazing landscape. I actually went to check out a couple of apartments there. The old radiator was still there, the kitchen was pretty uniquely laid out, it had aged pretty nicely here and there. Unfortunately though, it didn’t work out so instead I came to Segeomjeong. The Jamsil Apts 5 now has a high chance of being torn down to build a brand new apartment complex, and if that really happens, I wouldn’t want to come back to Korea ever again. I mean, I’d no longer have a reason to.

 

What’s your biggest memory related to Jamsil Apts 5?

I spent my childhood there. I have a collection of vintage chairs in primary colors red, blue and yellow and I vaguely thought they were the three colors of Bauhaus. But as I looked back, I realized those were the colors of the monkey bars and the swings at the apartment playground. I guess the landscape and colors of the playground from the 1980s have deeply taken root in my memory cells.

Why did you choose to live in this neighborhood and this house?

When I was little, my family used to live in apartment buildings throughout Jamsil, Bundang and Ilsan. Well, whenever I step into large and old apartment complexes, I get this sense of relief. I started living on my own 15 years ago and my <Bazaar> office was located in Jeong-dong, Jung-gu. So my dad and I went looking for a place close to work, leading us to Buam-dong and Pyeongchang-dong. I started living in Pyeongchang-dong then moved to Buam-dong and from those two neighborhoods I was able to learn the joy of recognizing the change of seasons, as the mountain was nearby. I lived there for a while then went to London, and settled near the Gwanghwamun area after I came back, but dwelling in such bustling, workplace-filled, subway area was pretty awful. Then I accidently came across this house here in Segeomjeong.

Is there a particular element you look into when you decide a place to live?

Sunlight and windows are important. Opening large windows to feel the sun is what I love to do at home. That’s why I don’t hang curtains. I don’t own particularly nice furniture either so I look into houses that are nice itself. This house has a high ceiling, uniquely inclined. If a house itself is built in a distinctive structure or shape, you don’t need that many things to adorn it. But of course, it’s not easy to find a house like that in Korea.

 

You have less things in the house than we thought.

I wasn’t good in tidying things up since I was a kid. During the years as an editor, I had piles of books and papers invading my desk all the time. I always knew being in possession with so much stuff didn’t do me any good. Besides, I never wanted to live with a bunch of things, as if I’d stay forever in one place, which is the least thing I want to do. In fact, I just got rid of a table this morning.

 

With that aspect, we assume you’d make careful choices when you purchase things.

No, not really. Because I know I’m not going to keep them forever. And whether it be clothes, furniture or products, I’m not the type who has a hard time choosing. I’m pretty sure that’s a good side. I have in my head a clear guideline of what I like and want so I don’t agonize or waver between this and that. And grateful enough, I go well with things new.

Is there a lifestyle you seek?

It’s to live a luxurious life. I once read a quote that said “Luxury is getting rid of everything else in order to gain what I want,” and I completely agree with it. Which means I’ve still got a lot to get rid of. Fortunately, as I age, I’m acquiring more courage to do so. My biggest goal is to live while traveling with freedom, meaning being free from all sorts of rights, prejudices and ideas. I know I’m born with the fondness of things new and the unfamiliarity so I’m sure that I can. Everyone talks about their taste, but what I’d like to see is the beauty beyond it. To my point of view, being bound to one’s own taste seems like the most unfortunate thing. To meet people that I’ve never met, to go somewhere I’ve never been to, to eat something I’ve never tasted, to be placed in a situation with a completely different perspective...those are the things I absolutely love.

RECOMMENDED PLACE

Jamsil Jugong Apartments 5

567 Songpadaero, Songpa-gu, Seoul
2 8 Jamsil
02-422-4005

“This place is where my precious childhood memory rooted from, influencing greatly on building my current taste. I’ve been hearing about the reconstruction for quite a while, and if it does happen, it’s going to be tragic for me.”

 Built in 1978, the Jamsil Apt.5 is consisted of 3,930 apartment units, one of the largest of its kind back then. Compared to the 5-story 1~4 districts, the 5th was an up-to-date, 15-story, high-rise apartment building with an elevator. Like the years tell, the facade has aged nicely and the apartment complex is surrounded by tall and husky trees, which gives this cozy feeling like when you’re at a park. It is also a ‘hidden spot’ for a great view of the exuberant cherry blossoms in spring.