Suyeon Lee

07.26 2016 INTERVIEW DATE

Cocotte Seoul, Lifestyle Director

Bangbae-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul

Suyeon Lee runs a sleepwear brand for the family, Cocotte Seoul. The very first piece of Cocotte Seoul she took out from the closet looked a little worn out, as if worn frequently. The reason behind her choice in making sleepwear rather than coats or bags seemed pretty clear for a person who pursues happiness that lies within. We carefully took our footsteps into her inner world.



 

Hyemin Kwon

Can we start with an introduction of yourself?

I run a family sleepwear brand called ‘Cocotte Seoul.’ Basically I make comfortable loungewear to wear at home and sleepwear for both parents and children. They’re all made of natural materials to avoid any skin irritations, considering that they’re clothes worn for long hours inside. In a broad way, I hope people understand Cocotte Seoul as a brand for the whole family.

 

Out of all items, what triggered you to make sleepwear in particular?

I tried to look for nice sleepwear for my family but it was hard to find ones that satisfied the style I was looking for. After some thoughts I came up with the idea of making it myself and headed to the Dongdaemun Composite Market. I didn’t expect to find that many types of fabric and subsidiary materials, which took me by surprise, and my former experience as a fashion editor made the whole production process not all that difficult.

Is there a brand philosophy Cocotte Seoul pursues?

I often relate to the ways the Japanese build brands. They don’t just ‘force’ people to consume but instead take slow steps and densely layer their brand philosophies and I think that’s remarkable. Looking at Korean fashion industry, there’s only a single idea in the air—to make clothes faster than anyone and sell quickly. I’m the kind of person who has a lot going on inside and goes at a leisurely pace. Some people are eager to know when the next line is out but Cocotte Seoul plans to go slow.

It seems like you’re very family-centered, with a lot of interest in spending days with the family altogether.

Being married to a french husband provided me with a lot of opportunities to encounter cultures from other countries. Besides, french people lead a very family-centered life. Their lively family conversations went on at all times, which they valued much, and it was really inspiring. In Korea, on the other hand, it’s a pity that majority of the fathers tend to be workaholics and the mothers either obsessed or tired of children’s educations. And it is a typical Korean society I was also raised in. After I met my husband, I found myself beginning to think deeply on the possible ways to enjoy our times together.

How did your experience in living abroad affect your lifestyle?

We lived in Singapore for 5 years, following my husband's work. While networking with foreigners, every little things, like their conversations, their behaviors and attitudes, the atmosphere caught my eye. I was also surprised at how diverse and fresh the subjects of conversations could be over dinner. Their ways of life, their dwelling spaces—interiors to be exact—were also new to me. We travel frequently and I think the local places around the airbnbs we stay are good inspirations as well. The best part about airbnb is that you can see for yourself at a very close distance how the local people spend their daily lives. Especially, it was amazing to see how the french people’s lives are seamlessly bonded with art. I realized that art was naturally merged with their daily lives. I usually adorn the house with things that has meanings, such as artwork, photography, or gifts from friends, and I think this shows that my life is spontaneously flowing in those directions.

Is there a type of lifestyle you pursue?

I try to stay open-minded towards cultures that differ from mine. And of course I intend to teach the kids the manners of embracing everything naturally. I’d also like to stay focused on the inner workings of life rather than a life that shows off everything on the outside. All the while, I believe my own happiness should come first in order to bring happiness to the family. It’s simple and obvious, but I’d like to seek happiness that lies within oneself.

 

Did the change in your lifestyle bring changes to your interior styling?

I’ve been moving from one country to another and I think my interior styling depended on the weather or the atmospheric conditions of the country that we live in. In Singapore, where it was hot and humid, I was attracted to modern styled furnitures because they gave a certain ‘cool down’ effect and in Korea, where the four seasons are pretty clear, I became more interested in warm and cozy furniture. And as I age and the kids grow up, I begin to eye on colored things rather than the ones that exclude colors. I think I adapt myself to my current circumstances.

What was the biggest reason for choosing this house?

Whenever I look for a house to live, I consider the lights as the most important factor. I like houses with good natural light. And there needs to be a number of walls to hang my art pieces. As of this house, the kitchen, the dining space and the living room all lie in one big open space, which I love about. We didn’t dress up the house much because the garden was already in such great care and thus the outer view was enough to make us happy.

 

Where in this house are you most attached to?

It’s the dining room where the family gather most of the time everyday. In france, the kids usually spend a time called ‘gouter’ once they come home after school and it’s this special time of the day, chatting about this and that over tea and snacks altogether. I think our kids enjoy such time because of the sweet scent of snacks and the warmth of spending time with their mom.

The blend of artworks by foreign artists and Korean artists is quite impressive.

 

When I see artworks that modernize authentic, Korean style, I start feeling all proud. I was immediately drawn to Hongil Han’s floral photographs when I first saw them. The artist claimed that ‘flowers equal love’ but what I felt was more of a sadness rather than a happy vibe. I could also sense his loving heart for his flowers by looking at the water that filled the vase, which didn’t necessarily feel all that sad in the end. The soban (a small-sized traditional portable table) by artist Giyeol Seo is used to serve foreign guests tea. There weren’t that many that seemed right for me until I spotted his piece—it was love at first sight.

There’s a feeling that you might have a different view in looking at Seoul, considering your frequent travels abroad.

 

I’ve always thought of Seoul as a very convenient city where every problems and issues are solved fast and easy. The city which I returned in 5 years turned out to be changing in a lot faster speed than I imagined. A favorite street or a cafe disappears the next morning and when I witness such changes, the first thing that comes to mind is the heightened land price, which leads to my sympathy to those that lost their shops or the small business founders and I start worrying about the society where the mega-companies are a whole lot privileged. Personally, I wish Seoul would become more global. To the majority of Koreans, it’s either that the foreign culture is something that has nothing to do with them or they just blindly copy it. Hopefully the Korean culture harmonize with other cultures and create a new type of culture and whilst at it, I think it’s important to proceed with an open-minded acceptance and learning.

RECOMMENDED PLACE

Banpo Hangang Park

40 Sinbanporo 11-gil, Seocho-gu, Seoul
9 Sinbanpo
02-591-5943

Watching the night view of Hangang (Han River) makes Suyeon Lee realize the true face of Seoul. Young people enjoying the riverside in multiple ways, which seems to create a particular culture is also a fun factor to watch and Lee especially recommends the Banpo Hangang Park. It is nestled within the range between the Hannam Bridge to its upper region and Dongjak Bridge to its lower region, with the Banpo Bridge lying in the center. More precisely, it covers Banpo-dong (Seocho-gu) and Heukseok-dong (Dongjak-gu). The Moonlight Rainbow Fountain along both sides of the Banpo Bridge is recorded as the world’s longest bridge fountain on the Guinness Book of World Records. The observatory at the southern tip of Dongjak Bridge offers a wide open view of the sky above the river surface and the building forest ahead. The Seorae Island blooming with a variety of crops that flower every season is a popular spot for leisurely walks and the 7.2 km long trail for both cycling and walking reaches as far as to Yeouido and Jamwon Hangang Park.