Inspired by the subject of today's Style Profile feature, I have invented a new mathematical theorem:
Robot Programmer + Pop Star = Fashion Designer
Alright...maybe this equation doesn’t work for everyone. But it certainly does if you’re the sublimely talented Szeki Chan. I, however, would be doing a disservice to her and her clothing/accessories line 7115 by Szeki if I didn’t elaborate further.
I was first introduced to 7115 when Rachel of Rachel Levin Style took me to visit the new flagship store in Williamsburg. If you’re a frequent reader of this humble blog, then you know I’m a huge proponent of emerging brands and local businesses. Needless to say, I went cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs when I got my hands on these beautifully constructed garments. An incredibly personable and helpful sales associate named Kylie gave me a little background on Szeki who, along with her husband Richard, were also responsible for the design-magazine-worthy store interior. I knew I had to speak with her and spread the word to the blogosphere stat.
A couple of weeks later, I met Szeki at the Lower East Side location where she was handling a steady stream of customers like a consummate professional. I’m not ashamed to say that I was smitten with her immediately. She has an infectious smile and playfulness that made me feel like we were sisters from another mister.
Jokes aside, my simplified equation above does nothing to capture her exquisite taste level and endearingly quirky personality. It fails to convey her intense attention to detail and quality. It certainly doesn’t illustrate the creativity that is evident in the clothes and accessories. But perhaps the most important thing that this summation doesn’t account for is that she is a woman on a mission. She’s not your conventional clothing designer, and that is probably one of the biggest factors contributing to her success. Lucky for you, I got the inside scoop!
On Robots and Pop Music
I went to Parsons as a Design Technology major. I was a programmer, I was a nerd. I was making sensors and robotic stuff, it was the funnest thing in the world. But I couldn’t get a job, it was a hard gig.
After I graduated, I went back home (to Hong Kong) where I got signed as a pop singer. I was always competing when I was younger, so that was my deal. I thought I was going to be a singer. It was a dream come true, but I hated it. It wasn’t what I thought it would be. I escaped and came back here (to New York), but I couldn’t get a job because I didn’t have a visa.
On Making Her Own Way
I’ve always been really handy, I like making things. I started making jewelry and selling it on the street. Then I opened a really small store in the Lower East Side right below my apartment. My parents are also in garments/manufacturing so I talked to my mom. I said “You know people, you know samples. Can you get me whatever they don’t want or don’t sell”. So she started co-buying with me, and we slowly created a shop where we were selling one-off samples. It would just be whatever we liked, and we would have direct access to it at a good price because we would get it directly from the sampler. That’s when I started using my designer brain in a wider spectrum of what fashion is.
On Identifying a Need
I don’t know anything about fashion, all I know is that people can hardly afford it now. A lot of my friends, like myself, have designer backgrounds. We like nice stuff, and we should be able to get something of quality for $200, not $800.
When you do product development, of course there are challenges. And then I realized one thing. A lot of money is flushed into PR and things that don’t go strictly to the consumer. I thought to myself, what if I stripped down all of the unnecessary to keep it at an accessible price point.
On Solving a Problem
Design is such a universal language. It’s not a good piece of design if you can’t wear it everyday. Every piece in here needs to work the hardest in your wardrobe. We don’t want you to buy a million things, we want you to buy 2 or 3 things and build a wardrobe out of it. Everything that we do is in service to that.
At the end of the day, I want people to look at my clothes and think it’s a good product. Of course it has to be beautiful, that’s a given. But good design also has to include good materials and craftsmanship.
On Creating an Experience
I want to give people this experience of going into a store that’s a good environment, people are nice to you and help you find the right thing. It’s important to me to hold integrity in that because I think it’s as much a part of the brand, it’s not just about the product.