Myung il Song came to Vienna from South Korea to study graphic design in 1984, and soon adopted the Austrian city as her home and the base for her directional boutique/gallery Song. Opened in 1998, Song eschews seasonal trends in favor of timeless, unique designs by everyone from Dries Van Noten and Commes de Garçons to under the radar labels such as Tramando, while also promoting international art culture with exhibitions of work by artists like Gelitin, Jutta Koether, Pierre Leguillon and Ruth Laskey. JC Report spoke to Myung il Song about the store’s evolution over the years, her clinetele and the relationship between fashion and art.
JC Report: Based on your specific, yet all encompassing selections, you seem to know your customer really well. Is this one of the strategies that’s helped you remain a Vienna destination for over a decade? What are some other secrets to your longevity?
Myung il Song: The clients and I have developed together, so it’s more a matter of knowing each other than me knowing them. As to strategy and secrets, there are none; there is just the desire to keep going, and keep developing.
JCR: Your diverse selection of items consists of well made and refreshingly untrendy pieces—does this speak to the desires of Vienna’s high fashion consumers?
MiS: I don’t think about trends or Vienna specifically. I pick the pieces with my individual taste, the things I want to present to people in my space. When the right people find their way here and feel the same way about the things as I do, that’s very satisfying.
JCR: What are some of your best selling brands?
MiS: We selling everything well. A brand can change from season to season—better collections, less good on others. I try to see over this to the longer term, kind of in the way a gallery works with their artists.
MiS: The customers are all types, and always have been: artists, bankers, gallerists, restaurant owners, people from small villages in the mountains, magnates and intellectuals from Eastern European countries. Sometimes they are people who know nothing about fashion, but they just saw the right thing in the window. Back when nobody knew who Margiela was, I remember a woman came and bought a pullover from that company, and she paid all in small bills, many many fives and tens (though it was shillings at that time). Later, I saw her wearing that sweater in the market, where she had a stand selling vegetables. Hence the small bills. I still see her wearing it once in a while.
JCR: What do they expect when shopping at Song?
MiS: You’d have to ask them. I can tell you what we try to provide, which is complete comfort, and the offer to clothe oneself with beautiful and amazing pieces.
JCR: What are other projects in the pipeline?
MiS: I have a lot of new initiatives, but I am always loathe to speak about anything before it becomes concrete.