Korea’s fashion scene may be moving at a million miles a minute, but METROCITY’s CEO has proved she can more than keep up. Glass meets Jeehae Yang, the Chief Executive Officer who’s ensuring the ever flourishing narrative of the Italian/Korean label continues. A graduate of Italian fashion and design school Istituto Marangoni, she has transformed into a CEO who knows what she wants and where she’s going. For Yang – and METROCITY – the sky is truly the limit.
The CEO of METROCITY,Jeehae Yang
How did you come to start out with the brand?
I started working at METROCITY as a creative director. After four years, I was appointed to chief executive officer, and it has been 18 years since I have been in this position.When I became a CEO, METROCITY, an Italian brand that was launched in Korea in 1997, was already a leading fashion brand in Korea. However, I knew that we could go further, and invested aggressively. While I was in CEO, METROCITY hosted a large-scale fashion show, the first fashion accessory brand to host a fashion show in this scale, sponsored Ultra Music Festival as a main sponsor, and invested in HR development systems. As result, we are generating revenue four times more than 2005, when I just became a CEO, and own 117 stores globally, which allowed us to strengthening our position in Korean market, and get ready for our global expansion.
You became a CEO in your mid-20s. How was it like to be a CEO at such a young age?
I tried to listen to others, and communicate. As a leader of a company, I tried to look after not only for those who work in corporate office, but also the ones at the shops, and manufacturers to listen to their opinions and apply it to the strategy.
I believe that a CEO should generate revenues and profits. I suggested a straight-forward vision and goals for the company, and put it into the action after carefully discussing with experts. Because I was young, I was able to make unconventional moves, and achieve a huge success, because, thankfully, all the employees trusted and followed my decision.
METROCITY is the number one brand in South Korea and recently opened a store in Milan. What do you think is the reason for your present success?
METROCITY is successful, because we focused on our brand values, and consumers. METROCITY’s success is backed by our focus on the brand identity, and consumers. I always concern about both METROCITY’s brand identity and its path, and consumer’s needs that is changing rapidly.
In addition, METROCITY can be introduced with its competitiveness in fashion industry, and artisanship since it is originated from Italy. METROCITY’s signature bags are beloved by the people around the world, especially at the Mipel the bag show. There were different opinion about preferences in different countries. However, best items were the same across the globe, because our bags reflects consumer’s needs, and seasonal trends.
METROCITY Flagship Store in Milan
What is the most challenging part of running a fashion business in South Korea?
Korea is known as a test bed for many global companies, regardless of which industry you are in. It means market trends change quickly, and you have to understand consumer’s needs and target them fast. As we monitor the market, we found that the key word is ‘lifestyle’. Each segments in lifestyle are being blended with one another. It means, we can create bigger synergy if we apply lifestyle with fashion. By delivering consistent message through many products, we could get closer to more customers.
METROCITY Lounge, which was launched in June 2016, is more than just a shop. We provide not only leather, and ready-to-wear goods, but fragrance, cosmetics, sports goods such as bike and golf products, interior goods, table wears, stationaries, and even F&B to suggest and provide consumers overall lifestyle products.
You always trying new things like- smart office and restaurant business and you are known as a multi-tasker. What makes you keep on trying new things?
I believe fashion, lifestyle, and F&B have a connection to each other. The basic elements for human are clothes, food, and house. I decided to move to the F&B business, as I believe food is something that cannot be set apart from the living. The meaning of dining out has changed from eating delicious food outside to sharing the time and the dining experience each other.
In addition, restaurant is the place, where we can deliver our message, and communicate with customers directly. That is why I decided to launch F&B brands, café Mememi, and kitchen Mememi.
Mememi Kitchen in Seoul
Application of smart office began from the idea of creating an efficient, and fun work place. There are many employees with different specialties, and personalities. I concluded from years of experience that the traditional office setting is not efficient for internal communication to execute a project. Smart office will reduce the gap between the departments, thus increase the efficiency. I will continuously develop the ‘smart office’ as the work environment changes.
METROCITY Office in Seoul – The first smart office in South Korea
You also love collaboration. What was the most fun and exciting collaboration you did so far? What kind of collaboration you would like to do in the future?
Collaboration is needed to search for new things, and have refresh from your ordinary works. Recently, we collaborated with Hector Castro. He is the world’s renowned art director, who has also collaborated with luxury brands, such as Louis Vuitton, Genzo, Disel. He worked with us as a style director of METROCITY’s FW18 and the SS19 collection, known as La Rosa Bianca. We set the theme of 18FW as the night rose, and SS19 as the day rose to express the trendy and sensual attraction of white rose. It was interesting to see how METROCITY’s signature style is reinterpreted to modern and stylish feeling through Hector. I am looking forward to collaborate with both super designers, and new artists, who can create synergy with our brand.
METROCITY Ambassador for SS19, Kate Moss
What is your next step? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I am currently planning to expand METROCITY’s brand in main cities across the globe, and also analyzing the global consumer trends, and culture. This is to prepare for aggressive marketing to reorganizing global marketing and sales platform, and increase the brand value.
I think that taking time to understand the local culture is more important than rapid expansion. I will expand the presence of METROCITY by creating cultural activities. It is hard to tell where I will be, but I am sure that I will continuously develop interesting plans, and put it into action. I will do my best to expand METROCITY globally, and to be a brand that maintain a close connection with people, who value their life and keep their own colors.
by Ssam Kim
Metrocity is on Instagram here