Korean-born, Paris-based designer Juun J. showed his Fall/Winter collection last week. The 1930s and 1940s gangster-inspired pin-striped suits and the many all-leather ensembles he showed were quite striking, as was the finale of futuristic raincoats printed with designs by sign board artist Josh Luke. However, what I found to be a bit more interesting (probably because this collection just did not top his S/S 2014 one) is the fact that his company is owned by Samsung. The cellphone company.
Apparently, it has been for a little while now, but such information was news to me. It seems I missed the fact that he switched to an @samsung.com email, that his Facebook profile got super corporate (think: a year-by-year timeline of all of his career accomplishments), and that he's been doing a bunch of Samsung-related collaborations.
Juun J.'s site addresses to acquisition: "The year 2012 marks another momentous year for Juun J. as he becomes part of Samsung Cheil Industries to truly become global and meet the demands of his following." So, it seems that Samsung, with the help of Juun J., has beat Apple to the punch. It is no secret that Apple has poached a couple of fashion industry insiders for what is rumored to be an apparel-centric project. And, interestingly, it seems that Samsung (which also owns fast fashion company, 8Seconds and some other apparel company named BeanPole, under its subsidiary Cheil Industries) is steadily trying to increase its fashion portfolio, in addition to acquiring Juun J., it launched the Samsung Fashion & Design Fund in 2005, as a means to discover and recruit up-and-coming designers in Korea.
So, what does this entail for Juun J., aside from the obvious perks that stem from the rumored $100 million dollars that Samsung put into the brand? At first, the Sumsung x Juun J. match feels all wrong. LVMH, whose roster of brands ranges from wine to watches, owning brands is one thing. However, a cell phone corporation owning a high fashion brand (especially one known for its directional take on design) doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
And it doesn't make sense for a couple of reasons. 1) It is difficult to reconcile how a relatively avant-garde designer is going to trade in the majority ownership of his name and his brand (even though he has stayed on as creative director) to a corporation without becoming super-commercial in nature. We all know how corporations work and from various horror stores, we know it is not always in line with the creative process of an experimental design house. 2) It is also worth questioning whether Samsung is able to guide what is still a young brand and adequately nurture it as a luxury brand.
It has not all been bad, though. How much did we hear about Juun J. prior to 2012? Not much. So, in this way, the Samsung acquisition has been a good thing.
Part of Juun J.'s appeal is certainly that his designs are not mainstream. His name/brand hasn't been drug through the mud by rappers. He isn't being over-exposed by street style stars. His aesthetic isn't primarily commercial in nature. His appeal is not that he is "the brand to have." But this may all be about to change. This may also be the best thing that ever happened to the Juun J. brand. I really hope that it is the latter!