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A chat with Suk Chai, founder and designer of SCHAI

by Susan Cannon

It’s so nice to see when a designer’s philosophy and aesthetic jive so authentically. This merging clearly shines in Suk Chai's collection, and I think this is what resonates with the women who wear her clothing. Chai employs an edginess and a slight romanticism at the same time, which is a sensibility so needed in the crazy, conflicting world we live. Strong, soft, modern and original is how we perceive SCHAI.

So we’re excited to have Suk Chai in the house this coming weekend, starting with the little fête Friday evening, and during the day spent with us on Saturday.

Suk, we're interested to get inside your head a bit, so we want to ask you a few random questions just for fun, as a lead-in to your visit to FINEFOLK. 

FF-  What makes you curious? 

SUK- Wow, this is a tough question! Anything and everything that I have not seen, touched or tasted myself makes me curious. Anything that feels new to me. I love to be awakened with senses — touch, taste, smell,  etc. 

FF-  Speaking of awakening your senses, what food do you most often crave?

SUK- Depends!  I am craving some salumi and cheese at the moment!!! I was craving good Korean BBQ the other day. I love all types of food.

FF-  What music do you listen to when creating.

SUK- Mostly just house music/beats, but at times I am just jamming through Adele or Amy Winehouse.

FF-  What’s your fragrance, incense, candle scent?

SUK- Sandalwood always gets me. At the moment, I am using Diptique’s Tam Dao, but I am waiting on a cheap Amber scent I just ordered from Amazon. : )

FF-  Knowing you have an affinity for modern architecture, we're curious... who's your favorite architect?

SUK- Frank Lloyd Wright. I just love the way he integrated and balanced the East and West in his structures. 

FF-  What’s your dream destination you’ve not been to yet?

SUK- So many! Greek Islands. Vietnam. Bali. Oaxaca. Africa. Iceland. Belgium…..  

FF-  Is there a special key to how you approach your design process each new season?

SUK- Each collection is inspired by (or is a result of) a certain emotion or lingering feeling/memories that I’ve had for a while. It’s a very personal expression, although the overall collection is always going to have a sense of organic minimalism. 

FF-  Is there a favorite piece you’ve created that stays at the core of all your collections?

 

SUK- Yes, a shirtdress. This particular season is the Eclipse Artisan Shirtdress. The extra long tie (that you can wrap yourself twice) and the half moon arch of the sleeves are inspired by "Hahn-Bo’k", the Korean traditional dress. You will see a version of a shirtdress in each season, whether in a different color or textile, or a slightly different silhouette.

FF-  If you could choose a new profession with the knowledge that you could not fail, what would it be and why?

SUK- Architect...  only if I knew I couldn’t fail. I think the idea of building space in a way that is not only beautiful but also functional for different lifestyles is quite sexy and empowering. Being a good architect requires an in-depth understanding of mathematics, science and technology in addition to knowledge: the soil, weather, environment, wear/tear of materials... so much beyond the aesthetics. It takes an incredibly multi-talented person to be able to do this well. 

FF-  Your image campaigns are consistently beautiful. How do you approach that process each season?

SUK- Oh, thank you so much!! We have some amazing stylists, hair/make-up artists, photographers and models in Seattle! I work very closely with a local stylist who I bounce ideas during the concept stage for the photo shoot. Then we select the models and photographers and between the photographer, stylist and I, we all share the artistic direction. Then I edit/curate all the images in a way they flow and makes the most sense that goes back to the collection’s essence.

FF-  We have a very modern, intelligent customer who just chose one of your dresses to wear to the White House as a special guest representing the Women’s Foundation. As customers go, she’s sort of our muse. We’re curious to know if you have any muses, and what they’re like.

SUK- I don’t think I have one particular muse. I mean, the “ultimate” muse would a combination of Tilda Swinton, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara and Ruby Rose. They are all so different in age and aesthetic, but they represent the strong, intelligent, talented women who are very comfortable in their own skin. They are passionate about their art and they challenge themselves, while also involved in the community to keep themselves grounded and “real."  If I didn’t name these actors’ names, this “muse” would probably one of the many women we know — she may be in the arts and design, finance, law, politics, education, community, and/or in the medical field. When I meet this type of women, I have an urge “to dress her”.
 

FF-  Your collaborative writer Laura Cassidy penned this captivating post on your blog which we’d like to share.

SUK- Fantastic!  I love how Laura captures the essence of what I am feeling at the moment when I am creating a collection. Every time she writes, I get goosebumps and get teary-eyed.  Her writing takes my collection to another level each time. I am so lucky to work with so many amazingly people in Seattle.

"L  E  G  I  O  N "

These days aren’t meant for isolation. Oh, on one hand, we’ve never been better at solitude; how easily we fold into our artificial shells and seal ourselves inside. But as it gets easier and easier to do without human connection, we’re faced with the simple, enduring truth that all alone, we feel less. We create less. We are less. 

“Amid humankind’s technological advances, the world is chaotic and erratic, and more and more we long for harmony, comfort and unity,” says Suk Chai as she anticipates her fifth season with

S C H A I.  The craving is a deeply felt realization as well as an acknowledgment of good fortune and excellent support. She crafted her Fall Winter 2016 collection as an homage to the team effort—to togetherness.

In the line’s rich color signatures—cut to simple shapes in sumptuous cashmeres, crepe, twill and shirting with delicate, minimal details—she sees an army of “humble visionaries” clapping hand over hand and holding tight to the same tow line. Like a family, like a formation, like a childhood pact. Pulling for one another and with one another.

Uniting them all, first and forever, is a shared emotion—but their uniform is a sensation, too:  “A sense of belonging, discipline, mission and perhaps wisdom. When we wear a uniform, we make good choices—we act on behalf of the whole.”

Imagine, for example, a cavalcade in the Kandan dress—the collection includes one in every fabrication; each with an elegant V-neck, raw-edged bell sleeves and an extra-long Karate belt. The efficiency of a shift dress, the power of purity, the evocation of that tow line. Hand over hand over hand.

Legion: the designer’s name for the set that makes up the season’s whole, but more than that, too. The memory of a lost idyll and the belief that we can bring it back tomorrow. Past, present, future.

Mothers, daughters, mentors, partners, cast, crew, clan, community. The weaver, the wearer, the lover, the dreamer. Together we are so much more.

Okay, lovely... thanks Suk... see you tomorrow! 

W i t h   m u c h   g r a t i t u d e ,
     _
S   U  K