Growing up the youngest daughter of a fisherman, Korean-born Suk Chai’s wardrobe was not her own. It was oldest brother’s first, and then the next brother’s, and then her sister’s — but waiting taught her about timeless silhouettes and the value of materials. By the mid-90s Chai was a young single mother putting herself through design school in New York. Her own clothes came from 10-dollar stores, but her dreams came from the then-dying legendary houses of Givenchy and Alaia. After school, the award-winning FIT graduate spent twenty years designing, directing, and producing womenswear for elite brands —fourteen of those years at Nordstrom, innovating and exacting for the luxury department store clientele — but swift and steady success in the industry eventually gave way to a boomerang. She began to see fashion as a surface-level art form, and ultimately vacated her coveted senior design director position. It wasn’t until a chance encounter with the rich cashmere of a Lanvin coat, some two years later, that the soulfulness of refined fibers and precision craft pulled her back in.
S C H A I is her personal debut. Although Chai continues to work outside her brand as a creative consultant for major Korean and American fashion companies, her collection represents her own intellectual and intuitive beliefs about beauty, longevity, and comfort. Each season exhibits the brand’s DNA: a dedication to finely milled Italian fabrics and luxe vegetable-dyed animal skins, New York City-based manufacturing (with satellite production in Asia), elegantly modern shapes and cutting-edge architectural lines, and an intrinsic wisdom concerning color, shade, and tone. “Softly spoken but powerful hues are what seduce you to touch a garment,” says Chai. When felt, S C H A I garments command even more attention—when worn, body, mind, and materials are transformed.
Written by Laura Cassidy
Photo by Sara Marie D’Eugenio