the story behind
There is a story behind every brand. In our category ‘Behind the Brand’ the designers share their candid insight about their inspiration, the production process, and the people behind the brand. We sat down with Samantha Sung, founder of her eponymous label Samantha Sung.
The label Samantha Sung was founded in 2006. What was the initial idea behind the brand – how did it all begin?
While I was working for Ralph Lauren, I created the group called Hand-Batik in Bali. The person I developed this with was my Italian friend who was living and running a factory in Bali. He loved my design and I liked his technic. It was him who suggested me to do my own collection and who offered to develop it. It basically started casually when I vacationed in Bali with the initial idea to develop only shirts in very lightweight breezy Musola fabric (this is a very common fabric in the Balinese tradition). At his swimming pool, I drew a few patterns in watercolour and he developed them by hand in Batik Print. How it came out was really stunning - nothing like machine printing. There was a sense of the Balinese feel to it; very special like I never have seen elsewhere. First, he made just shirts out of those prints, based on the one that I was wearing at the meeting. Then I gave him a sketch of a dress to make. I used the shirt as the top of that dress and gave him my skirt as example for the pleats. This is how the Audrey Dress was born.
I made only one dress sample, which turned out to be much more popular than all other sample shirts. For this reason, I started selling dresses. I used to draw the sketches and sell the dresses right from my paintings at a local trade show. Now I am too busy to do that.
Today, my best-selling dress is still the Audrey Dress and the most popular fabric is the Balinese Musola fabric, which has been in my collection since day one. I always have Batik prints in the collection and most of my prints are inspired by hand paintings, some even hand-drawn by me.
“The core of beauty and elegance which will never change as long as we are a human beings, men and women. I wanted to just follow that core elegance of style icons."
What does creativity mean to you?
Being myself is the most creative thing to do, as my mother always said being me is the best thing I can do. Whatever is near me, what I can grab next to me is the best creative tool there is.
How would you describe the aesthetic identity of Samantha Sung?
Elegance, comfort, edgy and creative; an easy dressing for busy career women. Modern women are not fashion victims, they are rather leaders of their own style.
My background and my career have had an influence on what I am today. Ralph Lauren taught me about style icons and celebrities in Hollywood, with their everlasting elegance, epiphany and quintessential style. For my first job there, I had to search for all the photos of Audrey Hepburn out there and then design clothing that would match her sense of style. I learned that there is fashion that stands above fashion; it is about the style that no one can mimic.
The core of beauty and elegance which will never change as long as we are a human beings, men and women. I wanted to just follow that core elegance of style icons.
“Today, my best-selling dress is still the Audrey Dress and the most popular fabric is the Balinese Musola fabric, which have both been in my collection since day one."
Your collections contain of feminine pieces in stunning and colourful prints, which you design yourself. Where you do get your inspiration from?
I have always been a painter. Being a teenager, I was always the loner who would spend time in my room painting. Instead of kindergarten I went to the art institute, followed by art middle-high school, then became a fashion major in university and later on I taught illustration and painting at Parsons.
I used to create many graphic patterns and paint bright colours in multiple hues, from light tones to dark, saturated and muted. However, I never did any printing developing work in my career. Instead I created dresses and garments, more in shapes of the clothing.
When I first started my own collection, I had to think about how to be different than anybody else. I wanted to achieve that when somebody sees my garment, they know: ‘That is Samantha Sung.’
During my career I have developed collections for different brands and also looked closely how every fashion house did this. What I found out was that they all go to the same fabric mills to see the same fabric collection they present as a fashion trend. This is the reason why it is hard to distinguish yourself from other fashion houses, as all the materials come from the same source.
Clearly, I had to create a different fabric. Since I could not afford to make the fabric myself nor buy Italian fabrics, I had put all my energy into creating prints. I minimized the style of the dress as I did not have a good pattern maker. In the end, it all worked out. In conclusion, I think I made the best out of what I had.
Discover the Samantha Sung collection by Pauw here.