After becoming head designer at Geoffrey Beene, Doo Ri Chung started her own label in 2001, and won the Vogue/CFDA Fashion Fund Award and the CFDA Award for Emerging Talent in 2006. She is best known for her jersey pieces and draping technique and collaborated with Macys in 2012.
Tell me about Michelle Obama wearing your pieces to a State Dinner. Did that bring you new attention?
I have so many friends that know I’m in fashion but have no idea where I sell or anything about me. When they saw that they were like, WOW. For someone that is out of the fashion world and people to recognize that and all of the press that came with it was amazing.
How did her wearing your piece come about?
She has stylists and our PR director reached out to them. It was never confirmed until the last minute and I was in a car and the Washington Post called my cell and I wondered, “How did they get my number?”
Where do you source your fabrics?
Our production is split half overseas and half domestic. We’ve been working with a lot of different fabric mills for a very long time. Most notably the Italian mills for jersey, I know them from Geoffrey Beene. For knitwear we work locally with Stoll. They do such a great job and turn it around so fast.
How did you integrate the knitwear pieces?
I love the idea of having identifiable items that every woman owns. Like a button down shirt, but having a knit sleeve on it so it looks more interesting.
Obviously draping is your thing. Is there another technique that you’d like to master?
Definitely tailoring, without a doubt.
Have you experimented a bit?
I think it has to do with knowing how the fabric works. You always gravitate to your strengths and mine happens to be jersey. When I was with Alber Elbaz at Geoffrey Beene, he worked a lot with silks. I wish I could have used that time to work on tailoring but you kind of build up on your strengths with wovens But your business dictates what you spend your time on and when there is demand for a jersey, I will devote my time to that piece.
Do you still have a relationship with Alber?
Yes, when he did the Barneys show I went to support him. I think he’s so fantastic — he’s been a mentor of mine.
Are you inspired by his designs?
We’re very different, his idea of femininity is different than mine. Mine is more quiet and his is more French chic.
Tell me about your diffusion collection, Under.Ligne?
We started that two years ago, and recently we just started to bring the two lines together to broaden the price ranges. Under.Ligne will now be under the Doo Ri line with different prices. Were really trying to reach both price points in one collection.
Did you find that people were getting confused about the two lines?
Yes, we were doing two big collections but saying the same thing at two different price points. Were such a small staff and it became too much work. I think it’s important to offer something that everyone can afford but I also want aspirational pieces.
What about adding accessories, like shoes and bags?
I’d love to, but right now I want to focus on our identity. We’ve have great partnership with Tiffany Tuttle, hopefully we can find another great partner in the handbag company.
Can you tell us about your experience with the CFDA nominations and winning the Vogue Fashion Fund?
Definitely a career changer. Even when I didn’t win that was a huge experience. I think I had done two or three seasons and then being in Vogue, the response was so amazing and the money helped me stay in business and survive.
How much interaction do you have with CFDA?
I’m very connected; when I have questions about my business I can reach out. It’s such a community feeling. At one of the first parties I was so shocked that Vera Wang came up and congratulated me. And I am so lucky to have Steven Kolb and Anna Wintour in that community.
How did your collaboration with Macy’s come about?
We started talking about the great opportunity to broaden our customer base, because there is no way we can make our price points what Macys does. Macys are taking care of the production, I do the design work. I basically designed the collection and they manufactured it.
Would you do it again?
It was a lot of work, but I am definitely up for the experience again.