Scan any city street during rush hour on a rainy day and you’ll likely see the following: the overly prepared commuter, dry but sweating in a waterproof raincoat; and the soggy city-dweller who decided to sacrifice sensible dressing in favor of looking stylish.
Let’s face it: Fashion and function rarely go hand in hand, no matter how often outerwear brands claim that it’s part of their modus operandi. And most consumers have resigned themselves to the fact that they can’t have it all.
Most except June Sohn, that is.
Sometimes brilliant ideas are born out of necessity and when the Korean-born designer couldn’t find a stylish, durable jacket that was also waterproof, windproof, breathable and machine-washable (the holy grail), she set out to make it herself.
Sohn launched her outerwear brand, Jungwon, four years ago, determined to offer a stylish and sustainable solution to the lack of fashion-forward, functional raincoats she saw during a decade spent living and working in New York City.
“They have to look good when you’re wearing them, otherwise they’re meaningless,” she said.
Using fabric sourced from South Korea combined with a Sympatex membrane that’s not only waterproof and windproof but also 100 percent recyclable and free from polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and fluorocarbons (PFCs), Jungwon’s Spring ’16 collection spans simple mackintosh and zip-up styles to trompe l’oeil layered looks for men and women.
Pops of blue and orange brighten up a mostly neutral color palette of black, navy, white, beige and pale pink, while the styles are designed to transition from subway to sidewalk to a hike up a mountain—that sense of multifunction is important to Sohn.
“I test everything myself to ensure they’re easy to wash and very reliable,” she noted.
Something else that’s important to her: American manufacturing. She’s worked with a small factory on West 35th Street in Manhattan’s garment district from the get-go.
“It’s 10 times cheaper to make my outerwear overseas but production is not consistent, and I need the quality to be consistent so that’s why I make it here. It brings jobs to the city and that’s good for the country,” she said.
Price, of course, is a problem. “Since I’m making it here, I take much less margin, but I’m proud to say it’s Made in the U.S.A.,” she added, noting that while the factory’s turnaround time is usually one month, it can take up to six months for the fabric to arrive from South Korea. “So I really have to plan a year ahead,” she noted.
It’s all worth it, however, when she receives e-mails from customers telling her how much they love the brand and what a difference it’s made to their lifestyle. “I know not many people are doing this, that’s for sure,” she said. “That’s why I started, because nobody was doing it.”