It's not every day that a brand from overseas opens up a New York flagship after just two years in business. But with more than 10 million fans across Instagram and Weibo alone, K-pop star Jessica Jung is not your everyday entrepreneur.
"Whenever I have time, I go to New York. It's one of my favorite cities," says San Francisco-born Jung over the phone from Seoul, Korea, where she's based. After seven years as a member of the mega-successful female group Girls' Generation, Jung split ways with her former agency SM Entertainment in 2014 to focus on her fashion brand Blanc & Eclare. Back then, Jung was only designing sunglasses and then expanded into denim, which continue to be the brand's most-popular categories. By 2015, she added coats and skin-care products.
"I never like to overdo things and that's always been my aesthetic," explains Jung, and a quick glance across Blanc & Eclare's ready-to-wear, which just launched this year, proves it. So far, you can choose from double-breasted blazers, blouses, knitted tops and crew-neck sweatshirts starting at $100. Each style is made different with the slightest detail, all of which are neatly organized throughout the store. It's a fitting portrayal of the brand name's origins. Jung says she chose "blanc," which translates to "white" because "it's clean and crisp," followed by "eclare," which is derived from the Latin root clara, or "clarity and bright."
Jung's venture into fashion stemmed from her childhood, visiting department stores and trying on her mom's high heels and dresses as a little girl. When she joined SM Entertainment, the agency behind Girls' Generation, at the age of 11 (Jung is now 27 years old), she moved to Korea to kick off her singing career. As a result, her success in the entertainment industry only fueled her involvement and interest in the fashion world. And the perks that come with being a pop star — traveling around the world, a massive fanbase — helps with her design process.
"I'm always traveling because of work and even when I'm not working, I'm actually traveling for inspiration. I like to people-watch and see what kind of color scheme people like to wear, or what kind of shapes they tend to go towards," says Jung. "When I start to design something, I do think of whether people would want to see this on me because they're usually very interested in what I wear on a daily basis. So if I make something, it has to be something I want to wear."
The U.S. opening of Blanc & Eclare — in the heavily trafficked SoHo neighborhood — is one of the many career milestones Jung has hit this year alone. In February, she signed with a new agency called Coridel Entertainment and in May released her debut solo album "With Love, J." She already is working on releasing her second album "Wonderland," which is "coming out really soon," and is gearing up to launch Blanc & Eclare fragrance, footwear and even menswear in 2017.
When it comes to juggling between her two very distinct businesses, Jung finds it to be fairly easy. For music, she's open to experimentation and pushing the boundaries as a K-pop star. In fashion, Jung stays true to her personal style. "For every album, every song, you have a different concept and different sides of yourself," she says. "Whereas for Blanc & Eclare, I would really like to keep the aesthetic modern and classic and play around with the details."
Visit Blanc & Eclare at 132 Prince Street in New York City.