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Ex-Singer Becomes Fashion Biz Star

Posted March. 18, 2006 03:00,   


Every morning, commuters bustle their way to work in Yeouido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul. Among them is an entertainer named Lee Hye-young. She works at the Yeouido Headquarters of “Missing Dorothy,” a clothing company.

Lee made her debut as a singer performing dance music in 1992, and later expanded her career to acting and fashion design. She became president of the company when she registered “Missing Dorothy” as a corporate label last September.

The clothing brand became popular in 2004, which spawned speculation that Lee was a successful businesswoman. In reality, she did not make much money then, because she was just a designer for the company.

But now she has 10 employees working for her. “We don’t have doctors or fashion majors here. All we have is passion,” she says.

Home Shopping Channel Hit-

The CJ Home Shopping channel aired a Missing Dorothy sales promotion at 1:00 p.m. on March 1. Lee made her first public appearance as CEO to showcase her new spring collection. One billion won worth of clothes were sold in an hour and a half. That amounts to 10-million-won-per-minute sales.

The monthly sales from famous brand products, each worth millions of won, seldom exceeds one billion won. In contrast, a Missing Dorothy piece of clothing retails for 100,000 won on average. She shook her head, when asked if the “entertainer factor” is adding to the popularity of her clothing line.

“My experience as an entertainer helped in the image-building for the brand, but if the products were below par, word of mouth would have not let its popularity last very long.”

One of the secrets of her success is the basic desire of girls to be princess-like.

“Why do people go crazy about star styles? Every girl wants to dress like a princess. However, they dare not do so. Instead, they take satisfaction in admiring stars. In this sense, my clothes are a stimulant that enables people to turn themselves into princesses, even if only once a week.”

“I am just crazy about clothes”-

“I love clothes. I once tried to start a clothing business by selling 10,000 clothing pieces without any strategy or know-how.”

She has received many scouting offers from corporations. They wanted her to design clothes and promote their brands with her fame. Lee was tempted at the thought of the convenience of having a corporate sponsor and the opportunity to market her fashion at upscale hotels. But she resisted the temptation and founded a company to make clothes on her own. She says she is happy investing seven days a week making clothes.

“I do not intentionally look for trends. It is fun to design clothes from my own imagination.”

This year’s sales target for Missing Dorothy is 30 billion won. CJ Home Shopping and the internet shopping mall MD Story-net are her company’s only markets. But off-line outlets for her clothing will open soon. She also has plans to take over a 200-pyeong factory near Seoul.

What is her next goal as CEO?

“I want to check the manufacturing process thoroughly so that the brand ensures high quality. I also hope that my brand makes inroads overseas.”