Nana: Fashion has infinite possibilities, and new power is born from it. As a carrier of culture and times, fashion encompasses everything. From trendy to traditional culture, from celebrities, idols to everyone’s daily life, and from West to East, it is our discourse, our power, our time. Through Asian Voice, we hope to spread the local Asian fashion culture to the world by moving cross languages and borders.
In this issue, we welcome Sundae School, a streetwear brand founded by Dae Lim from Korea, based in the U.S. The brand has shown a unique rebellious temperament since its inception, and the design is often incorporated with a sense of street rebellion such as pipes and tattoos, allowing history, tradition, and youth to collide and show the brand’s unique beliefs.
The community behind the brand is a group of people: “High Achieving Degenerates”, who work hard, play hard, and are proud of their work and keep the effort, while at the same time not forgetting to play hard and treat themselves. At Sundae School, you can take a break from the stress and rush but just chill.
Nana: What is the story behind Sundae School? How did you initially found it and named it Sundae School?
Dae Lim: I quit my job at McKinsey at my 25, which is a consulting company. I was in bed at home and then my mom was knocking on my door and kept being like wake up you lazy bitch! And I wish badly that she would just smoke weed and chill. Because she’s such a tiger mom.
And I had a thought in my head: What if God is Korean and smoked weed every day and created this world? And what if that’s the alternate universe where my mom is that God. Obviously in my life growing up under a very strict mom, and she was always like the world of the truth.
Then the brand born in the attemption of imagination of this world at that time. I named it Sunday school because my name is Dae and we wanted to have that religious authority, but also the style of school.
So we launched around five years ago. It’s been incredible for us.
Nana: Wow, a church!
Dae Lim: Not a real church but a church of “High Achieving Degenerates”. High achieving means someone who’s really proud of their work that they put out to the world. And degenerate is a term for someone who drinks a lot or smoke, just someone who knows how to have fun.
Especially people in our generations work hard, play hard. We wanted to create a world where you can work hard and chill hard.
Nana: That is interesting! Before you created the brand, did you have any background in fashion?
Dae Lim: Not at all. I actually went to Harvard and I studied math.
Nana: Wow, that is the opposite than what I thought!
Dae Lim: Yes, I don’t use math at all now! All I do is writing TikTok scripts, and designing and drawing.
Nana: I know that your brands right now having a lot of followers on Instagram, it getting hype. I know it’s very difficult for the brands in California, because it’ quite competitive there.
Dae Lim: We’re very grateful and I think the only reason is because we have our community behind our back. We really focus on again, our community of “High Achieving Degenerates”, on what they’re interested in, such as where to eat or to smoke.
And based on our team and my personal stories of being Asian, an Asian American, an immigrant. We are not ashamed of who we are and we propagate that pride out the world through our products.
Nana: What motivated you the most when you decided to found the brand?
Dae Lim: I don’t know exactly what motivated me but what was really awesome was the youth. I’m so young.
I’ve always loved fashion but I’ve never done anything close to fashion. Will I have regrets when I’m doing it when I’m 40? or 50 or when I have a family? Just pictures. I was 25 then and decided to start it right away.
Nana: How did you come up with the collection every time?
Dae Lim: The very first step one is to get high. Then I just start writing down. I love poems so I just start right writing, writing, writing and I love to ice
So it starts out a bunch of different words and then from there, I start going through books, the image, the artists that I like and then just start compiling onto different, and very unorganized and broad concepts.
For instance, this summer, we wanted to make it about dreams. Because we’re all dreamers wishing for a future to turn out certain ways. And then we all collectively talk about the dreams that we have. One of the dreams, because we I live in LA, is about the Hollywood.
It’s about fame and media etc., but there’s also the dark side of those dreams. If you go to restaurants, everyone is such a beautiful, aspiring actor or aspiring influencer. But trying to make it work out here is very tough.
When I’m in Korea obviously I don’t smoke weed, but I was dreamed of weed. I did some research and figured out that back in 1700s back or 1600s, 1800s, even before, a Christian missionaries came to Korea. People were smoking weed from then. We took references from that and incorporated traditional Korean line, art forms and stuff like that.
Nana: That is a very abstract process.
Dae Lim: It’s a high consciousness. It’s like a high street, high stream of consciousness and layers get added. It’s very organic. And after that, we researched specific images and whatnot. We think about different garments. One of our design director used to be a professor at Parsons and he loves the work where utility vibes, and I I love the romantic, the why project. So we start collaborating together mix these vibes together. That’s how we come up with a collection.
Nana: If you are going to do any collaborations with other brands or designers, it must match the vibes of your brand.
Dae Lim: Yes. For instance, if Givenchy asked us to do a collaboration, it would be very difficult, versus a less famous brand, Etro, I immediately know what I want to do. We can use temple arts from Korea to reimagine that modernize and so on. It’s a lot of intuitions.
Nana: Can you give us the most memorable collaboration experience that Sundea School has done?
Dae Lim: The craziest collaboration is probably True Religion last year. Our first several collection was about God and whatnot. The collaboration with True Religion was based on the story of Genesis, the first chapter of the Bible. So we need seven pairs of denim for the seven days.
It was really awesome because working with them gave me something to look forward to. That’s literally like a dream. You have people who are so good at their jobs and that’s what they love doing and that’s what they do every day versus for us. I’m sure you have felt that way before, like you have to wear so many hats and do many things. So it kind of gave a really cool sense of what building a fashion brand actually could be.
Nana: Do you have any advice for our readers who are seeking to find a way to start their own business like you did or live freely just like you?
Dae Lim: I think this is such an own advice. I used to be really afraid of change whether it’s changing my routine or anything, but there are many times when change happens for a reason. And you can have an open mind to be able to explore. Because if everything stayed constant, you would also be in a constant state. But growth, although is difficult, is something that should be welcomed.
Right now, you can know things from social media, and in this world of more transparency. There are so many people who are so different. When we were growing up, we didn’t have access to that. We thought what they taught us in school, or what our dad told us, that’s the only one tool.
I used to really be sad that I was so different than everyone. Now, I celebrate myself and I love myself or difference and I think especially as when you are young, it is really hard to know what’s right and what’s wrong. My my one answer to that would be there’s no what’s right. It’s what’s right for you. No one lives your life but you.
Nana: Can you tell us about some of the most challenging experiences you have had?
Dae Lim: I think the biggest challenge is since before I was doing things just myself and it’s much harder to control the outcome when you have other people, when there is a team.
I don’t practice this yet, but I think practicing patience is hard for me since I’m really impatient. I recently spoke with the founder of Gentle Monster, and he said that when you’re running a company, when you’re a CEO, people just think they have to go out and talk to other people who are top than them. But what’s even more important is talking to a team people who work with you and communicating or over communicating the vision and figuring out the steps together instead of telling them what exactly to do, figuring out what to do together is important.
When you’re a young new entrepreneur, you may think that that’s a waste of time. And I still sometimes think it is but honestly, you can’t expect the same outcome that, I can do this in 10 minutes, why you need to do this in an hour. But you can’t think like that and I’m learning this right now.
There’s no what’s right. It’s what’s right for you.