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Handbag-maker Simone launches luxury brand, opens stunning flagship store

Brand 0914 is the brainchild of CEO Park Eun-kwan’s philosophy on handbags

While Seoul has in recent years been dubbed a hotbed for luxury brands by various international media outlets, local handbag company Simone -- which for years has manufactured products for global fashion houses like Michael Kors, Tory Burch and Coach -- is now seeking to go beyond supplying to foreign brands to establish a prestigious local label. 

The lobby of 0914’s flagship store (0914)
The lobby of 0914’s flagship store (0914)

With 28 years of expertise in leather goods, the company launched 0914, a brand of handbags designed, manufactured and marketed by Simone, in 2013. Imbued with a rich story and president Park Eun-kwan’s vision, 0914 opened its new flagship store Monday in the area near Dosan Park, Korea’s own Avenue Montaigne.

The drive

Park, who has gained renown in Korea for his passion for handbags and for opening the world’s first museum dedicated entirely to handbags in Sinsa-dong, wanted to create a “global handbag brand rooted in Seoul.”

Park first started Simone as a small leatherwork enterprise in 1987. He began to expand by appealing to brands such as DKNY, showing them that Simone could create exact replicas of the American fashion houses’ bags that had until then been manufactured in Italy.

“With its cultural and economic development ... Korea can now rise not only as a market, but as an origin of luxury goods,” he said.

The brand, concepts

The 0914 brand wants to differentiate itself in an industry where trends rule all, through its own philosophy on handbags and consumer tastes.

“The brand focuses on the concept of time and timelessness,” said manager Lee Go-woon of Navi Communication, the agency in charge of 0914’s public relations, at the media opening of the brand’s flagship store Monday. 
The second floor display rooms (0914)
The second floor display rooms (0914)

The bags feature classic designs with a rustic charisma, are made of robust layers of quality leather and bear 0914’s logo -- a small fish fossil.

“The fossil logo represents the accumulation of time and the beauty of things that have matured with it and endured its tests,” said Lee.

The bags reflect the longtime philosophy of president Park, who has always regarded handbags to be more than functional pouches. He views them as extensions of personality, works of art and “companions that are with you throughout your experiences,” he said.

For this season, 0914 has released some 230-something bags in its collection, aiming for both quality and quantity. And unlike most handbag brands who select a couple key items to market aggressively as their “it” bags, 0914 treats every single one of its bags as a limited edition, according to Park. The wide range also allows customers to choose their purchases based on their own unique tastes.

The collection boasts a plethora of styles, for both men and women, from large travel totes to dainty purses. Prices typically range from 500,000 won ($440) to 1 million won -- highly affordable for luxury bags -- because “the company has the resources to deliver products straight from the factory to the consumer,” said Park. Bags that have been made from rare materials, such as crocodile hide, however, are priced at around 10 million won.

The building

The brand’s newly constructed flagship store is a feat of construction and a stronghold of art and tradition. The building was planned by professor Jo Sung-ik of Hongik University and its interiors were done by Archigroup MA.

“The overall theme is a seaside village,” said Archigroup MA CEO Yoo Byung-ahn in a press release. The sea motif is connected to 0914’s fish-shaped logo and its philosophy of aging with time, Yoo added.
A display of 0914’s bag and wallets (0914)
A display of 0914’s bag and wallets (0914)

The seven-story building -- including three underground floors -- is shaped as if several houses have been stacked on top of each other.

Inside are three main display rooms, located on the first and second floors. The high-ceiling lobby is encased in marble and designed like the sitting room of a wealthy mansion, Yoo explained. 

The two rooms on the second floor are created like an ancient, seaside ruin and a hunter’s den. Bags are artfully perched on large rocks and logs, enhancing the theme of nature.

In the first level underground is a cafe, while the second basement floor is home to a “Leather Spa,” or workshop where leather artisans hone their craft in an open space.

The third basement floor holds a gallery with handbag-themed installations on display.

“Each space tells a story,” Yoo said. “They are made of materials that will age and grow richer with the wear of time, alongside 0914’s bags.”

By Rumy Doo (