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[K-Style Trailblazers] Haesoo.L soars on celebrity marketing

The Korea Herald is publishing a series of interviews with the CEOs of small but aspiring brands that are taking Korean fashion and beauty overseas through online retailers. This is the fourth and final installment. -- Ed.

In Korea, there‘s no marketing quite like star marketing.

That was the idea that Lee Ju-min, CEO of silver jewelry brand Haesoo.L, seized upon when he launched his brand.

“I can say with some confidence that we provide most of the earrings worn by actresses on Korean dramas,” Lee said in an interview with The Korea Herald. 

Focusing on simple silver designs that can be worn with everyday looks, Haesoo.L began providing set jewelry for Korean drama series and left the rest to the internet. 

Lee Ju-min, CEO of Haesoo.L, holds up products from his brand during an interview with The Korea Herald. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Lee Ju-min, CEO of Haesoo.L, holds up products from his brand during an interview with The Korea Herald. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

With portal sites like Naver providing instant information about where actresses’ clothes and accessories are from, it did not take long for Haesoo.L to put itself on the map.

“It‘s very clear where our appeal comes from in the Korean market,” said Lee. “When we successfully put a piece of jewelry on an actress in a hit drama, we’ll see sales of that piece reach up to hundreds of pairs sold in a single day.”

But Haesoo.L is already looking beyond the Korean market. Beginning in his early 20s, Lee had worked for his father‘s silver jewelry wholesaling business, taking Korean wares abroad to the US and Brazil. There, he saw unmistakable potential for overseas expansion and launched Haesoo.L, named after his father Lee Hae-soo.

“Coating technology is really important. If coated right, jewelry doesn’t cause allergic reactions in most people,” he said. “Buyers overseas recognized the quality of our products. We paid special attention to our coating technology to maintain that edge.”

According to Lee, one of the main selling points for Haesoo.L’s jewelry is the low rate of requests for after-sales service due to defective products.

“In jewelry, in the end it’s all about quality,” he said. 

Although the majority of Haesoo.L‘s sales come from Korean customers and at Shilla Duty Free, nearly one-fifth comes from individual orders in the United States.

“I went to the US often for business, and picked up on the styles that would work there,” Lee said. According to Lee, consumers in the US prefer simple but large designs, whereas Koreans prefer smaller designs. Consumers in China and Japan, meanwhile, are largely affected by Hallyu and follow Korean trends closely.

“In countries where Hallyu plays a big role in culture, it’s just a matter of time and persistence to establish a presence. In English-speaking countries, it takes a bit more effort to build brand recognition. But once you do, you can grow into a brand like Swarovski, known for one type of material.”

Lee says that he plans to continue pushing his brand as a silver jewelry brand without expanding into other materials, and dreams of becoming a household name in silver. The brand is looking to reach 10 billion won ($9.3 million) in sales next year.

“In 2018, our goal is to land in the Japanese and Chinese markets, and to amplify our presence in the US,” Lee said. Eventually, Lee hopes to break into the Latin American market as well. 

“People in Brazil are passionate about accessories, but the retail infrastructure there makes it a little difficult to move beyond wholesale for foreign sellers,” he said. “But we are definitely interested in that market as well.” 

By Won Ho-jung (