Composing a Song Through Scent With Soohyang

Author: Heejung Kim / Photos: Christina Choi

Soohyang is quickly sweeping the world with her beautiful pink boxes, but there is more to the iconic packaging than meets the eye. Each of Soohyang's fragrances have been meticulously crafted to bring harmony and "music to the nose," and it's no secret that Soohyang has worked hard to compose her brand into what it is today. Our MISSBISH team recently spoke with Soohyang to learn more about her journey, check it out below!

How did you get into the fragrance market and what made you start your brand, Soohyang? What kind of challenges did you face in starting your own brand?
I wanted to create a fragrance brand with a fresh approach. I worked as a planner at a record company for a long time, and one day I realized that music and fragrance are very similar. In the creation stage, there is a composer and a perfumer – one, composing music with harmonious chords and the other, creating a new fragrance through the harmony of individual scents, respectively. They both reveal the user’s taste and there is the existence of mainstream and independent arenas for these two elements. My job was to transform music into a variety of contents and introduce it to people, and I believed if music and scent were alike on many levels, I could apply what I was doing in music to the fragrance industry. This train of thought naturally led to the development of more detailed ideas to create a brand where people can select a fragrance that suits their individuality, then style it to create a story of one’s characteristics and space. I was surprised to find these attempts were rarely made in the past. Without further delay, I started right away.

How did you come up with the names of your 33 fragrances? Is there any meaning behind the number 33 for you?
I sought out to make a collection comprised of as many diverse fragrances as possible so that anyone could come and find a scent of their preference. To be honest, it was a very difficult decision to set a certain number – the possibilities were limitless. In Korea, the
number ‘3’ happens to carry a particularly significant meaning of luck and completeness. I chose this number and put two together to make ’33.' It may seem like a strange reason, but I put in an immense amount of thought before I made this decision.

What are your personal favorite scents from your collection?
I like rain; I like water and I also enjoy drinking, and everything fluid-y in a scent. Raindrops, Champagne Supernova, and Champagne Rose embody those scents.

Where do you see Soohyang going in the next 5 years?
When Villa Soohyang first opened its doors three years ago, my father wrote a word in calligraphy to hang on the wall. This word is “Soo Hyang Man Ri," which means Soohyang (Excellent Fragrance) goes far and wide. I hope in five years time, everyone worldwide will have heard of the brand Soohyang.

“A woman’s delicacy and attention to detail are important advantages to a business, but without boldness, the business itself often crumbles."

Where do you find inspiration for you and your brand?
I see myself always adjusting certain elements of life to stay afloat. I get more creative with my thoughts when I start to see things differently. Mechanisms like sleep, flowers, memorizing names, listening to oldies music, running, and reading mystery novels help me brush off the harsh reality of this world.

You have some awesome collaborations you've worked on in varying industries; what are your favorite collaborations and is there anything you've learned by partnering with other people?
Working with the brand, Innisfree was notably memorable. It’s never easy working with a big company; nevertheless, it proved to be a great opportunity for my company to grow rapidly. In 2014, ten different collaborative candles with Soohyang branding were sold in Innisfree nationwide. It really was impressive.

Do you have any advice for future female entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?
Although I am in no position to give anyone advice, I would like to say that if starting your business is your dream, the best asset is experience. Running a business is all about making decisions and taking responsibility for them. A woman’s delicacy and attention to
detail are important advantages to a business, but without boldness, the business itself often crumbles. If you do not want your boldness to bring reckless outcomes, experienced-based decision making is key. I enjoy running my own business - following directions from someone was not my cup of tea, and I was confident in my ability of planning and executing my plan, and taking responsibility for every decision made. However, my ten plus years of practical training in a company have been a great amount of help.

How does your brand reflect you personally?
Soohyang received a lot of love from the start, and in the beginning, I mistook this love for myself. In the early days, people looked at the individual Soohyang Kim and the brand, Soohyang, as the same entity. I was confused. It is an indescribably special feeling for
others to sympathize with and love your ideas. Nowadays, I think I have somewhat succeeded in separating the two. Soohyang, as a person, has many layers and is subject to change. Soohyang, as a brand, is developing independently with its own identity.

Where are your three favorite spots in Seoul that you would recommend?
As a young girl, I saw hotels through a world travel photo book and I was awe-inspired. I thought to myself, “Ah, this is where I will live!” I have since loved luxury hotels, even though at that time I had never been to a hotel. The Grand Hyatt Hotel in Seoul is very much like the hotels I saw in these books. When I’m free, I like to spend my time in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt. I also run frequently along the Han River, east or west. The Han River Park is beautiful on both mornings and evenings. I very much like the Leeum Museum and the neighborhood around it, too. There are a number of hip and tasty restaurants and interesting architecture. I instantly feel better when I’m in this part of town.

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