November 03, 2014 1:51 PM

“My hands and eyes ooze desire to create when I touch something special.  When I touch the “right” fabric, I usually close my eyes and visualize all the things I can create.”


“I am inspired by and seek mentorship from people who are genuine, intelligent, incredible at their unique craft, persevering, and paving path for newness.”


“Most of times it’s just an emotion that inspires the entire collection.”  


Growing up the youngest daughter of a fisherman, Korean-born Suk Chai’s wardrobe was not her own. It was oldest brother’s first, and then the next brother’s, and then her sister’s — but waiting taught her about timeless silhouettes and the value of materials. By the mid-90s Chai was a young single mother putting herself through design school in New York.   Her own clothes came from 10-dollar stores, but her dreams came from the then-dying legendary houses of Givenchy, Ungaro, and Alaia. After school, the award-winning FIT graduate spent twenty years designing, directing, and producing womenswear for elite brands —fourteen of those years at Nordstrom, innovating and exacting for the luxury department store clientele — but swift and steady success in the industry eventually gave way to a boomerang. She began to see fashion as a surface-level art form, and ultimately vacated her coveted senior design director position. It wasn’t until a chance encounter with the rich cashmere of a Lanvin coat, some two years later, that the soulfulness of refined fibers and precision craft pulled her back in.

S C H A I  is her personal debut. Although Chai continues to work outside her brand as a creative consultant for major Korean and American fashion companies, her collection represents her own intellectual and intuitive beliefs about beauty, longevity, and comfort.  Each season exhibits the brand’s DNA: a dedication to finely milled Italian fabrics and luxe vegetable-dyed animal skins, New York City-based manufacturing (with satellite production in Korea), elegantly modern shapes and cutting-edge architectural lines, and an intrinsic wisdom concerning color, shade, and tone. 

“Softly spoken but powerful hues are what seduce you to touch a garment,” says Chai.

When felt,  S C H A I  garments command even more attention—when worn, body, mind, and materials are transformed.



1. Describe your journey to becoming a designer?

S: I found myself not being able to breathe without being deep in it.  Despite a couple of occasions where I was completely burnt out from the industry, I found designing is what my makes my heart beat faster. 

2. What is your favorite part about being a fashion designer?

S: Fabric sourcing.  Textile is an integral part of design.  My hands and eyes ooze desire to create when I touch something special.  When I touch the “right” fabric, I usually close my eyes and visualize all the things I can create.  However, this is also the part I hate the most, because I cannot use all the fabrics I love.  

3. What were your inspirations for the designs you created for the shoot?

S: I titled the S/S 15 collection “Water”, and it’s a secret homage to my father who was a fisherman in Alaska.  

Water is immense, yet transparent.  It is mysterious yet purifying.  It is vast yet vulnerable.  

These emotions coincided with my experience as a little girl fishing with my father.  My father, who is now hospitalized, is the strongest, most driven person I know.  Although we didn’t really speak much on these trips, I remember the emotions that I collected each time we went fishing together.  I wanted to capture these memories in the collection.

4. How did you select the materials you used?

S: I sourced materials that show structure and durability like what a fisherman would like, but feels soft and worn, such as Feather Lambskin, Cotton/Linen Denim, and Crackled, Splatter Leather.  I also wanted to balance the collection by juxtaposing structured materials with extremely fluid and sensual fabrications in strong lines, such as Stretch Crepe with a Vintage Washed Hand-feel and Voile Stripe and Stretch Viscose from Italy.  For accents, I used the Copper Shimmer fabric that represents the shimmer on the surface of the water as the sunsets in the Pacific Northwest.

5. What are materials that are challenging for you to work with?

S: Drapy fabrics.  They are harder to cut and sew as they tend to “slip” as you handle them.  Seams can twist and warp, but when done right, a beautiful drape can wrap around a body in the most sensual way. 

6. What would you think when some high-end brands challenged you to create haute couture clothes and accessories out of trash and recycled materials?

S: It would be a challenge.  But I like challenges. I remember having to design something with carpenter’s tools while I was at FIT.  It’s fun to be able to use unexpected materials and achieve something extraordinary.  


7. Can you tell me one of your most challenging moments as a designer?

S: Having to be the designer, the CEO, the janitor, the assistant, the merchant, and so on.  I am really good with multi-tasking, but the challenge for an emerging brand is that it is constantly growing and the designer often has to do-it-all.  For over 16+ years in management positions, one of my biggest responsibilities was to “delegate” tasks to my team members, but now I must undo what I learned to do. 

8. Who/What is your inspiration?

S: My surroundings and my family.  Most of the time it’s just an emotion that inspires my entire collection. 

9. Which designers do you admire? / Why?

S: Haider Ackermann.  I don’t think this needs any explanation.  His work is magical and transcendent. 


10. Which designers have you been inspired by or learned from?

S: I am inspired by and I am always seeking mentorship from people who are genuine, intelligent and incredible at their unique craft, perseverance, and paving the way for newness. 

11. What's your favorite style?

S: Slightly androgynous, which translates ageless, timeless and also is versatile between street and high-fashion. 


12. Where do you think the most fashionable city in the world is?

S: I don’t think there is such a thing.  Fashion is such a subjective matter.  I think it is most fashionable when a person or a city is confident, creative, eclectic, artistic, intelligent and open to versatility and change.  I will say the most unfashionable city is a city where the citizens are stuck with one belief.

13. Can you tell me one of your childhood memories regarding fashion?

S: My family was not able to afford a Barbie back when I was growing up in Korea.  My sister and I used to design our own paper dolls and their outfits, including handbags, hair accessories, and shoes. 


14. What do you like to do in your spare time?

S: Friends and Family gatherings.  I wish I was able to do more of it. 

15. What are your favorite musicians/songs/bands?

S: I love a good mix of house music when I am working and everyone around me knows that I hate lyrics in the music when I am working.   When I am driving, I love great vocalists such as Adele, Amy Winehouse, Sade…. 

16. Do you have any spots that you always visit in NYC? Any places that you get inspired from?

S: Lower East Side.  I love the fact that I can walk across the Williamsburg Bridge, and I can have the most amazing coffee at Cafe Vita (from Seattle, by the way!) Cafe Vita is my favorite roaster. I can walk around feeling the neighborhood, and there are amazing eateries as well as the coolest shops around.  All of this without the tourists!


17. What are your favorite restaurants/bars/nightlife in NYC?

S: For breakfast, wherever there is a great espresso.  Coffee is not like Seattle.  I am happy to see that better cafes are popping up though.  

I am not much of a bar-goer, so I do love going to great restaurants like Freemans.  For me, being able to chat all night long is the best “nighlife” in whatever city I happen to be in.


18. Where would you like to travel to get some ideas or inspirations from?

S: Africa.  Middle East. Vietnam & Laos.  New Zealand.  Australian desert. 

19. Where do you see yourself in 3 years / 5 years?

S: By 3rd year, I would like to have the collection established and recognized by great boutiques around the world.  In 5 years, I would love to create a beautiful coffee table book to celebrate the 10th season. 

20. How would you describe yourself in one word?

S: A labyrinth.












related posts


TWELV sits down with founders of Parlor Social Club Jan Cieslikiewicz and Frederick Ghartey to give a glimpse into the story of co-founders living in New York City.

July 21, 2022 8:28 PM  |  People

Keiichiro Nakajima interview

Keiichiro Nakajima is a photographer and director based in Japan, represented by a management and production company called Signo, Inc, which is one of the largest and leading artist management...

October 23, 2021 1:37 AM  |  People

SHIN FUJIYAMA Founder of Students Helping Honduras INTERVIEW

Japanese-American philanthropist Shin Fujiyama co-founded Students Helping Honduras with his sister Cosmo Fujiyama.

December 20, 2020 8:02 PM  |  People


Beginning with his childhood in Lebanon, Eli Mizrahi garnished inspiration from across the globe to debut his evening wear brand, Mônot, last fall.

December 07, 2020 10:34 PM  |  People


KAORI is a renowned make-up artist and the creative director of RMK beauty, a flourishing Japanese makeup and skincare brand that is now sold worldwide.

November 11, 2020 10:39 PM  |  People


The Mind Behind The Runway

September 30, 2020 3:58 PM  |  People



February 12, 2020 10:32 PM  |  People


It has become almost useless and banal to introduce Jean-Paul Gaultier.The mere mention of his name alone elicits a constellation of images that have become part of our mind and imagination since...

February 12, 2020 9:31 PM  |  People


Dara Senders, the designer behind the eponymously titled, all size inclusive brand that launched in 2018, has always been obsessed with fashion.

January 28, 2020 11:50 AM  |  People


From a small city near Milan to Downtown New York, Paolo, Designer and creater of NTTE Hatsdiscovered his passion for hats and anything vintage at a young age.

November 19, 2019 6:29 PM  |  People


1. As a new designer, how do you hope to distinguish yourself among other designers?

November 19, 2019 6:05 PM  |  People


Nian Fish, creative director of KCD, has been, for decades, a pivotal figure in the fashion world, assembling and producing fashion shows that have become cultural benchmarks unto themselves, such...

September 17, 2019 6:45 PM  |  People


Cesar Love Alexadre is a duo of visual artists formed by Isabelle Chaput and Nelson Tiberghien.They met at the Gobelins school of Photography in Paris and now based in New York where they work on...

September 17, 2019 6:42 PM  |  People


TWELV got a special interview from Tom Pecheux. Read as we host interviews and explore the lives of artists who shape the final product - directors, fashion designers, stylists, ...

August 20, 2019 3:17 PM  |  People


Anthony Vaccarello was considered as one of the brightest new talent in fashion: he was part of this new generation of talents the whole industry has kept an eye on to see them grow, to see them...

July 24, 2019 12:03 AM  |  People

Why is Everyone in Hollywood Buzzing About Actress Malgosia Garnys?

Have you ever felt like you were beautiful and powerful and the universe was conspiring in your best interest, and your opportunities were endless because you’ve lost people you loved...

March 02, 2019 10:00 PM  |  People

R.I.P Chek Wu

We at TWELV are deeply saddened to announce the passing of talented photographer, boundless free-spirit, and our friend, Chek Wu.

November 28, 2018 12:00 PM  |  People

GatherNYC: Everything We Love About Church With No Weird Stuff

GatherNYC is Everything We Love About Sunday Service With None of the Weird Stuff


November 17, 2018 3:00 PM  |  People

NEW TYPE #33: Catherine Casias Inteview

If fashion is an expression of experiences, Catherine Casias has a lot of area to cover. She has excelled as an Olympic volleyball player, a philosophy major, and a fine artist....

October 12, 2018 4:00 PM  |  People

Party Czar Carmen D’Alessio, Empress of the Sun and the Queen of the Night

You may not know Carmen D’Alessio by name.

October 08, 2018 10:00 PM  |  People
Shot by CHAMA


IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang


August 28, 2018 5:00 PM  |  People


IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang


August 07, 2018 5:00 PM  |  People


"Introducing an innovative Men’s designer to inspire you with the visions of future and the rise of technology."

June 26, 2018 4:00 PM  |  People
Silvia Mella (right) with Thomas De Bruyne for "House of Molteni"

Branding in the Worlds of Art and Commerce According to Silvia Mella

Branding is everything. For an entrepreneur, it is the difference between viability and bankruptcy. On social media, we are all our own brands.

May 21, 2018 4:00 PM  |  People
Jackie Yang, Creative Director of Chelsea and Walker. Video Still.

Interview: Jackie Yang, Creative Director of Chelsea and Walker

TWELV sat down with Jackie Yang, Creative Director of Chelsea and Walker, in the brand’s New York City...

May 21, 2018 2:00 PM  |  People
Krystal and Marilyn Lavoie

New Type #31: Angela Mitchell – Krystal and Marilyn Lavoie Interview

We are living in the age of fast fashion, and even Europe’s most storied luxury brands have been moving their factories to Asia to reduce costs.

May 17, 2018 3:00 PM  |  People

Ikemen #37: Dominik Halas

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang


May 03, 2018 12:00 PM  |  People
Bianca Allen, Carolina Sarria, and Samantha Deller

New Type #30: Carolina Sarria & Bianca Allen Interview

Both Carolina Sarria and Bianca Allen knew they wanted to become fashion designers from a young age.

April 16, 2018 5:00 PM  |  People

Interview & Backstage: Christian Siriano Celebrates 10 Years in Fashion

After the successful launch of his book Dresses to Dream About, a decade-anniversary celebration on the runway, and a whirlwind of striking celebrity looks on the red carpet of...

March 09, 2018 11:00 AM  |  People
Jackie Astier. Photo: BFA.

New Type #29: Jackie Astier Interview

Astier places its identity within the advanced adaptation skills of the modern New York woman.

February 24, 2018 11:00 AM  |  People

INTERVIEW: Meet Kiko Arai, Miss Japan-turned Face of Balmain and Zara

Kiko Arai hails from Osaka, Japan, and after winning the title of Miss Japan 2012, the now 27-year old is captivating a new audience– the fashion world.

February 06, 2018 12:11 AM  |  People

Interview: Parisian Designer Frédéric Robert's Debut Shoe Collection "ME.LAND"

A vibrant brand of Italian-made shoes for men is emerging this year as one-to-watch.

January 26, 2018 10:00 AM  |  People
Maxime Tiliouine and Quentin Hernandez

New Type #28: the Design Duo Behind Maxime Hernandez Interview

The streetwear phenomenon in the fashion establishment is not slowing down anytime soon.

January 12, 2018 2:00 PM  |  People


With a wealth of experience shooting some for some of fashion's most renowned clients (Yves Saint Laurent, Guy Laroche), ...

December 29, 2017 2:00 PM  |  People

IKEMEN #36: Jérôme LaMaar

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang


November 27, 2017 12:00 PM  |  People


SITE BY: monocomplex©Marbles & Marbles International Inc. Drupal Development by: DivDiv, NYC
▲ back to top ▲