I’m just following my taste

There are many advantages of being a foreigner in a city – like being new and unbiased, for instance. This can help you to discover what may be of importance and value for you. One of my discoveries in Vienna was SONG. The shop impressed me immediately with its scale, its taste, its atmosphere and with all the big and small things it contains. I met the owner Myung-il Song and we talked about what is necessary in order to create such a place.

What is the story of SONG? What was the idea? What inspired you? How and when did the project start?

I opened the shop after my daughter became old enough to go to school, and I had the time. But when I studied design at the Angewandte, my final project was a graphic identity for a department store called Song.

Who else is in the team of SONG?

Right now it’s me, Peter Hristov, who has been with me from the beginning, and Abraham Orden, who joined us when we moved into the new space. My nephew worked with us for a long time, but he is teaching now at the Angewandte in the fashion department. His wife also used to work at the shop; they met here.

How long has SONG existed and have you made many changes throughout?

The shop has been in existence for 14 years now. There have been many changes, as the designers change and we discover new things, and the business expands. But the biggest change of all was moving from 150 square meters in the first district to where we are now, with 500 square meters in the second.

The space of the showroom is unique. Do you know what was there before you moved in?

When I found it, it had been empty for a long time.

Who did the architectural concept and the design of the shop?

I worked with Viennese architect Gregor Eichinger. I became familiar with him because I often used to go to a few spaces he had done, a wine bar near my home, and a flower shop. I always felt very comfortable in his interiors, and I admired his way of working with existing space.

What is the principle selecting designers? How do you make the selection? What is important for you?

I pick the pieces with my individual taste, the things I want to present to people in my space.  When the right people find their way here and feel the same way about the things as I do, that’s very satisfying.

You work with Balenciaga and Dries Van Noten. Do you have an affinity towards such contemporary classics or is it because this kind of design is accepted in Vienna?

I go to the brands and designers that inspire me, and I don’t think about what will be acceptable, because I don’t know.

Who are the Austrian designers you work with? Why have you chosen them?

At the moment we are working with a few Austrian jewelry designers, Ring King and Bernard Hausegger. We also have furniture from some Austrian makers. Everything that we have from the local environment is very artisinal.

Who are your customers, who is your audience?

The customers are all types, and always have been: artists, bankers, gallerists, restaurant owners, people from small villages in the mountains, magnates and intellectuals from Eastern European countries.  Sometimes they are people who know nothing about fashion but they just saw the right thing in the window.  Back before when nobody knew who Margiela was, I remember a woman came in and bought a pullover from that company, and she paid everything in small bills, Schillings at that time.  Later on, I saw her wearing that sweater in the market, where she had a stand selling vegetables. Then I realized why she paid in small bills.  And I still see her wearing it, once in a while.

Who would you never allow to be your customer?

The aggressive, the arrogant, the mean.

If you had to list three places for quality design in Europe or the world, which ones would they be?

England, Belgium, Holland.

What is the difference between working with big stages such as Paris or London and being in Vienna?

To work here, to try to present fashion, it’s just as it is to live here. On the one hand, you enjoy the quality of life, and there are countless advantages in not having to struggle just to survive all the time, but on the other hand the atmosphere tends to be conservative and narrow-minded, and that can be stifling to creativity.

Besides clothes, shoes and accessories, you present furniture and lighting. Could we say that Song is a conceptual showroom? If so – what is the concept?

There is no concept! I don’t know what that phrase even means, to tell you the truth: ‘concept store’. As I said, I only present the things that make me feel more open and more in touch with the world, the things that inspire me about the future.

You also maintain a gallery which is called SONG SONG. What made you decide to do art shows as well?

Actually, I have always been very interested in art, and originally I wanted to open a gallery instead of a shop. Finally it was my husband who convinced me to go into fashion instead. And I’m glad that he did!

Whose idea was it and how do you choose the artists you present? For example, there is a big difference in the nature of the conceptual art of Franz Graf, the videos of Marina Faust and the abstractions of Ezara Spangl. What was the policy behind the idea to present three so different artists?

It’s not different from the shop. The connections all happen naturally, and the shows develop out of the connections. It’s just about following my taste, and I never think to look back and try to analyze or define how it came together, or why, or what it means. Those questions don’t interest me, not at all.

What are your three favorite objects that are now in the shop?

The Paul Harnden handmade Oak Chair, the Werkstatt Muenchen Silver Cup, and the Black Diamond Monkey Ring, from Ring King.

What are your projects for the near future?

I have Song, I have Song Song. I’m planning to have Song Song Song.