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Q&A: Sandra Meynier Kang

We talked to Sandra Meynier Kang, a former fashion marketer and designer of the sustainable fashion brand SMK, about living in Seoul and the current sustainability movement happening here

Written by
Hwang Hye Young
Sandra Meynier Kang

It’s uncommon to see a French fashion designer in Seoul.
I grew up in a conservative European family. Honestly, I didn’t even know where Korea was. I came to learn kendo for a month but fell in love with Seoul and stayed. Recently, I married a Korean man.

How did you become interested in sustainable fashion?
I majored in fashion in Paris, and as a student I loved working with  leather. I was curious as to why some people did not wear animal leather and during my research I found out about the leather-making process. That’s when my outlook on the world changed. I first started in sustainable fashion because I was against animal cruelty, but later I learned about the other damages leather inflicts on the environment as a large amount of chemicals are used in manufacturing it.

Is there a standard that SMK sets as a sustainable fashion brand?
First of all, we don’t use any animal leather or fur. Also, we try to  produce our clothes within 20km of our office because I want to know how much the people making my clothes get paid and the kind of  environment they’re working in. If production happens in another country, the fees may be lower but in the process of sending the  materials back and forth, the environment in which this can be  maintained will be contaminated.

What does “self-selected sustainability” mean to you?
Sustainability means a slow attempt at changing the relationships between the environment, people and animals. It’s impossible to change them all at once. Innovations, like the new discoveries of fibers to replace leather, are the baby steps needed to encourage a slow but realistic change. The  self-imposed discipline of thinking about the food I eat and the clothes I wear are all small steps that can be taken for a better future. I’ve seen too much and read too much to turn back. [laughs]

When do you think sustainable fashion will become trendy in Seoul?
Maybe in three years? Koreans are very receptive to change. Sustainable fashion is already something of a trend overseas, so it won’t be long now for it to take hold in Korea. What I worry about is how Seoul will receive sustainable fashion; I hope it won’t be solely for commercial purposes.

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