9am: Susan gets ready for a new day at Persephone Vintage, the online vintage store she created and runs full time. Now based in Southern California, Susan was raised in New York City, where she came to from South Korea aged 5. « Going to high school and most of college in downtown Manhattan was the best early introduction to fashion and personal style I could have ever received, » she remembers. « In the 90’s, you could just sit in the right neighborhood in Manhattan and people-watch to be exposed to all the creative looks you see on the best street style blogs that exist today. It was an exciting place to grow up for someone creative. » She studied creative writing and philosophy in a liberal college in the West Village, focusing on her love for poetry. « I realized at some point that it would be difficult to monetize what I’d learned, especially because people generally no longer read poetry. But I feel like the creative aspects of what I do now translated well from what I’d learned about writing. »
The name of her e-shop directly stems from her classical education : « Persephone is the Greek goddess of the underworld but for me, she’s always represented all women – the way she is abducted and kidnapped by Hades and then later returned to her parents, represents for me the way women still struggle for autonomy over themselves (in relationships, from govenments etc) and over their own bodies. Clothing and style is one great way to claim that autonomy. »
11am: Susan regularly organizes photoshoots for the clothes she is selling on her e-shop, the results of which will then be published on her Instagram account, a great contributor to the brand’s popularity. Susan shoots everything herself, following a defined aesthetic that works both for her and the store. « I’m a a bit OCD visually and so have been working to perfect this part of the business, mostly by doing it over and over until I understand it inside and out. The visually creative aspect of what I do is what I enjoy most. »
After hair and makeup is done, the team launches into six hours of shooting, often with energetic and upbeat music playing in the background. « Photoshoots involve trying to get the best shot that brings out whatever is unique about a particular garment, i.e. a wider leg or an interesting cuff, » explains Susan. « There is a lot of play and experimenting with movement. As the person behind the camera, I’ve learned about how to direct people I am shooting but also, I’ve learned how to make them feel comfortable in order to get the best natural looking shots. And many of these photoshoots end up being mini therapy sessions, with a lot of talking and connecting and opening up – something I’ve found that’s helpful for building trust between photographer and model. »
1pm: Susan goes on the hunt for new clothes to sell on her carefully curated vintage e-store. She finds them in thrift shops, flea markets, estate sales, all sorts. « I actually travel far and wide for items, because a lot of what I look for is very specific and not easy to come by. I travel all around Southern California, where I am now based, as well as all of California, surrounding states, and make random trips to other areas like Florida and back home, to New York City. » She doesn’t really look for any particular era, and sticks certain styles that are more wearable currently.
3pm: Back at the office, Susan prepares for the next shoot, which she tries to organise as regularly as possible following the new arrivals on the e-shop. She selects the clothes that will be featured, figures out last minute alterations, picks garments that will go best with the model that week, decides how they will be styled and how they will be shot on camera – framing, sitting or standing. « All of this involves some research online, usually on Pinterest, to try to keep the styling modern and interesting, » explains Susan.
6pm: The end of a long day for Susan, who didn’t have any experience in business prior to Persephone Vintage. « I had to teach myself things such as altering/sewing, styling, photography, as well as the other elements that go into running a business online such as online marketing. » She recommends reading a lot of business books and listening to podcasts, but admits that she has learnt the most from trial and error. « I’ve also spent much of that time refining those things I’d learned, to figure out things like studio lighting and natural lighting, learning about how the angle of light and shadows play a role in displaying the quality of garments, learning about styling and how to maximize the potential of a garment by pairing it with the best complementary items, learning about modern silhouettes and how to achieve them… »
In her spare time, Susan enjoys dancing – she loves « letting go of everything running through your head, just being in your body and connecting to music » – and paying trips to art exhibitions – her latest being Nan Goldin’s photos at the MOMA in New York. « I think that when I’m able to focus a bit less on the business, I’d like to use the photographic skills I’ve picked up to shoot real people and subcultures, » she muses. « I will always love fashion, but other human beings interest me more than anything else. »