A 500 square meter space dedicated to the taste of South Korean born Myung-il Song who moved to Austria in the early Ninety’s, is postulating a reformatted retail experience
Myung-il Saba-Song, moved from South Korea to Austria twenty years ago, where she graduated from the University of Applied Arts Vienna – Angewandte. Her master’s thesis was dedicated to a department store named Song. She stocked her boutique with the designers she attired, working with Belgian designers – Martin Margiela, Walter Van Beirendonck and Dirk Van Saene. The collection grew over the course of time. As Song recounts, «Individual artists would come into the store to present their works, at the time I was selling clothes. When I saw something that stood out, I would organize a show in the window display, this way people could see the art works in a situation that was unexpected». Song first opened its store in Innere Stadt, in the center of Vienna, on the 1st of September 1998. As the first location was not spacious enough to host art exhibitions, Myung-il decided to move the store to Praterstraße in 2006. When she saw the 500 square meter space, she noticed it was commodious for showcasing works by artists and closed on her decision. Song explains, «At the time there were no stores around me except a small hardware store». Song asked Austrian architect Gregor Eichinger, who she became familiar with after visiting his spaces – a wine bar near her home and a flower shop, to renovate the store. A dialogue between clothing collections and the functioning element of the space for homegrown and international talent. Since then, Song has reformatted the retail experience by illustrating fast forward fashion ideas within a contemporary art gallery, hosting exhibitions and performances. She continues to work with select Belgium designers from when she first opened her shop.
Unplastered walls, concrete floors, French industrial lamps from the Twenties, and custom clothes racks leave the store feeling industrial. 70 square meters of the store comprises of a menswear shopping space. Furniture pieces from Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek, Austrian artists and lamps from the Thirties are displayed beside accessories from startup firms. A salon for VIP clients is a service that allows customers to maneuver through what is on display at leisure. The principle dictating Song’s business model is the refusal to sell its products online. According to Myung-il, «People have to visit, see, touch, feel and communicate with us to buy the pieces». Regarding fashion, she is interested in underground individuals versus mainstream artists and designers. In the adjacent gallery ‘Song Song’ there are art exhibitions being showcased twice a year, presenting on this day is the second solo show by Venetian artist Michele Bubacco. When asked about the store’s evolution from a fashion boutique to a combination of boutique and gallery, Song characterized it as not an evolution, but a progression, «It is living art, similar to how you decorate your living space with furniture and art you want to see in your home. It is connected». When asked about the selection process, she affirms, «I do not plan a program or concept, I pick the pieces with my individual taste». In times of uncertainty as the pandemic continues to mold the world, Song has remained a brick and mortar shop, with no online store.
In 2007 Myung-il founded her label ‘Song’ with nephew, Jeung Gyu Song, who is a tutor of patternmaking and draping by University of Applied Arts Vienna. In August 2020, Myung-il Song published a book, I’ll Wear It Until I’m Dead: The Song Fashion Archives. The pieces in Myung-il Saba-Song’s personal collection, with clothing by Dirk Van Saene, Martin Margiela, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dries Van Noten, Bernhard Willhelm, Stephen Jones, Kei Ninomiya, Paul Harnden Shoemakers, and Balenciaga have been gathered over the past 21 years, re-photographed and are published in the book for the first time. For this book she interviewed Paul Hardnen and Dries Van Noten amongst others. The book is a collaboration between designer and artist Dirk Van Saene, make-up artist Inge Grognard, photographer Ronald Stoops and graphic designer Paul Boudens.IMAGE GALLERY