34-year-old Bumsuk Choi is no stranger to branding. In the past eight years, the multi-tasking and soft-spoken South Korean designer has collaborated with the following companies: Renault (on a Formula 1 race car), Heineken, Absolut Vodka, and PUMA. It’s no wonder that his own label, General Idea, is so damn cool and so damn wearable—Choi is one of the fortunate few in menswear who’s clothing possesses a kind of super-originality with an easy-to-wear, relatable sensibility.
Founded in 2004, Choi named his Seoul-and-New York based label under a simple premise. “My life had a lot of ups and downs and I wanted to name my brand the opposite of unusual. A general idea is the opposite of unusual,” he says, unknowingly fortifying his branding brilliance.
Since then, General Idea has become known for its hyper-idealized portrayal of American athleticism—riffs on letterman jackets, anoraks in technicolor, and a fair-isle dreamscape of jocks in knits at Ivy Leagues, mixed with street-style irreverence. But Choi’s product is all high-end, executed with neat details and luxe finishes, creating a highly desirable aesthetic that has in-the-know menswear enthusiasts scrambling. “Every season, I try to design something that’s very wearable and functional, but still fashion-forward and on-trend,” Choi says.
For Fall/Winter 2012, the designer referenced the 1968 Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble, France, exploring the ground between official sporting uniforms and athlete-off-duty style. The result is both linear and casual, mainly with jackets in tweed and “puffer” material, but blocked in bright colors akin to team jerseys. “My favorite is the opening look—it has mixed fabrics on the varsity jacket, with orange sleeves and a plaid body,” says Choi. The silhouettes also skew mid-century, most notably with a pair of burgundy wide-legged trousers and a peaked-lapel car coat. While the gaming inspiration is apparent enough, it is interesting to hear Choi reveal its subtleties. “My favorite Olympic sport is ice hockey,” says the designer, somewhat surprisingly. Yet perhaps Choi’s choice manifests itself in an all-over skull-print, shown on nylon—hockey, after all, is among the Olympics’ most aggressive sports.
For fall, General Idea will also introduce its first ever collaboration with HEAD, the popular global athletics and equipment brand (Choi is also the Creative Director of HEAD South Korea).The range, at least on the catwalk, promises an array of pieces for both athletes and enthusiasts alike—ranging from vests to synthetic scarves to ski goggles. “And, we have an option to continue the partnership. Expect more unique items from HEAD… stay tuned!” Choi says.
Yet General Idea still remains small and relatively under the radar. “We’re selling in England, Japan, Russia, and Hong Kong at present,” says Choi, “but we are aiming for worldwide distribution. I’m hoping that General Idea will sell in the best boutiques around the world, soon.” Given his success so far, here’s hoping for Choi’s label on everything from swim trunks to snowboards.