Alternate careers

Among the career options which presented themselves to me was that of a fashion designer. At one point, inspired by reading some fashion magazine, I began to toy with designs for women’s clothing. The sketches came naturally; all I had to do was apply my ideas and draw them out. I began to design my own dresses, taking my sketches to a boutique run by Troa Cho where I’d select her best fabrics for my custom-sewn fashions.

Doesn’t everyone design their own clothes? In Korea, at least in those days, clothing, even shoes, could be custom-made for you at very reasonable prices. The tourist hotels all had tailor shops for visitors who would select sharp materials and order suits to take back home.

Troa Cho decided to make the move into the U.S. market, a daring step for anyone, and visited me in Walnut Creek in the late 1970s. I was able to help her present a fashion show there with volunteer models and it went very well. Then we went on to New York City where she had set up a meeting with two consultants in the industry. They were impressed with her designs and the quality of her work. They were particularly interested in a sample of silk jersey she had brought from Seoul; they had never seen anything like it before.

Troa Cho asked me to work with her at least while she got established in New York. But my two boys were still in school and I didn’t feel I could leave them for an indefinite period. I thanked her and said goodbye. The inviting portal to my fashion career closed. I have not seen her since.

Here are some of the designs I sketched at the time . . .