Successful Pyrates brings a bit of the urban outlaw to the shopping experience

Despite having no prior experience in the fashion industry, Sam Lee took a chance two years ago when he opened lifestyle boutique Successful Pyrates (SU:PY) in Seongsu-dong. Embracing the industrial feel of the surrounding neighborhood, Lee – who had dreamed of owning his own clothes store – included urban elements in the shop interior to create the ultimate “hip” shopping experience. “Pyrates are outlaws. We want to be successful, while breaking the rules.” Lee explains, gesturing to the spray-paint tags, neon signage and vintage televisions adorning the walls.
Carrying over 100 brands, SU:PY aims to push the fashion envelope and expose the Korean market to styles and designers never seen domestically before. At the boutique, customers can find Korean names, such as Rocket x Lunch and Love Me Back, as well as international brands. In addition, the store carries its own SU:PY line, designed by Lee and his wife, Anne Heeyoung Hwang. “We design everything together. It’s a collaborative effort for both the menswear and womenswear collections.” Lee states.
Despite gaining a steady cult following, which includes a slew of Korean celebrity shoppers, Lee and Hwang’s journey into the heart of Korea’s fashion industry has not been entirely easy. Hwang gave birth last year – twice – to two beautiful daughters.
“My wife was under a lot of stress and wanted to keep working on the business,” says Lee. I also wanted to be more hands-on with the family side, but I had to focus on SU:PY. It was a difficult time.”
Things are better now, continues Lee. “We have found that compromise and balance makes us the best team.”

Customers arriving at SU:PY will notice the influence that growing up in the U.S. has had on the young entrepreneur. “I came back to Korea in 2014, and I was looking for the perfect location for the shop. We went everywhere! Itaewon, Hongdae, Garosugil. Those neighborhoods were already commercial, and I couldn’t see myself opening a shop there. We wanted SU:PY to grow into something meaningful and not just be one shop amongst many.” Lee explains. The couple found Seongsu to be a little rough around the edges, but they were up for the challenge. “I often frequented Brooklyn, Dumbo and the East Village.” Says Lee, “I’m definitely comfortable with exploring new turf.”
It is Lee’s experience abroad which has helped him curate such a unique selection of goods at SU:PY. Lee describes himself as “heavily influenced by hip-hop culture and street style,”which he came to love while studying in LA.
While SU:PY is undeniably a fashion hot spot, Lee and Hwang hope to expand their projects this year to diversify customers’ experience at the store. The couple have recently opened Karmers, a vintage cafe, next door, so customers can relax with a coffee after their shopping spree. A second SU:PY cafe-cum-bar is expected to launch on the same block next month, making the ever-growing SU:PY brand a must-visit when in Seongsu.

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Shop Address: 2F, 71 Seongsui-ro, Seongdong-Gu

Written and photographed by Samila Liamani