Originally from South Korea, Eun Young Park (Rei), lived in Japan and England for many years before ending up in Florence. When she was 10 years old, her father moved the family to Tokyo for five years. She was enrolled in Japanese schools and had to learn Japanese quickly in order to keep up in her classes. After returning to Korea, she studied Japanese language and culture at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in South Korea. Rei didn’t follow her dream of becoming a fashion designer until after she completed a bachelor of arts degree. She enrolled in Hong Ik University and obtained a master’s in fashion design.
With her diplomas in hand, she moved back to Tokyo, where she started working as a fashion designer for a company making clothes for teenagers. Then she found a job with a prestigious Japanese company, designing outfits for professional dancers. Rei was finally living her dream working as a fashion designer in Japan, but after working up the ladder, she felt there was a down side: the hours were strenuous. Even though she loved her job, she couldn’t keep up the pace of working every day from 10am to 5am.
Rei thought that maybe she should branch out again and learn English. She applied to language schools in the United States and England, and was accepted into a program in London. With a good handle on the language, she studied fashion design at Central Saint Martins College in London. She stayed in London and worked for Vivienne Westwood, where she helped out in the design studio. In her spare time, Rei continued working on her own designs, sewing her creations herself.
While further developing her own designs at the University of Westminster, Rei came to Italy on vacation, bringing a few samples with her. She had liked Florence immediately because it was a small city with an international flair. She walked around Florence’s downtown area and soon found three shops that agreed to sell her designs for her. She began traveling between London and Florence, each time bringing more of her pieces to sell.
In 2001, Rei decided to move to Florence to work as an independent fashion designer. With this move, she was forced to learn yet another language. While she studied Italian, she worked in sales for a women’s clothing store in Florence and continued designing in her free time.
Just two years later, Rei opened an atelier near Santa Croce, in via Palmieri 22r, where she designs, sews and sells her own line of clothing. She specializes in tops, skirts and dresses, and makes custom pieces based on her designs. The Florentine woman, Rei noticed, always wants to look her best no matter what age or size. She finds that they generally accentuate their positive qualities instead of hiding the negative ones.
After having had experiences in different countries, Rei claims that her work in Florence is the most fulfilling because of the freedom she has to express herself. She doubts she would have been able to start and maintain a similar atelier in Japan, England or Korea because of the strong work ethic and greater pressures for success. In Florence, she is able to keep her life more balanced, thus allowing greater creativity in her designs and more joy in her life.