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Jae-Yong Lee (VGlab)

October 30, 2023

Jae-Yong Lee, a Korean 3D fashion specialist who studied fashion in Japan, taught at his alma mater, and then launched VGlab, a company that uses 3DCG to support apparel brands in improving DX and creating digital content, talked about how he started his business and the differences between Japan and Korea.

Please introduce yourself.

I am from South Korea. I came to Japan shortly before the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. I enrolled in the Advanced Fashion Course at Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo and began studying dressmaking there.
After graduating from Bunka Fashion College, I became a teacher and taught students there. I taught mainly how to make clothes, how to draw patterns, and paper patterns. After working there for about 5 years, I resigned and moved to VRC Corporation, which manufactures 3D scanners. At that company, I was in charge of a new business for apparel and developed a virtual try-on system that allowed scanned 3D avatars to try on clothes. After that, I left the company and decided to launch VGlab.

Please tell us about VGlab's business.

We have a tool called CLO3D that enables cross-simulation of clothes, and we use this tool and Marvelous Designer as well as 3DCG to support apparel brands to improve their DX and create digital contents.
To name a few of the major projects we have participated in, we have been supporting the preparation of ANREALAGE's collection for many years. We join their project from the planning stage, using 3DCG to create 3D samples and digital content for promotional purposes.

How does 3D improve things?

To explain in detail, we had to repeatedly check the design by drawing a pattern and then making a sample from it in the past. But this process was costly in terms of materials, labor, time, and space with lots of wastes.
3D allows the process of making clothing samples to proceed in a very realistic manner, making manufacturing more efficient. Also, you can sew in 3D before applying materials and take pictures. The 3D sample data designed at the planning stage can also be used for promotional videos.
The company I mentioned earlier, ANREALAGE, asked us if we could create samples of their clothes in 3D when the Covid pandemic started. We have been supporting the designer Mr. Morinaga under his tight schedule for the collection, always keeping in mind to materialize his ideas and images in a short period of time.

Anrealage Spring-Summer 2021 Collection ''HOME''
Anrealage Spring-Summer 2021 Collection ''HOME''

Now, please tell us about yourself, Mr. Lee. First of all, why did you come to Japan from South Korea and why did you choose to study at a fashion college?

Actually, I was not very interested in clothes before coming to Japan. I had just been discharged from the military and was thinking what I should do for a living every day and concluded that I should gain some skills. I did some research and found that Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo teaches dressmaking from the scratch, so I enrolled in the school.

There were no such schools in South Korea?

There are universities that offer specialized knowledge, but they are few. Also, I thought it would be better to go abroad for fashion at the time, and Japan was close by. I majored in Japanese studies at university, so I was originally interested in Japan.

Why did you major in Japanese studies?

I loved Japanese culture and watched Japanese anime and dramas. But at the time, there was not much cultural exchange between Japan and Korea. And I spent most of my time goofing around during the study. To be honest, I could hardly speak Japanese when I came to Japan (laugh).

Did you ever consider returning to South Korea after graduating from Bunka Fashion College?

Actually, my family runs a textile company. They don't have a factory, but they run a planning company that makes fabrics.
So, I chose Bunka Fashion College partly because it is related to my family, but also because I had come all the way to Japan and wanted to work in Japan at least once. Of course, I was job hunting, but it was difficult for foreigners to get hired at the time.
At the time, there were no international teachers at the school, but my homeroom teacher happened to show me a flyer for a teaching position. So, I applied anyway, and I was accepted. I have been staying in Japan ever since.

Do you have any business partners in South Korea?

For now, we have only in Japan. Actually, what we are doing has been done in Korea for quite some time. The software we use was also developed in Korea, and we would like to work with Korea someday.

Have you heard of any differences between Japan and South Korea in the Japanese apparel industry through your Korean acquaintances?

I have the impression that the cost of manufacturing in South Korea is relatively lower than in Japan, and that the speed of manufacturing is higher in order to keep up with the rapidly changing trends.
Clothing manufacturing costs are higher in Japan than in other countries, but I feel that there is a high level of craftsmanship. In a word, it can be summed up as “detailed.”
Also, most of the people who try to do what I am doing in Japan are rather technical like pattern makers. But in other countries, they include more creative people such as designers, who use this tool to check their designs on the spot. It seems that this is a strong trend in other countries right now and I think the reason for this difference is that Japan has a strong culture of craftsmanship.

Are there any differences in the way of working between Japan and South Korea, or any difficulties in terms of business?

I have the impression that they are not so different. Japan, South Korea and other parts of Asia share the same strict hierarchical relationships, and I don't think there is a big difference in the way of working. However, I think Japan is superior in terms of attention to details. My impression is that many people in South Korea emphasize speed and efficiency.


Finally, do you have any advice for those who are thinking about starting a business in Japan?

Japanese is a must. I think you can build a network and community from there, and you will gain more experiences.

VGlab :

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