The team at Fashion World is always bringing their best game; whether it’s through Onyx, Bohyme, Birth Remi, or any of their other lines. We met up with Sam Hong, president and CEO of Boyhme, and Alex Hong, Senior Director of Fashion World Inc., to get an inside look.
Fashion World started their Bohyme line in 1990, and ever since then they’ve catered to consumers of all races. We asked Sam about their audience, “For Bohyme we target both markets, the ethnic market whether that’s African American or Hispanic, and then we also focus on Caucasians as well. No matter who it is, what race, it’s all about high quality, high end products.”
While some doubted the popularity of extensions for a Caucasian market, Sam explained that the Bohyme range makes up 50% of their sales. Right out of the gate in 1990 Bohyme was a hit; at the time of it’s release it was far and away the best thing on the market. “When my dad released this line, there wasn’t too much competition at all. At that point it did very well, because people didn’t know that this type of hair existed before,” explained Sam.
“My Dad started Fashion world back in 1978. Since then he’s come up with a few terms,” Sam told us, not- ing that his father had named Bohyme and Onyx and had even come up with the term ‘Remi.’ “He was the first to see that for the special types of hair, the really high end hair, you had to use this remi type of quality— where all the cuticles are lined in the same direction. That’s why on all of our products you’ll see the registered trademark, because he started that. All of a sudden after that we just saw that word being used everywhere, sometimes spelled with ‘y’ sometimes with the ‘i’.”
What’s in a name?
While Remi is a term you’ll see frequently, it’s meaning is often convoluted. Much of the time it’s used to emphasize hair’s quality but holds no true relevance to what’s in the package. To Fashion World it’s some- thing much more serious. For them it means truly top- tier hair, where all of the cuticles are facing the same direction and where there is minimal chemical process- ing.
Alex explained, “We trademarked the term Remi to describe the science behind our higher quality hair extensions. There wasn’t as much scientific research regarding cuticle layers and hair extensions back then, but my father actually reached out to laboratories to test and figure out why hair extensions would sometimes become matted or tangled. He found that compared to the lower end human hair products, the higher, more ex- pensive quality hair possessed certain traits that fought off the matting and tangling. No one in the market was describing their hair in this manner or going into this much depth to develop new hair. Research and development is extremely crucial to the success of our company and my father knew this term would eventually become an industry wide used term.”
We wanted to know more about the names within fashion world, Alex explained how his father had named most of the lines, and we were curious about where those terms came from. “My father actually came up with the brand name Bohyme. We like to pronounce it as ‘Bo-He-Me’ and it is based on the term Bohemian. Throughout his life, my father has always been a fan of unconventional methods and non traditional lifestyles. He was a pioneer in introducing human hair into the hair extension industry when it was unheard of. Fashion World Ent., Inc. uses this type of independent thought process to continuously come up with new methods and products that are unique and of the utmost quality. We always want to be a leader in the industry and we believe that thinking out of the box is crucial to develop- ing one’s own identity. My father was also a huge fan of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.”
Another area of name inspiration was his love of gems and stones. Black Onyx was one of his favorite, and thanks to his belief that their brands should have a strong connection to personal narratives it was chosen as a name. “It is a reflection of one’s own hard work and dedication so that is why we always stick to our lines as opposed to constantly creating new ones. Along with our brands, all of our products are named through personal experiences. We also like to show that we are working out of Chicago, IL. For example, our top piece Bohyme line is named after famous street names in Chicago.” Fashion World’s connection to the community of Chicago is a huge part of their company identity. They do outreach in the community throughout the year, including a Prom Come True event for local high schoolers.
The new generation at Fashion World.
Before returning to the family business Sam Hong worked in business and financial environments around the world. We wondered what it was like to come back to the company after being away, and as a second generation leader. Many hair companies we’ve spoken with are in the process of transitioning their leadership to the second or third generation in the family. “Now I can understand what my dad actually went through,” said Sam, “how he was able to form this business, because of that I respect him a lot more.”
But the challenges he’s facing now are very different from the ones his father faced in the 70’s, and he’s had to learn how to adapt from his father’s strategy to one that works now. “The biggest thing for me is that you have a different type of business model. From 1978 through almost seven years ago it worked, and the system was very good. However, you have to keep chang- ing and transitioning. I wanted to make sure Fashion world would continue to grow and develop. I’ve mainly been working on making sure all the technology is up to date and that our marketing is there. Also, making sure we cater to the Korean side as well as Caucasians and African Americans.”
“Most of Bohyme was being sold through beauty supply stores but as the market started changing people wanted to be able to buy through the internet,” Sam told us, “Then I decided to develop a few lines. Our highest end line is called Bohyme Lux. We use the best hair that we can get, so of course the volume isn’t there because there’s just not enough hair in the world. Because of that it’s very exclusive, only professionals and stylists can purchase this product.”
This line of thought has brought them far, they have a waiting list for hair and almost never have to make outgoing sales calls. Alex explained, “At Fashion World Ent., Inc, we have always believed that our customers should have freedom in their choices, whether it be products or education courses. We respect and appreciate that some of our stylists create their own installation methods and systems and are able to build great foundations and independent businesses through our products. We don’t want to force any type of education system on our clients because we understand that there are millions of methods and that there is no one correct way.”
Distributing to an Increasingly Diverse Consumer.
As we’ve spoken with different industry leaders one of the things we’ve found interesting is the increasing diversity in the people purchasing wigs and extensions. We wondered what Sam thought about this, specifically in regard to Hispanic and Latino consumers. “It’s a growing, emerging market that we’ve already been selling to,” he added that many of their sales in Miami, southern Florida, and some in California are sold to this demographic. “I think it’s really important to study up a bit more on that market. We have a specialized line called Diamond Remi which was catered more towards the hispanic market.”
Part of what helps make them accessible to a greater demographic and part of what makes them a favorite of retailers is that they have a ‘same price policy’ be- tween pieces and boxes. It’s admirable and helpful for retailers. We asked Alex about the philosophy behind it,“When we think about who we distribute to, we have to think a little deeper about what their needs/wants are. By providing the same price to each customer, regardless of the quantity, we are providing our customers with a level playing field. This allows our customers to focus on the more important aspects of selling our products—learning all the facets of our products, learning about the customer’s needs, etc. This type of method also requires us to closely monitor territories and ensure that our existing customers aren’t selling within a completely saturated field. We think of our customers as an extended family and we want every one of them to be able to run a successful business.”