There are many ways to escape being depressed. Some may listen to their favorite music; others may find a friend to have a drink with. Lim Si-nai (’99, Clothing and Textiles) suggests another option: “Put on some make-up and try on a gorgeous dress.” Although the suggestion only works for women, Lim says it is quite effective.
Lim is currently the chief executive officer (CEO) of two dress cafes, one in front of Ewha and the other in Myung-dong. At a dress cafe, people try on display dresses ranging from semi-formal apparel to wedding dresses, and take pictures of themselves.
“I was working at a shop as a designer and one day three women made a visit,” said Lim. “One of them was about to get married so she was looking for a wedding dress. As the future bride tried on dresses, her two friends became jealous and I could see their faces falling into sadness. So I let them try on some dresses, too.”
The two ladies resisted at first but later, they tried on dresses. Lim was surprised when one of the ladies started crying tears of joy. “I was shocked that a single dress could lighten up someone’s bad mood.”
Lim says this was the turning point of her career. She decided to set up a dress cafe, and finally on Nov. 11, 2004, her first cafe, named Princess Diary, opened near the Ewha campus.
Even after successfully establishing her second dress cafe at Myung-dong in 2009, Lim still feels happy when she sees people cheered by trying on beautiful dresses. “Sometimes, even elderly women come to my cafe to try on dresses,” she said. “A mother and daughter also came hand in hand to try on dresses together. It feels great to see them so happy and excited.”
Lim worked as a dress designer for eight years after graduating from Ewha, and some of her collection can be seen at her cafes, which are also tourist attractions for people visiting Korea from other countries.
“We have a special corner for foreigners, too,” said Lim, who keeps various styles of hanbok (Korean traditional dresses). “We have at least one group of foreigners visiting our cafes every day. I arranged the special corner to introduce Korean culture to these people.”
The walls of the cafes are decorated with various photo concepts. One is romance, and others are cute, dreamy and oriental. The guests can choose whichever concept they like as their backdrop for pictures.
While both a dress designer and a CEO, Lim has a unique job title. “I call myself a dealer,” she said. “I like to earn money and have fun with what I earn.”
But it hasn’t all been fun. Lim has gone through hardships in the past. “I remember sleeping on the floor of my dress shop when I had just opened my dress cafe. Sometimes, I would even call my friends to give me a hand in my business,” said Lim.
Today, Lim enjoys looking for furniture and interior designs for her cafes. Although she is satisfied with her current life she says that the best is yet to come. “Once you decide what you want for your life and your society, it is important to actually make them happen,” Lim said. “I have worked hard to fulfill my dreams and become who I am today.”