Once a major luxury player, leather-goods brand MCM dropped off fashion's radar. Sung-Joo Kim, 53, who established Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, and Sonia Rykiel in the Asian market, is bringing it back, reimagining it as a house of timeless elegance. "Recent luxury has been logo-driven and tacky. It's for concubines and women with wealthy husbands," she says. Her classic designs target "the intelligent, professional woman who appreciates quality and value"—and they seem to be working. Since acquiring the brand in 2005, Kim has tripled sales, to $280 million annually, and gradually expanded the brand's presence in key markets (in the U.S., it's now available at Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale's). Kim plowed $40 million into MCM, but views the investment as more than financial. Disowned by her strict Korean family for choosing her career over a traditional at-home role, Kim sees herself as a champion for ambitious women: "I want to prove that women can do as well as men—and even better."
People say it is reverse imperialism. I don't agree. It is true globalisation of East meeting West in equal terms,