On July 1, the second branch of Gumuda, a “concept” boutique featuring only Mongolian fashion designers, will open in the Shangri-La mall.
The first location, inconspicuously hugging the Christian Dior building on Seoul Street, launched just over two months ago, on April 16. Gumuda founder Khulan Nemekhbayar is shocked at how lucrative the concept unpinning the store, “proudly made in Mongolia,” has turned out to be.
She never expected to open a second location so soon. “This business is growing like every day, every minute,” Khulan says, sporting a studded leather vest. “It’s crazy,” she says. The store on Seoul Street is like a physical metaphor: you must descend a flight of stairs – go underground – to find a wealth of edgy “underground” Mongolian-made clothes Priced from shockingly affordable to somewhat prohibitive, there are unique pieces for almost every persuasion.
A cursory flip through the racks reveals daring leather cut out dresses, a bright green fur jacket, a futuristic shirt with detachable hood, hand-painted translucent skirts. Featured brands include Mongol, Enkhjin, Michel & Amazonka, Choice, Monalun and Futuristic Type.
Khulan quit her job as a TV host at UBS in November because she “wanted to do something meaningful, something really beautiful” for her country. During her three-year stint hosting a music program, she had to constantly stay on top of fashion trends. She wanted to wear clothes made by Mongolian designers on the show, but found it almost impossible to track them down.
Gumuda was born from that frustration. She hunted down up-and-coming Mongolian fashion designers via Facebook and networking events and conscripted them for her “cause.” Khulan believes Gumuda will eventually represent “the whole face of Mongolian fashion industry” because it unites all Mongolian fashion designers under one roof. “Together, the better,” she says.
The UB Post sat down with Khulan to learn more about Gumuda and the state of the Mongolian fashion industry.
What is the concept behind Gumuda?
Gumuda has its own concept, which is “proudly made in Mongolia.” If you make it in Mongolia, you don’t have to buy it from another country. Let’s buy something from another country that we can’t do in Mongolia. [More specifically our concept is] modern Mongolian fashion.
We have lots of stores and boutiques, which sell Mongolian tradition souvenirs and deel, and jewelry [that] is [traditional], nomadic Mongolian. I wanted Gumuda to be modern Mongolian, urban Mongolian. Because [for] traditional Mongolian [clothes], we have a whole business file for it, but up-and-coming designers don’t have the opportunity to come out as urban designers in Mongolia.
What inspired you to open Gumuda?
I started doing a fashion blog named Gumuda. I figured out that Mongolian girls don’t do fashion blogs that much. A few do – we have some good fashion bloggers – but most of them, actually all of them, live in foreign countries. [Mongolian fashion blogger] Miss Couture lives in Switzerland. She’s Mongolian and she’s so fashionable, but she’s not in UB.
I thought, “Why can’t somebody do a fashion blog – outfit of today – who lives in UB? This city has its own fashion.” And that kind of inspired me to find Mongolian fashion designers’ clothes.
I figured out that [they’re] really hard to find, and I got a chance to open Gumuda.
How did you go about finding Mongolian fashion designers? Why are they so difficult to find?
I found them through Facebook and networking. We have lots of fashion designers doing really cool stuff, but they get stuck in the marketing. They really can’t do good marketing or merchandising. So I connected with them. I united them all together and I’m doing the marketing for them. [I’m] selling their products so they can focus only on the productive, creative part [of the job]. They can make their clothes without worrying about money and the selling process.
What does Gumuda mean?
Gumuda [is an] imaginary flower. Like dragons and unicorns, it’s an imaginary thing. It grows in holy heaven and they say that if [there is a person] so genius, so talented born on the earth, one Gumuda blossom grows in holy heaven for him. So if you are a really unique person, you have your own Gumuda flower in holy heaven.
It is a Mongolian story.
How would you describe UB’s style? What’s unique about Mongolian fashion?
It’s really brave, very independent. Mongolian girls and guys [are] willing to sacrifice for fashion. It’s really hard to walk in high heels in UB streets, but we still do that!
What has the response to the store been like?
All positive, actually. People, especially the designers, love this concept and most of them, not all of them, are willing to be part of Gumuda. The customers, they [also] really like this. I find out that they didn’t really know what Mongolian modern designers are capable of. [Many of them think that] Mongolians can weave, Mongolians can do felt products, we can do leather products, and that’s all. But we can do so many modern things.
Why did you leave your TV hosting job?
I loved my job, I really did. But I wanted to do something meaningful, something really beautiful. The TV hosting job was so fun, but…I wanted to do something very soulful and meaningful for my country. If you really do love your country, you have to stop talking about it and start doing something for it.
Who are your favorite Mongolian designers?
I love Futuristic Type. Futuristic Type is made by a girl who has a really genius, very different way of thinking about life. Her clothes are not really practical, not really everyday clothes, but they’re really unique. Really, one of a kind. It’s not even that expensive.
What will the new store in the Shangri La mall be like?
It’s going to be exactly the same [as the first Gumuda], but now we are starting to focus on men’s clothes. Men don’t really have a fashion space in this Gumuda. They’re always complaining, “Where’s the men’s section? You don’t have anything for men except shoes and ties.”
How do you see Mongolian fashion developing?
We’re trying out so many different things. Almost every season there is a new brand launching. We have so many new brands. But it’s kind of hard to meet the expectations from customers because you have to keep going. But it is hard to keep going in Mongolia because we don’t have textile factories, we don’t have so many workers.
I will be an expert in this field soon [because I’m currently studying business marketing and fashion merchandising], but right now I really know about the fashion designers, who are doing ok.