When people talk about Detroit, they think about Automobile. Yes, they are right, but automobile is not everything for Mr. Song.
When the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin sang a song at the inauguration of the president Obama in 2009, Song’s hat business was beginning to rise up in the sky. All watching her singing “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee” was looking at her marvelous grey hat with crystal-studded big bow, designed and made by Mr. Song right here in Detroit, Michigan.
Right after the inauguration, Mr. Song was busier than before not only in designing more hats but also in interviewing with major media, such as New York Times, Wall street Journal, LA Times, CNN, and etc.
He flew into Detroit when he was 9 years old, with his parents who opened a small store selling hats and accessories. Luke graduated from Parsons, a famous design school in New York and shifted into a high gear into fashion business from 1996.
Detroit is the hometown for himself and his business. He is bringing all of his investment in China back to Michigan. “I can control my business better here in Michigan. My creativity can be protected better here as well”, he said.
His designs are seen in more than 500 boutiques and in many countries around the globe, as well as being displayed by some of the most prominent women of fashion. About 50,000 hats a year find new owners nationwide and worldwide.
• Founder Q&A
o Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
My first customer was Martha Jean “Queen”, the hostess of 1440 AM radio station. Losing her in 1998 due to cancer was a big pain for my family.
o Where did you find your first employee?
I found my first employee from downtown Detroit.
o Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
We reinvested our income into this business. We never borrowed any money from bank.
o If you could change one thing about this region, what would it be?
Everything seems to be too slow here. Slow reaction, slow process. I enjoy that slow pace now though.
29890 Southfield Rd. Southfield, Michigan 48076
o Social Media: (If used by company)
Written by Tack Yong Kim
The Michigan Korean Weekly
Luke Song of Mr. Song Millinery is a world renowned designer of women’s hats and headwear. Mr. Song Millinery has been featured in Vogue, Essence, BBC, New York times and other notable outlets, both national and international. Mr. Song’s headwear(self-branded by Mr. Song), considered by some as works of art, is currently at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and are sought-after by galleries and museums such as the Smithsonian. Some of Mr. Song’s signature designers have 2~3 month waiting list. Mr. Song’s innovation and creativity has contributed to modernizing the wear-ability of headwear by incorporating all season materials, flexibility, artistic designs, and timeless styles. Creative concepts being the backbone of the company, Mr. Song has collaborated with companies such as Sony Pictures and Simon & Schuster on projects and contributed designs for TV series such as Caprica and Glee. Philosophy is also at the heart of the Mr. Song Millinery and as a company has helped raise funds for non-profit entities such as Make-A-Wish, ACLU, Susan G. Komen Foundation, and Preservation Societies across the country. He has offered a unique style and exceptional quality for more than 26 years from our Detroit, Michigan based retail store, and over the last decade he has expanded steadily through a boutique network of fine retailers. Now he found a new location in Southfield last year. Located in the middle of nation, Mr. Song Millinery can reach out to its customers within five days or less. “Fashion business is very time sensitive”, Luke says. “If I was in New York or LA, it would be hard to reach the other side in time”. He can easily target New York customers in 2 days, LA customers in 4 days. “Fashion business is weekend business. When they place an order on Monday, they’ve got to receive it at least on Friday”, he said. Detroit is a perfect place for a business, which has to rely on ground shipping. “I thought about moving my business to a bigger city like New York, but I changed my mind and decided to stay and grow in Michigan”, he said. Having a nationwide business in Michigan sounds like a disadvantage especially when major media calls Luke and said “Oh, you are not in New York? Where? In Detroit?”. Their disappointed remarks often discourage Luke, but Detroit is the hometown for himself and his business. He said ” Detroit was a big factor of my success”. He said it because his 20, 30 year old royal clients are Detroiters and Michiganders. Ladies going to Kentucky Derby in the beginning of May have to stop by Mr. Song Millinery first to pick up the best looking hat to wear on. For the ones who can’t go down to Kentucky, there will be Derby in the Hills. On May 7, this year, from 3:00 ~ 7:00, they get together at the Costick Center in Farmington Hills to watch the race on 10 big screens. Everyone is welcomed under one condition. Every lady has to wear a hat to attend. May is the hottest month of the year. Around Mother’s day and Kentucky Derby, Luke and his crew has no time for lunch. “Michigan’s Incentives on Movie Industries brought me many new customers, too. ” He used to follow the trend of fashion, but now he leads the fashion industry by creating new designs every year. His new design ‘Fascinator’ has been a big hit this year. He can’t stop dreaming. He said, “One day very soon, Queen Elizabeth will put my hat on”. His dream flies high with year-round business trips from Detroit to all over the world.