Still here, Still alive: 서문 // Seomun

Still here, still alive: 서문 // Seomun

Nikon F2 - Portra 400 + 1

This project has evolved as I’ve worked on it. I first focused on local business owners in Chinatown and throughout LA, and it has slowly evolved into a conversation about burnout and fulfillment. It’s not an easy topic—it requires self-reflection, and a deep conversation with ourselves that might be brand new for us. Talking about burnout and fulfillment was not how we were raised as Asian Americans, generally speaking. However, not having these conversations allowed many of us to experience life uniquely and discover for ourselves what makes us happy, and draw boundaries on what makes us unhappy. I’ll tell you what though, what can make us fulfilled is interesting; depending on how we grew up or how we go about our day to day, we can find fulfillment in the most perplexing places.  

Before the final two stories, I want to add one more, which would finish this project I started at 25 stories. I want to introduce you to Phil Seomun, the creator behind 서문 // Seomun.

Phil Seomun is an artist born and raised in Los Angeles. His late father inspired Phil to pursue creativity in his same entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic. Under his unique family name “서문 // Seomun” (pronounced “Suh-Moon”) he pays tribute to his father and his family. Every garment he turns from used to new with a needle and thread is dedicated to them.

Phil focuses on creating unique Denim + Workwear customizations, and has created limited pieces that appeared on Street Grandma, Brother Brother, and more.

For customization work, Phil can be reached via Instagram.  

Question 1

It’s common to find a handful of creatives who found fulfillment in their craft (whether it’s photography, fashion design, food, etc…) later to grow to hate it when they incorporate it for work. It becomes “a job” that requires so much of their time, more pressure on them to meet deadlines, and that creates a growing resentment that fries their mental health. You put in an immense amount of work into your pieces that your clients proudly wear, and to some extent during the process of fulfilling those orders saps everything out of you. How do you find fulfillment in your line of work to allow you to keep creating under a strenuous workload? Do you find it when you’re creating or elsewhere? 

I’m feeling burnt out right now. I’m exhausted. 

Lately I’ve been working 5 days straight a week at my day job. So if I have any free time during the week I don’t want to sew. I just want to play video games and gather every bit of energy I have left to walk my dogs.

Workload aside, I feel very discouraged most days. Unfortunately, I still rely on collab projects with brands or special custom pieces for certain influential individuals as a marketing tactic. If there’s no new pieces being displayed, let’s say on my Instagram feed, there’s no new attention being garnered. And well, you do the math. Such a sad world we live in that I still have to rely on some silly social media algorithm to catch people’s eye. It’s a part of the rat race. It’s a part of the hustle. I hate it. And I hate that I wrote about it just now lol it’s just too much!

So imagine being burnt out from every way possible and still have to push somehow to keep sewing. I am currently working on repairing my friend’s pair of jeans but I’m so exhausted. I’m about a third done with repairs but I don’t want to sew.

Where do I find my push? I find my push from customizing my own clothes first. 

I do this thing where I prioritize and make time to customize something from my closet first. For example, the latest BDU army shirt I just bought from East West Shop. There were holes in the armpit area. I never repaired damages in that area before and I love a new challenge using my craft. It stimulates my mind as I figure out new techniques and approaches. By the time I’m done, I had spent half a day sewing for my own. I somehow have more than enough energy and the push to work on that repair work.

I find fulfillment from serving me first. Customizing what I think is cool for me then using that joy to work on other people’s clothes.

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