Alfred Sung is a Canadian designer with an international following. Based in Toronto, Sung created designs primarily for women, though he has on occasion produced for men. The most recognized of Sung's creations, however, are his fragrances, as well as bridal collections and accessories.
The hallmark of this Shanghai-born designer was simple, chic design created to be worn by women who needed stylish yet wearable clothes for busy lifestyles. Sung's designs evinced a classic feeling for line and detail, and his clothes were made from high-quality fabrics he himself had been known to design. He created separates, dresses, evening clothes, and jeans. His simple shapes were easy to wear and chosen by people in the public eye because they are neither trendy nor outrageous, and because they were somewhat conservative. His designs always complemented rather than overwhelmed their wearer; he worked towards an understated chic for real life, not for the runway.
Sung has long been a perfectionist who lived and breathed the world of fashion design and often eschewed other concerns of life. He has, however, faced more than his share of challenges as his career developed. A native of Shanghai, Sung was originally named Sung Wang Moon, which meant "a door in the cloud." When his family moved to the British colony of Hong Kong, his father changed his son's name to Alfred. From an early age he painted, drew, and wanted to continue study in this field. His father sent him to Paris, though not to study painting but fashion design at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. Sung soon learned draping, cutting, and sewing garments by hand, obtaining a sound grounding in design and clothing construction basics.
Sung studied at the Parsons School of Design for a year, and worked on Seventh Avenue in New York City for several years, eventually moving to Toronto, Canada, where he worked on Spadina Avenue for Lindzon Ltd. Wanting to be self employed, he opened a boutique named "Moon." For three years, he was responsible for all aspects of the design process, from designing, cutting and sewing, to marketing. He developed a devoted following of young people who delighted in his well-designed clothes.
Fortuitously, in 1979 Sung formed a partnership with Joseph and Saul Mimran. The brothers took over the business end of the operation, allowing Sung to concentrate on designing. Based in Canada, the three men developed an operation that at one point included boutiques under the Alfred Sung name in Boston, Washington D.C., and Short Hills, New Jersey. In 1981 Sung was named one of the top new designers by Saks Fifth Avenue. Sung licensed luggage designs, sunglasses, and created his first fragrance in 1986. Unfortunately, the group licensed to manufacture Sung's clothing designs went bankrupt, creating a void in the production and distribution of his work. In spite of these problems, Sung continued to design and formed a new firm, Alfred Sung Collections Ltd., with the Mimran brothers and Michael Waitzer, formerly of Marks & Spencer.
All seemed bright for the latest Sung enterprise; the designer had new apparel lines, a bridal collection, and eyewear and fragrance deals. His three women's fragrances had been highly successful, especially the original and aptly namedSung (1986). A new scent, Forever, debuted in 1995, followed by Pure in 1997. Yet while Sung fragrances were perennial bestsellers, the designer was not so fortunate. After more lows than highs, Sung was forced once again to confront bankruptcy. His longtime backer and partners, the Mimrans, terminated his licensing agreement in 1996 and Alfred Sung Collections Ltd. had to file for bankruptcy in 1997. Three Sung stores in Toronto were closed and assets liquidated to cover more than $1 million in debt.
Despite his financial woes, Alfred Sung remained an integral part of the fashion industry. His bridal collections and accessories, licensed by the Algo Group, experienced booming sales at the end of the century, as did his stable of six fragrances. Sung's latest women's scent, Shi, was released in 2000 and won an HBA International Package Design award in 2001.