Dae and Cindy Lim are the Seoul-born, New York-bred siblings behind Sundae School, a Seoul-made, New York-based label that launched last month with a small collection of streetwear. At first glance, the soft cotton tees and slouchy denim jackets appear not dissimilar from the basics produced in bulk at Dongdaemun's wholesale clothing market on the north side of Seoul. But a closer look reveals that it is not mere streetwear, but what's known as "smokewear" -a sartorial play on weed culture that could spark a revolution back home.


"Life in Korea is pretty stifling in a lot of ways," Dae says, tucked into the corner of a Lower East Side coffee shop with his sister. "Until we came here, we had been living in a bubble, and we did not even know it." Born and raised in Gangnam, Dae, 24, and Cindy, 21, moved to the US when they were kids and, like many American teens, discovered marijuana. Starting a label was a longtime dream of Dae's, an opportunity to tell a larger story about the Asian-American experience. The name Sundae School is both a riff on "Dae" and the brand's examination of religion, which, along with scholastic pursuits, looms large in the average Korean childhood. "This interplay between religion, education, and weed-that's what really excited us," Dae says.
Cindy and Dae Lim, cofounders of Sundae School

For "Chapter 1: Genesis," they kept the pot references fairly subtle: a small loop tucked on the side of a fitted cap, where one could stick a pencil or a spliff; puns like "honor rollers." A sticker patch with a pink Korean rose stars an oblong green bud at its center. "That's supposed to be a nug," Dae says, tracing its embroidered lines. "But no one will know if you do not say," Cindy adds. Standouts include a plain white tee with a portrait of Sejong the Great, as seen on the Korean $ 10 bill, a near-invisible joint in his mouth and a vanilla cone in his hand. Then there's a heather gray hoodie with a tiger-back ungnyeo, the legendary maiden from Korea's creation myth, drawn by artist Sunwoo Han. Instead of the traditional bundle of mugwort, she carries a roll with tiny weed leaves, picked out in green thread. It's playful streetwear with a deeper message and surprisingly insightful take on modern Korea.

The mash-up between marijuana and Korean culture feels particularly bold, given that weed remains illegal and deeply taboo in the country. It is loosely lumped in with drugs like heroin, crack, meth, and laws against it are beyond strict; to be caught with it can mean massive fines or significant jail time. "Growing up, my mom would always be like, 'When you're in America, do not indulge on the devil's lettuce,'" Dae recalls. Of course, things are changing. Look no further than the Lims and their free-wheeling crew of "Korean fuccbois and girls," getting "lit" all over the world, to find proof. Dae speaks of the underground weed scene in Seoul, quietly booming in places like Itaewon. In the end, he says, the demonization comes down to a lack of education and misinformation-something Sundae School is hoping to counter. "There's a heap of change coming," he says. "We want to shed some light on this culture by interpreting it with a Korean lens."

Up next for the fledging label is "Chapter 2," with further twists on Korean culture and folklore, along with more ambitious clothes-denim hanbok, for one. With time, they hope, the brand might grow in the U.S. and, by doing so, turn heads in Seoul, too. Says Cindy, "If we can infiltrate the culture, where we can be more understood in Korea like the U.S., that is my dream."