Balenciaga’s “Viral Trash Bag” dropped in 2022 for over $1,700. And marketing professor Sua Jeon asked her students, “Why are people buying this?”
The brand also released a “Lay’s potato chip” clutch for $1,500 this past October. Both bags are leather, allowing the brand to provide more quality to the products — but that’s not what sold the bags, said Jeon.
“People are buying the brand,” she said. “And I ask my students, what is the benefit of this? What kind of people are buying this product?”
Jeon fell in love with fashion from a young age but studied public administration as an undergraduate in her home country of South Korea before eventually going to law school. After leaving South Korea with her husband, she decided to study fashion at the University of North Texas.
“It’s just not what I expected,” she laughed. “I found out I have no creativity to make clothes.”
But that didn’t stop Jeon from getting into the world of fashion. She enrolled in a master's degree in fashion merchandising from UNT, where she also taught as a lecturer for four years.
Wanting to further her education and continue to give back more to her students, Jeon decided to get a Ph.D. in Marketing from UNT. She learned from a fellow Ph.D. student about a professor in marketing position at Texas Wesleyan and applied.
“When I taught class at UNT, there were 225 students. I taught the class in an auditorium,” she said. “But when I came here, it was 20 to 30 students. I liked the slogan Smaller. Smarter. — it is very impressive, and I can make more connections with students here. You get to know them.”
Her love of fashion isn’t the only reason she brings up the “trash bag” in the classroom. Jeon studies different trends each semester to bring the most up-to-date information to her students. Instead of “recycling” material in textbooks, she spends her 45-minute drive to campus listening to NPR to research what companies are doing now.
“I’m getting older, but my students are [almost] always in their 20’s,” she said. “So, I try to avoid that generation gap. If I can make my students laugh — that’s my purpose. If I can capture their attention with something very interesting, I’ll go in-depth about that topic. I try to be very sensitive to trends.”
However, Jeon herself doesn’t closely follow social media. Instead, just like following trends, she studies how different platforms are used — like being able to shop on Instagram.
“It’s very ironic,” she laughed. “I teach influencer marketing, social media marketing, but I'm not an active user for any social media platform. I don’t use it, but I have to know it. That’s why I study.”
After all, our future marketing professionals might need to know how to sell a “viral trash bag” one day. And if they have Dr. Jeon as a professor, they’ll get the right tools to know just how to do it.