IISE was formed by two Korean-American brothers, Terrence and Kevin Kim. Although they had no formal training in fashion, they were inspired by traditional artisans and dyeing techniques that use persimmon fruit, indigo plant, and ash. Through trial and error and sheer force of will, they created a contemporary accessories line gushing with Korean influence.
Can you tell me about you began IISE? What does the name IISE mean?
IISE means “second generation” in Korean. I began IISE with my brother and we are both second generation Korean Americans and we like to combine our western tastes with inspirations from aspects of our Korean heritage.
What does Korea have to offer that is unique?
Korea is truly an amazing country. We were really excited when we first moved here and was exposed to all the hanok style architecture, traditional and modern art, and of course the food. Also it is really great travelling to the countryside and seeing how different each place can be. For being such an economically powerful country, not much is known about Korea to the outside world besides K-Pop and K-Dramas, but this country is rich in culture and I hope more of that can be shared with others.
Hand crafted artisan goods are extremely popular now in Seoul I’ve noticed…
Hand crafted goods are growing in popularity globally. Because of the internet, people are able to market their own goods to the entire world and the end customer now has access to more items than ever before. More and more people are interested in well made products that aren’t just mass produced in the millions and available to everyone. I think people love having exclusive items and being asked “Wow what is that? Where did you get that from?”
What is your production process like?
Seoul is great because we are able to source almost anything we need from all the markets around the city. Everything is just a subway ride away. Before making bags, we lived in China and wanted to make shoes. I remember taking planes to visit factories and buy materials, the whole process was just a headache. Dyeing the fabric, sourcing the hardware, sampling the product, and manufacturing is all done within Korea and very accessible.
What advice can you give to anyone wanting to start a business in Korea?
Just go for it! A lot of people have asked this question and I think the fear of failure is what holds back a lot of potentially awesome things from happening. It is a bit more challenging to start up in a country like Korea but again, the internet is the most valuable tool available to you and you can really do some amazing things with it. Also, I’ve noticed there is a growing community of creatives and entreprenuers in Seoul right now. Networking is essential, I really believe the next person you meet can change your life.
You just debuted a brand new collection. Can you tell me about it?
Our new collection’s theme is based on a special organic dyeing technique native to Korea. The fabrics we used for this collection are a Korean silk/cotton blend in black and navy. Our black fabric is dyed with persimmon fruit, ash, and charcoal and our navy fabric is dyed with persimmon, ash, and indigo plant. There are also several details you can see that were inspired by traditional hanbok along with other aspects from Korean culture.
We hope that our generation can re-embrace our traditional culture and showcase it to the rest of the world in a unique way. There’s really a lot this small but powerful country has to offer and we’re excited to see what will happen in the next decade for Korea!
Great! Where can we buy your stuff?
We will be selling internationally through our website and will be announcing a stocklist of boutiques that will carry our collection when we are ready.