With the driven intent to live the craft, Angie Kim set out to create a brand that bonded her background in product design with her passion for working with leather through her California based line AYK. The fact that she had never before designed or made a handbag hardly stood in her way, and as she now sets out to launch her Kickstarter campaign February 24th to grow her handmade, hand-painted collection. AYK still stands by its ideals of modern classics, made personal.
Photos by Ashley Batz | Interview by Michaela d’Artois
VÉRITÉ: How did you transition from the corporate design world into such a niche like handmade leather goods?
ANGIE KIM: While working at IDEO, one of the projects led me to a work life experience in India for seven months where all around me I was surrounded by vendors selling their art and making beautiful products. People often ask why bags? I found constructing handbags similar to my work as an Industrial Designer — you transform material that lives in a 2-dimensional space into a 3-dimensional form. India gave me the extra nudge I needed. When I came back home, I knew it was finally time to start something of my own.
V: What is the most empowering thing about running your own business and creating by hand?
AK: Building a brand has been quite the journey, with both struggles and rewards. What makes it all worthwhile is that I love what I do and I live my craft each and everyday. One of the most gratifying and fulfilling experiences is when I get to see an idea through to reality. Being able to use and enjoy it is a pretty amazing bonus. Through this endeavor, I’ve learned that we have the ability to create the future we want — it just starts with the right frame of mind.
V: There is a no-fuss simplicity to your designs that goes against the high-maintenance reputation women have in relation to their bags. Why do you think you took this approach?
AK: Life is filled with so much noise. I wanted to offer something that brought beauty, fluidity, and strength to a woman’s wardrobe.
V: I’m sure women everywhere appreciate that greatly. Why did you go in the direction of crowd-funding instead of investors?
AK: Crowd-funding allows me to interact directly with the audience. They are the ones receiving the end product, so it only makes sense to have them be the investors. Of all the stakeholders involved, the customer should be the one to see the process and feel the heart behind their purchase.
V: What would you tell those who seek to dive into their own businesses and start-ups?
AK: The entrepreneur road will break you down and build you up, but it’s worth it if you are passionate about your product. It’s a road taken just as much for your professional development as it is for your personal growth. However, I would urge you to ask yourself if what you’re offering serves a greater need or if it’s an unstoppable desire to express your voice. If yes to either, then do it. Life is short.
V: Do you have anything to share about being a woman teetering between the fashion, tech, and start-up worlds?
AK: I couldn’t see myself doing anything but this in any other way. I hope this helps encourage the larger community of strong women to forge their own career path. Man or woman, we all have a unique voice and something to say.
V: What is a day in the life of a handbag designer like?
AK: Absolutely non-routine. Each day is wildly different as you take on new roles, new challenges, and new ideas. It can be pretty exciting as you meet interesting people and when you see your hard work come together. Other days can be quite frustrating as you navigate setbacks and tough logistics. Let’s just say, I’m learning how to chill out and surf the wave.
V: Explain the relation of a woman’s beauty to that of natural leather?
AK: Vegetable tanned leather is what I use for my handbags. The beauty of this leather is that it still feels like it’s living. Like our skin, it has natural blemishes, which I embrace. And it also darkens when touched by the sun. It’s a durable material that wears beautifully over time, picking up little bits of life as we live.