Family Matters: Meet the Co-founders Behind ai Toronto Seoul

Photography courtesy of AI Toronto Seoul.

“We never put on a product until we absolutely love it.”

For Hannah Kim, Joanna Lee and Rebekah Ma, staying connected during COVID-19 was not important for general family reasons such as catching up and sending good vibes. The three siblings also own Toronto Seoul, a permanent-minded vegetarian handbag and accessory brand based in Toronto and producing their wares on a small scale in Seoul, South Korea. Kim and Lee are based in Canada, while Ma has been living in Seoul for the past two years and offers a practical perspective on how their products are made.

The trio collaborates on the brand’s designs with their mother, Hun Young Lee, who, in addition to being an award-winning top performer, helped her daughters develop a passion for fashion. “Our mother, who was an immigrant in Toronto in the 1970s when she was in her early twenties, felt that fashion was something she could add when she came to Canada because it’s a universal language,” says Kim . “Growing up, we always had the latest the trend And In style And Aathitheya On our coffee table. And watching Fashion television It was our ritual every Sunday night. “

It is through another family affair that the sisters come to know about the sustainable and conscious construction, as their aunt has a facility in South Korea that makes vegan leather bags. The country, Le Note, was a pioneer in the development and production of such materials. “We grew up wearing our aunt’s bags,” Kim says of how her awareness of mind design developed. “This is something that has been a part of our lives without really thinking about it.”

Ae Toronto Seoul
Photography courtesy of AI Toronto Seoul.

Of course, raised in Canada, all three respected the understanding of caring for the environment in various ways. Lee recalls, “We were always educated at school about honoring the Earth, like recycling, all of these elements contributed to how they created a model for their production of AI Toronto Seoul. Its bags and others The accessories – including hair clips and sunglasses for children – are made in limited quantities; if a style doesn’t sell, they don’t recreate it. “It was very natural for us to go that route,” Lee continues. “Our philosophy is that sustainability is based on a collection of choices – the small decisions you make. [contribute to] How are we affecting the planet. “

When Kim was diagnosed with the tumor several years ago, the trio was also praised for making such a decision; Her chemotherapy treatment prompted the family to rethink how they ate, turning them into a more plant-based diet. “It changed our thinking in terms of health,” notes Lee.

The sisters also found the diagnosis to be important in the direction of career. “We were at a point in our lives when we were all in the field of education,” Kim says. “When I found out the tumor, I had to stop working. It was a wake-up call for our family, and my mother felt we needed to do something together. We always wanted to, [but] It felt like this was the right moment. I was having chemo, and she wanted to divert my attention from it. “

Ae Toronto Seoul
Photography courtesy of AI Toronto Seoul

Starting with importing her aunt’s bags to Canada and then “ghost labeling” for a Toronto-based designer for two years, her confidence grew with the success of each project and ultimately, she helped to build her own brand. Of. Endeavor is a team – “everybody has to be on board with a decision,” Ma says – with matriarch Hun Young acting as the lead designer.

“He has a good visionary understanding,” Lee says of the one who inspired the pieces in Toronto Seoul. “We never put on a product until we absolutely love it.” In addition to further thinking about her mother’s style, Ma says that being based in South Korea has given her an insight into the fast pace of adopting the trend there. “The fashion here is beyond comparison,” she says. “Living his entire life in Canada, the culture suffered a bit of shock – but fashion is a lot of fun.”

Praises can be felt for this unique attitude towards dressing in AE Toronto Seoul’s offerings, such as the Ess Bag style, which was launched last year to satisfy a desire to have a hands-free bag that contains only the essentials Things happen. The cross-body comes in a variety of colors ranging from tonal to two-way blue and yellow, for those who are a bit more adventurous in their accessory options.

Ae Toronto Seoul
Photography courtesy of AI Toronto Seoul

When the brand launched reusable masks near the start of the epidemic – Ma saw a great need for them in South Korea and urged her sisters that this was a customizable product for their customer base – they not only made them attractive in color. . They chose to fabricate them with a fabric made of antibacterial yarn called Aerosilver, which has been awarded the Eco-Mark Award from the Japan Environmental Association. The sisters, who have family health workers, also included a donation component in the sale.

“It was a no-brainer for us,” Kim says of giving one frontline worker one mask for each mask sold. The introduction of masks also inspired the sisters to offer chains made of recycled acrylic; Speaking of the notion of stability through versatility, an extra hook included in many styles means that you can also stick your eyewear or AirPods for close-keeping.

Multipurpose functionality was also a key component in another product launch for AI Toronto Seoul during the epidemic – a convertible bag and dog leash set created in collaboration with television personality Tanya Kim. Hannah Kim recalls, “When we were younger, there weren’t really a lot of Asians, let alone Koreans, women on television that we could relate to.” “Tanya was the only person we could relate to. We have always looked up to her, and she has always been a strong supporter of our business. There is a mutual respect. “

The concept is equally important to the founders of the brand when it comes to treating manufacturers who produce AI Toronto Seoul pieces. And they do what they can to tell the team’s technique, and the conditions under which they work. Highlighting the safety mandated by the South Korean government to ensure an equal and safe environment for workers, Kim says that now more than ever, these points are of deep interest to consumers. “We try to tell this story to our customers [because] We know how important it is. “

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