A CONVERSATION WITH M I J E O N G P A R K
Formerly known as Achro, Mijeong Park is one of our best selling brands at WM GOODS. We recently got to visit Mijeong and Kevin, the couple behind the brand, and talked with them about their story and design process. They kindly invited us into their beautiful home in Los Angeles, an expertly curated and minimal space – which further advocated their love for simple and slow living.
Upon hearing their story, it seems like they have such a great affinity towards Portland itself. Mijeong and Kevin’s visit to Portland back in 2015 really shifted their mindset towards what their clothing brand would embody; hence starting a collection full of modern and yet timeless pieces. In their words, they claim that their mini trip to Portland was a refreshing escape from the busy LA fashion district lifestyle – and they grew to become advocates of slow living, both through their works and even in their own personal home life.
Read our interview with Mijeong and Kevin down below to get inside their brand, Mijeong Park and shop our spring edit HERE
Tell us a little about yourself. How did the brand “Mijeong Park come about?
Mijeong Park is a brand designed in the Arts District neighborhood of Downtown Los Angeles. Championing a minimalistic approach to dressing, the MIJEONG PARK collection is designed using classic, neutral colors.
[MJ/KN] We actually had a memorable (and quite frankly, enlightening) trip to Portland back in August 2015 and it made us want to start our own brand. We didn’t have any specific plans for the trip, but we got come across such beautiful sceneries and hiked near Multnomah Falls. We also enjoyed a lot of good food, met so many kind people, and visited small special stores (we even visited the same space where WM Goods is located now).
Right after this trip, we realized that chasing money and growing business should not be our main goal. Living more intentionally with a minimal mindset, while doing things we really want to do is so crucial to us now. We were excited when Whitney reached out to us about carrying our pieces in her shop, as we had such a great experience with Portland!
What’s the biggest sacrifice you've made in order to start the business? How has it paid off?
[KN] There were two significant sacrifices and challenges in our lives.The first major one is when we both gave up stable jobs and our lives in Korea. At the time, Mijeong was the chief designer of a design company for about 5 years, and I did strategic planning work at SK Company. We decided to leave it all behind and come to the U.S. in late 2006.
At first, it was really difficult to adjust to life here in the U.S. Since we didn’t have any family or friends upon moving, we were full of uncertainty. We couldn't speak English that well, so even ordering at McDonald's was hard. They asked too many questions about the orders, like adding tomato or cheese, lettuce or pickles, mayo or ketchup, for here or to-go, etc. Too overwhelming at the time, haha.
The second major thing is that we couldn't have a second child. When we started up our own business in late 2010, we didn’t have any customers for the first 8 months. We spent all the money we had saved for a house towards the business during this time period. Evan [our son] was one at the time, and we couldn’t spend as much time with him as we wanted. Now whenever Evan feels lonely since he doesn't have a younger brother or sister, we feel a bit sad about it. But luckily, he has become more socially active over time and now makes friends very easily.
And yes – thankfully, it all has paid off. Now we can fluently speak one more language (English) and are U.S. citizens. We’ve gotten to now understand the everyday of both Asian and American culture and integrate that into our works and personal home life. We really enjoy the work and life balance here in Los Angeles, surrounded by so many things to do and places to visit.
Evan is also a bit older now, so we can all travel together easily and go on family trips to places such as: Korea, Canada, Japan, France, and New York. Our work allows us to travel often now too, so Evan can also explore these amazing places alongside us!
Who are other designers that inspire you?
[MJ] Definitely Christophe Lemaire. I like his practical concept and overall warm tones. Some of his design works are very similar to what we pursue.
This is a quote of his that we resonate with:
"We are interested in the quality of life and we think about clothes as being part of everyday quality of life." - Lemaire
What’s your favorite piece in your SS18 collection?
[MJ] I have a couple of favorite pieces! Our Oversized shirt, Long Shirt Dress, and Masculine Jacket are all such simple and yet modern pieces that showcase our SS18 collection so well.
What’s it like to be a designer right now?
[MJ] I always wanted to be a designer from a young age (ever since I was 5 years old), so I am very happy with designing and styling pieces everyday. Getting to do what I really like is such a blessing, and it keeps me motivated. Seeing the creative community grow in this kind of industry is truly amazing, and I think being a designer is becoming such an important and unique thing more than ever.
What advice would you give someone that was interested in starting his or her own brand?
[MJ] You really have to have your own style and taste. You cannot make everybody happy, but If you like your own designs and you are satisfied with your quality and fit then it will all come together. I also recommend taking on different hats. Having experience in various aspects of the fashion industry will be so helpful in the long run.
[KN] I agree with Mijeong. You truly need to be open to different things and jobs. I remember Mijeong had to do fittings all day long as a fit model, even when her job was to be an assistant designer. She had to work late nights everyday and slept in all day long on Sundays to make up for the lack of sleep. But nonetheless, Mijeong liked her job and never complained about even doing lots of non-design related work or errands. It’s all part of the process.
Secondly, do not try to aim or sacrifice your personal style for mass-market consumers that are already taken by huge fashion companies. If you have your own taste and feel confident about your works, there will be customers out there suited for you. It will take some time in the beginning, but you will meet customers who understand your concepts and designs.
Lastly, make a good team of people who you can rely on for different strengths and talents. Like for instance, if you’re the creative mind behind it all, it would be smart to team up with someone who can do accounting and operations in the back end.
What’s your goal for the brand? Where would you like to see it in 5 years?
[MJ] I want to see our brand growing slowly and steadily with our customers for a long period of time. We are aiming to expand more into the European and Asian markets while still working towards our original mission: to provide timeless and classic pieces that can be functional to many individuals.
[KN] My goal is that we grow enough within the next 3 years and have two distribution centers – one in LA and one in Seoul. I would also love if we can have our own design studio in LA and develop a great, solid team to take on marketing, sales, customer service, etc.
Another major goal is to help more children globally through our business. To start off this goal, we decided to donate 5% of our online sales starting 2018 to help children who need proper education in more impoverished Los Angeles areas. As parents to Evan and members of the LA community, we feel that this is very important to do.
What does your perfect Saturday look like?
[MJ] I am usually wearing denim pants with an oversized shirt, sipping home-brewed coffee and relaxing in our home (which is slightly on the outskirts of Los Angeles). We love slow mornings and just being immersed in the nature that surrounds us.
Kevin and I are also spending more quality time with Evan on the weekends.
[KN] We also try to work out altogether (including Evan) as often as we can. Usually, we’ll go to the Los Angeles Athletic Club in for a family workout, and then grab dinner in Koreatown to grab a good, traditional Korean meal.
What are a few of your favorite neighborhood spots?
[MJ] We love grabbing drip coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee or a good brunch at Zinc Café, which are both nearby our office located in the Arts District of Downtown LA. It’s the perfect way to start the crazy workday.
In one word, how would you describe the Mijeong Park brand?
[MJ] Comfortable or Practical.
[KN] I think Mijeong Park is just Mijeong Park. She designs clothes based on what she really wants to wear every season. Her overall style never really has changed. She is heavily influenced by menswear and an overall masculine style (probably because her personality is like a tomboy, haha.)
SPECIAL THANKS TO WM GOODS:
[MJ/KN] Thank you so much for arranging an interview with us. We initially didn't like to reveal ourselves to the public, but we decided to communicate with customers more actively starting 2018. Hence, that’s also why we decided to change the brand name from “Achro” to “Mijeong Park”. Portland, Oregon is truly a special place for us, and has influenced how we run our brand and family life, like we mentioned previously! We cannot wait go to back Portland again early April when Evan has spring break.
We hope to connect with Whitney and the lovely team over at WM Goods! J
Much thanks to Mijeong and Kevin for welcoming us into their beautiful home for a coffee and a chat! Keep up with the brand on Instagram, and find them here at WM Goods! J