Eunice Kim founded her e-comm fashion brand Here/Now only one year ago, but it’s already taking the fashion world by storm. With almost 17,000 Instagram followers, Kim built her brand on little more than social media and word of mouth. Even before Kim launched product on her website, Eva Chen was a fan. Once Chen posted a photo of Here/Now’s Pompom sneakers in one of her famous taxi cab accessory snaps, Barneys took notice…and that was just one month in business. Nordstrom followed, and Bergdorf Goodman will begin selling the brand in February (and that’s in addition to other boutiques Kim has entered around the world). So what’s next? A collaboration with graffiti artist Flore and a fast-fashion brand. Welcome to the future!
Why did you decide to start Here/Now?
I was thinking about what I like to wear and what I like to buy and how I can get my idea into a product that other girls my age and style would want to buy too. I took a really “real girl” approach to it. I felt that if I genuinely want to see a product out there, then there are probably other girls out there that want to see it too.
Your pom-pom shoes have been such a hit. Was that your first creation?
Yes. Pom-poms were trending and I’m a sneakers girl—I live in sneakers. We have all of these great designer brands out there—I love designer, don’t get me wrong—but I’m not able to buy $800 fur sneakers on the regular. So I needed to come up with a solution for myself. Luckily, I’ve been blessed with a lot of friends in the fashion and production industry, so I was able to reach out to them and say, “Hey, I want a sneaker with fur on it that’s going to be trendy and cool that I can wear in the office and not feel like I’m wearing a pair of Nikes.”
Where do you produce?
I’m from Korea, and because I go back so often, I have a lot of friends there. They all work in fashion and production. I was born in L.A. and I moved to New York five years ago. I met a lot of great and talented minds when I was in school at Parsons who then went back to Korea and either started working on their own brand or working for bigger brands. That’s how I got connected and how I’m able to have our products handmade.
Were you always planning to sell via Instagram and your own e-comm vertical?
I was thinking about how we shop these days, and personally, I discover the most through Instagram. I still discover some things through traditional magazines or blogs, but now that I’m on Instagram most of the day, I was finding that I was able to shop off Instagram. Given that I’m a team of one here—the rest of the team is in Korea—I needed to find a way to streamline it and make it accessible for everybody on this budget that I have. Instagram was the way to go, and luckily I have a few friends in the influencer community like Marianna Hewitt of Life With Me, Kimberly Lapides of Eat Sleep Wear, Jenny Ong of Neon Blush, and Beca Alexander. Their support was so pivotal in getting the word out there. I think the reason why it happened so quickly is because it was social. So I focused on creating content on Instagram, and then I built a site to help with the backend and the orders.
Facebook’s Eva Chen was also spotted rocking your pom-pom shoes on Instagram. How did she find you?
That was really cool, especially because she has such an influence in shoes and accessories with her posts. It started when I was on my way to our first-ever shoot. I had gotten my friend Chloe, who looks amazing in clothes, to wear the sneakers. We did some street style shots around the city. On the way, I said, “Ok, I’m going to do an ‘Eva Chen post’ of my shoes.” The week we launched, I put it up with #evachenpost and tagged her. She responded with “Major accessories envy! What is this?” So of course, I flipped out and I sent her a pair of shoes. Since then she’s been so supportive. Not long after that, Barneys reached out. I had only been in business for about a month. I had to bring my personal pair, because I didn’t have samples yet!
Zara created a knock-off of your pom-pom sneakers. How do you feel about that?
I think it’s awesome. Who would ever think that Zara or Steve Madden, or any of those brands, would even look at such a small brand like me for inspiration? There’s something to the shoes, and people love to copy them. But it validates what I’ve done and I’m proud to be the one who originated the idea. And yes, they’re a cheaper price point, but I also feel like they are for a different type of girl. I would spend a little bit more for what’s real and have the texture and the look that’s not as mass or cheap quality. I was shocked, but I wasn’t offended by it.
What was next after the pom-poms?
Our embroidered sneakers. All of our shoes are meant to be fun and whimsical. Our followers are very engaged, and they email or Instagram DM me to tell me stories about how they got noticed on the street in my products. I found out about the Steve Madden copy through them, because I don’t really shop there. They were asking me what I was going to do next, so I asked them what they were seeing out there that was making them excited. I wanted to continue the sneaker thing, but we were approaching the summer months so I wanted to do something that was non-fur. So I created the embroidered sneakers, which are a little bit mis-matched, because I like everything to be a little bit different. They do well on the West Coast.
Next you ventured into jackets. Explain!
I wanted to do jackets because we were getting into the colder months. I also wanted to expand categories. Shearling jackets are something that all the girls are coveting right now, so I just started with those. They’re doing really well. All of our pieces are eye-catching—they make a girl stand out. The metallic leather shearling jackets and the tie dye jackets were really the jumping off point for the limited-edition jacket we just launched.
What does the limited-edition jacket entail?
I wanted to make this jacket for awhile, because it’s inspired by one that I had when I was 2 years old. My dad, who knows absolutely nothing about fashion, bought me this jacket on a business trip in Paris. There was a painted robot motif on the back with one gold sleeve and one turquoise sleeve and a gold hood. I wore it everywhere. My dad liked that everyone would stop us when I was wearing it to tell him how cute his baby was. I think that’s really the whole impetus for Here Now Shop—to make those attention-grabbing pieces.
You collaborated with graffiti artist Christopher “Flore” Florentino on the jackets. How did that come about?
I didn’t want to copy the robot motif from my childhood jacket. It needed something more. I had always been interested in art, and street art is something that I’ve always been following. Christopher was a perfect fit for the jackets, because his style is very much in line with this spacey, fun look. He’s emerging too—we’re both right on the cusp. I reached out to him, and he was interested, but he had a bunch of projects going on for Art Basel, so it took some convincing. Once I told him the story and why we were doing this, he got me.
How many jackets will be available?
Twenty-five jackets at $2,500 each. They’ll be available next week. Every jacket has been hand painted by Christopher. They are all unique. I wore one when I was at Art Basel and I sold two of them before they’ve even been posted to the site. If this does well, I think we’ll be doing more together.
Where do you see the brand in the next five years?
We’re really fluid so we can create pieces as we go. I know big fashion labels have their production mapped out a year in advance, but I can move with the times and with what girls want. I created the pom-pom shoes for myself in October of 2015 and then came up with the idea to start the brand on December 3, 2015. So I quickly had 200 pairs made in two weeks and I built a website on Squarespace—we just upgraded. I launched everything on December 15, 2015. Originally, I thought I was going to sell 200 pairs and use the money to go to Paris. That was my goal [Laughs]. Of course, I didn’t end up going. Every vacation day I have I use to go to Korea to visit the factories. But before this, I was always interested in the fast-fashion industry. That’s really what I want to focus on and develop going forward now that I have a following. Zara and Asos are brands that I shop, so I want to see how I can add to the mix so that we’re not all wearing Zara and Asos. I have a really talented team in Korea that allows me to pivot and move quickly. I might not be able to produce the volume of Zara or Asos, but for my audience, there might be something coming that’s exciting for them. You’ll start seeing a little bit of that early next year.