An interview with Aein Hope, founder of oki tokki
Recently we got in touch Aein Hope the designer behind oki tokki, an online store selling adorable clothes, bags and accessories all inspired by Hangul and Korean culture and asked her to do an interview with us. She very kindly obliged and told us all about her work, her influences and what inspired her to create her unique work.
So without further ado, here is her interview:
First of all could you tell us a little about yourself, your background and oki tokki.
My name is Aein Hope and I’m country girl transplant now living in Los Angeles. My mother is Korean and my father is Scottish/German and being a half Korean, I love to learn more about my heritage and wanted to share it with others who have an interest in Korean culture… so I started oki tokki! The name “oki tokki” came from a bilingual pun I made up using the phrase “okie dokie” and the Korean word for bunny, “tokki.” I wanted the name for my business to be something related to both of my heritages and decided that the “punny” phrase I came up would be a perfect fit.
Because you have such a unique business concept could you tell us what inspired you to start oki tokki?
I believe that art is a wonderful way to share one’s culture and language, so with oki tokki I strive to maintain a positive, educational approach to my designs. Incorporating Korean influences into my designs is a way to help me discover and connect with the culture. I hope that people can learn little tidbits about Korean culture or language through my designs as well.
Your use of Hangul in your work is very unique, what inspired you to use this?
When I was a child, I always wanted things with Hangul written on them. Every time my mom took me to a Korean grocery store, I would look around for stickers or anything with Hangul. Later when I went to Korea for study abroad, I continued my search for shirts or accessories with Hangul or something distinctively Korean on it, but found mostly t-shirts with Engrish on them or mass-produced traditional art prints and calligraphy. So I decided to take it upon myself to create cute, modern designs with Hangul, while also being eco-friendly and handmade as well.
Why do you think people like your work?
When I made my first sale, I was so surprised! Just knowing that someone out there liked something I created, and is wearing it and using it makes me feel so humbled! I think perhaps because it’s different and unique, but most of all I think it’s because I’m sharing a part of me. Everything I make is something I would want, and I put lots of love and care in every step of the process–from the initial design to shipping it out to different parts of the world.
Do you think that since the increase of interest in Korean music and culture has increased your work has become more popular?
I think so! My Tokkin Gangnam Style buttons and shirts are doing well~ I think it’s great that more people are being introduced to Korean culture and music. I’m still in disbelief at how many views PSY’s Gangnam Style has gotten… and most of the views I read are from the United States!
Is there a particular type of clientele you attract or do you see all types of people buying your products?
My first customer was a lady who adopted a Korean girl–she bought the “Of Course! It’s the Carrot!” tote bag for her child to carry her books for Korean class in, which I think is such a sweet story. Many half Koreans and Korean Americans have messaged me saying that they love how I’m incorporating Korean things into my artwork. It’s a joy to wake up and read those kind of messages, it’s very motivating! Customers have also messaged me saying that wearing oki tokki jewelry or using the “Of Course, It’s the Carrot!” tote bag is a great way to find more people who were interested in Korea as well. My customers are fairly diverse, ranging from Korean Americans to simply people interested in Korean culture or language.
Where do you hope to be with oki tokki in the next five years?
I hope to be able to have my own studio office where I can expand with more jewelry collections and product lines, instead of working out of my living room office. I would love to be able to offer custom laser cut jewelry with my own laser cutting machine too!