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Culture Clash


Photographed by Phu Nguyen



GROWING UP WITH TWO SISTERS AND A MOTHER, EACH WITH A PENCHANT FOR HIGH-END HANDBAGS, DESIGNER KACY YOM LEARNED AN EARLY LESSON ABOUT THE POWER OF FASHION. “I saw how the women in my family used handbags as an expression of individuality and creativity, Yom says one day in her studio on the eastern slope of Queen Anne. “As I got older and started carrying my own purses, people would compliment them and it gave me a strong feeling of confidence.”


Yom, who launched her own eponymous handbag line last October, didn’t jump directly into the fashion world after college. She spent five years working in user experience design at Expedia, and had a handbag boutique, Arm Candy, in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood for a few years. When the economy tanked in 2008, Yom re-entered the corporate world with stints at REI and Amazon, but soon found herself wanting more of a creative challenge. “I had always thought about designing my own handbags,” she says, “and I finally one day thought, ‘I’m not getting any younger’ and made the leap.”


“I took colors from the bokjumeoni, or lucky bag, as well as the hanbok [a traditional special occasion dress for women]. It’s subtle, but it’s a nod to my history and culture.” -Kacy Yom, designer

Kacy Yom luxury handbags and wallets each start with a hand-drawn sketch, then Yom takes her design and creates 3-D, to-scale models out of paper grocery bags to get a feel for the shape and size. The models are sent to a factory in Italy (“I went through so many factories trying to find the right one!” she laments), which produces a prototype for final inspection before manufacturing small runs of each structured bag. Currently, Yom has four purse styles and a wallet in her line. Each bag is made from premium Italian leather (either pebbled or smooth) and comes in a selection of colors inspired by her Korean heritage. “I took colors from the bokjumeoni, or lucky bag, as well as the hanbok [a traditional special occasion dress for women],” and used them in my first collection,” she says. “It’s subtle, but it’s a nod to my history and culture.”



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