Hangeul may simply be a means of communication to most Koreans, but for American Aein Hope, the creative mind behind jewelry and accessories line “oki tokki,” it’s a source of inspiration.
“I first started thinking about starting oki tokki back in 2008, when I designed a t-shirt with Hangeul for my Korean class. I had lots of positive feedback from it and I felt confident that designing things in Hangeul was something I could possibly pursue,” the Los Angeles-based, half-Korean told The Korea Herald.
The venture’s name is itself a play on the Korean language, being a marriage of “okey dokey” and “tokki,” the Korean word for bunny.
“I wanted the name for my business to be something related to both of my heritages and decided that punny phrase I came up would be a perfect fit,” Hope said.
Hope’s creations range from earrings and necklaces, to bags and T-shirts, all of which are inspired by the Korean language or other cultural motifs. Hope designs and crafts everything herself by hand.
|Earrings designed around the Korean word for “love”|
|An “oki tokki” bag playing on the popular Korean expression “carrot!”|
It was during her first trip to Korea two years ago that she noticed the lack of Korea-specific designs and was moved to do something about it.
“Later when I went to Korea for study abroad, I looked again for T-shirts or jewelry with Hangeul or something distinctively Korean on it, but found mostly T-shirts with ‘Engrish’ on them. I realized that apparel and accessories featuring Hangeul were not widely available ― especially ones specifically tailored for English-speaking lovers of Korea.”
For Hope, “oki tokki” is a lot more than a business venture ― it is also a form of catharsis.
“While growing up, I faced a lot of racism and prejudice in my hometown. It took me a long time to become comfortable with myself and grow out of the pain, hurt and rejection from my youth. It’s still a work in progress, but learning more about my heritage has helped me slowly overcome it. Incorporating Korean influences into my designs is a way to help me discover and connect with my culture,” she said.
Seeing the reaction to her work from others of Korean heritage has also been a great encouragement to her.
“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 kinds of messages, it’s very motivating!”
Hope has had her creations shipped as far afield as France, Singapore and Norway. She has yet to have her first Korean customer, but is pleased with the feedback she has received from people here.
“I know one customer bought the ‘Of Course, It’s the Carrot!’ tote bag (‘Carrot!’ is a popular Korean expression meaning ‘Of course!’) to send to his girlfriend in Korea. I have received some positive feedback from Koreans in Korea and I’m always humbled to hear it.”
For now, Hope’s business is small but that isn’t stopping her from thinking big.
“I do hope to expand with more collections and product lines and maybe have ‘oki tokki’ products offered in some specialty art shops. In the near future, I will be releasing more jewelry, including necklaces and hopefully create more screen printed shirts and bags!”
You can learn more about “oki tokki” as well as order accessories at okitokki.com.
By John Power (email@example.com)