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[Herald Interview] ‘Being a brand is being responsible’

Very few South Korean low-to-mid-range accessory makers survived after the influx of cheaper Chinese products in the 2000s. They remained anonymous as outsourcers for the global market or nestled in online markets.

JMarkers, the company behind the accessory brands accessory kitchen and Rustik, is a rare breed, building up its own brand and exporting products under its own brand. Established in 2011 by Jake Han and Jeen Park, JMarkers runs seven stores and sells its tems at two select shops. It also has a presence in China, Japan and North America. 
Products of JMarkers’ brands accessory kitchen and Rustik (JMarkers)
Products of JMarkers’ brands accessory kitchen and Rustik (JMarkers)

Han noted that the secret to their success ― though the firm is in a very early stage, he stresses ― is to take full responsibility for the product.

“As lame as it may sound, when you are an anonymous outsourcer in this heavily competitive and volatile accessories market, it is easy to overlook corporate responsibility. Customers even throw away their earrings when they see a glitch one morning. But from the very beginning, we thought being different comes from how credible we are,” he said.

All items of accessory kitchen and Rustik are given a six-month warranty, and even after the warranty expires, the firms’ designers try to communicate with customers who need their purchases repaired, which often results in the creation of a totally different product in the end.

In order to meet the different demands from different countries, the company has designed more than 1,500 items instead of simply concentrating on merchandising. Creative director Jeen Park and two in-house designers as well as six freelancers produce 50-60 new items every month, and try to adapt to the different needs of customers in different markets.

“Our Japanese customers are still quite conservative and prefer very basic items while the Chinese love gold colors. Koreans like moderation … Americans love bohemian style. Understanding the needs of our customers is the key to being responsible to them,” Park said.

“I tell our workers to appreciate those who complain or demand something. It means that they really want to keep the products instead of throwing them away,” Park said. “I tell them that once the customers realize that we are listening to them, they will come back to us and keep looking for us. That’s what we call a brand,” she said.

By Bae Ji-sook (
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Korea Herald daum