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One Language Label at Nordstrom: Student Designers Create

The hottest new bag you’ll be seeing at Nordstrom this spring was designed by a girl who’s sitting in class at college as we speak. You may not have thought that the words “eco-friendly canvas” and “stylish” could be used in the same sentence, but Anais and Lillian Yim have started a line of chic, inspirational bags that does just that. I got to talk with Anais, a senior Parsons School of Design Communication Design major (and the younger sister of the duo), and here’s what she had to say about their fresh, new fashion innovation they call One Language Label. Her Campus: In three words, how would you describe the style of One Language? Anais Yim: Fresh, modern, and simple.

HC: How (and when) did you come up with the idea to start the line?
AY: We first came up with the idea about two years ago when the whole eco-friendly concept was just starting to get really big, and we were seeing all these canvas bags on everyone; but they were either really generic, granola-looking, or super flimsy. We were also going through a point in our lives where we wanted to do good things for the Earth, to contribute somehow, but in a way that was modern, yet subtle, and most of all fashionable (not a trend that would just come and go).

HC: How did you come up with the name, One Language?
AY: The name was something that my sister came up with. We both wanted a name that represented something to feel good about and love is the universal language. Love is the one language that everyone knows. One Language stands for doing good things for yourself (hence the inspirational quotes) and the earth, but with style. We thought it was perfect for what we wanted to create!

HC: What type of girl do you think really falls in love with your bags?
AY: It’s the girl that has a strong sense of style, and is confident in herself. She appreciates the fashion forward, but also appreciates clean and simple designs done in a modern way. She’s aware of sustainable materials, and realizes how our bags are the perfect merger of chic style and function.

HC: Which parts of the business do you take care of and which parts does your sister? AY: We definitely make all the final decisions as a team but I’m more in charge of the design/visual aspect of the brand, coming from a design background, and my sister Lillian pretty much handles all the business side of things, coming more from a business/fashion background.

HC: How have you managed to balance running a business with still being in school? AY: It takes lots of determination and I couldn’t have managed the business if I wasn’t passionate about it. I never really thought of it as work, more like something I really, really wanted and needed to do. It takes a lot of time management and I try to incorporate the things that I learn and practice at school into the business. It helps that I go to a design school.

HC: How many pieces are in your collection?
AY: We currently have six design prints in our first collection. We are in the works for designing our second collection with new shapes and prints for the fall that we’re really excited about!

HC: What are you inspired by when you work on a design?
AY: Our everyday life inspires us, as well as the city of New York. You see and hear so much here on this tiny island; you feel like you’re in the center of it all. Other designers in the fashion/art world influence us as well, of course; their stories and designs make us want to work and create something equally as beautiful and inspiring. We really try to absorb as much as we can from what we read, see, and hear, and try to incorporate it into our line.

HC: Do you create all of the designs?
AY: Yes, we both do the designing. Lillian and I are constantly finding inspiration every day here in the city and we’re always sketching, taking pictures, or tearing out spreads from magazines. Our walls are just covered with fabric, tear sheets, pics and sketches we’ve collected throughout.

HC: Are there any constraints to using the 100% natural canvas?
AY: Not at all. 100% natural cotton canvas means that the cotton hasn’t been dyed or bleached in any way with harsh chemicals, it’s the cotton in its natural state. We love the texture and look that this gives the bags.

HC: Do you use any of the bags yourself? Which ones?
AY: My favorite is the bicycle bag and my sister uses the haute bag constantly.
Here’s Anais’s fave!
And Lillian can be seen rocking this one!

HC: How many stores have bought your line to sell in their stores?
AY: This year really started out strong for us with the line getting picked up by so many boutiques from a trade show we attended in January. Steven Alan was one of the first boutiques to carry our line here in U.S. We also have a very strong relationship with boutiques in Japan, and we are now going to be carried in Dubai, which is very exciting for us!

HC: What kind of feedback have you gotten since you’ve started?
AY: The feedback has been overwhelmingly fantastic! I would’ve never imagined that in such a short amount of time, we would’ve gotten the type of response that we’ve been getting. It really proves that if you create something that you truly believe in and put it out there, people will respond. You can’t fake passion or love for what you do because it shows in your product. People, friends, strangers, magazine editors, fashion bloggers, boutiques, have all responded with such encouragement and support. We’re so thankful and just want to keep doing what we do because we love it.

HC: How do you spread the word about your line?
AY: Being such a small line, communicating back and forth with editors, stylists, and buyers is something that we are constantly doing by phone, e-mail, and sending out samples.

HC: Who designed the website? It looks great! One Language Label 
AY: The layout of the website was designed by a very close friend of ours, Connie Makita! She’s an amazing graphic designer and we were excited to have her help us build our brand. It was great because we were able to work so closely with her, and she knew exactly what we wanted and understood the brand. You can view some of her other designs at Connie Makita.

HC: What’s in store for One Language? Do you have any more bag designs (or other items) in the works?
AY: Definitely. We just got picked up by some major companies such as Nordstrom and Theory for this spring / summer season! We also just received our new samples for our fall bags. So YES, we definitely have more in store for our line. We just started a twitter http://twitter.com/One_Language and Facebook page [search under the name “One-Language”] to keep our new fans updated!

HC: What has been the hardest or most frustrating part of starting your own line?
AY: Starting any business on your own is not a small feat. There are many times of rejection and discouragement, but you’ve just got to keep going and not give up. At the end of the day, when done right, it’s very rewarding. We still can’t believe we’re here, doing what we do.

HC: Overall, has the process of getting this whole project up on its feet been what you expected?
AY: It’s everything and more. It’s really amazing what you can accomplish when you really are passionate about something and believe in what you’re doing. I don’t think we ever expected things to happen this fast, and we’re so grateful for every step that we make with this line. We don’t take anything for granted and want to continue to make great products that we can share.

HC: What advice would you give to girls wanting to start their own business, like you and your sister did?
AY: Find something you love and stick with it. In this world where the line between fantasy and reality can sometimes get blurred, it’s important to not get caught up with the hype of this ‘glamorous’ fashion world. If you’re going to design, design for yourself first, because you know you’re going to love doing it.
So there you have it. And if the Yim sisters’ emerging success story doesn’t move you, just buy one of their bags where you’ll find handwritten inspirational quotes on the inside lining. Anais’s favorite? A quote from Albert Einstein: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Not very surprising – just look how far trying something new got her!

Source: Anais Yim, senior at Parsons School of Design One Language Label

Caitlin Hardgrove is a senior at James Madison University, concentrating in Print Journalism in the School of Media Arts and Design. In combination with her Music Industry minor, she hopes to one day write for a music magazine publication. Caitlin is also a member of JMU’s dance team, The Dukettes, and their dance club, Madison dance. She has written for the university’s bi-weekly newspaper and interned at InSight, a magazine highlighting life in Montgomery County, MD (her home town). Although her study abroad trip to Ireland last summer will be very hard to top, she hopes to live at the beach this summer after she graduates and work for Delaware Beach Life magazine.
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