Guest editor: Sarah Nami Ahn

Monday, June 4, 2012

What are 3 items that every girl should own?
1. Platform heels: well for petite girls like myself (I'm 4'11.5" tall), I love platform heels for both height and confort.
2. Compassion
3. Confidence

Who is your style icon?
Alber Elbez. I love his work. The women that wear Lanvin look effortlessly beautiful. And I like his bow ties, I'd like to learn how to tie a proper bow tie from him one of these days if I ever get the opportunity to be in his presence. I love his himble answers here:

What is your favorite store?
Target... my husband and I like to go there after dinner on Friday nights as part of our "date night". I like rummaging through the $1 bins near the entrance. In Japan, I love this all-purpose store called "Tokyu Hands". I bought a $6 fake egg with an angry cartoon face on it to hold my hardboiled egg. I know... it's a little ridiculous but I love it.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Working with people that don't keep their appointments! I guess this can occur anywhere but I found it to be more frequent in this industry compared to my previous field of employment.

What made you want to be a fashion designer?
I think 3 key events really made me land where I am today as a fashion designer...
1. I grew up as an Army Brat. My parents are 1st generation immigrants from Korea but they saved and saved to offer my brother and I a comfortable middle class life this included hand-me-down clothes from my older cousins in New York. They were tall and so we'd always had to alter what we got to make it not only fit correctly on us but to make it look "cool". The popular kids in my elementary school were wearing Guess Jeans, Hypercolor t-shirts, Umbro shorts... it was hard to compete when your parents refused to buy you new clothes or simply couldn't. I also knew I was obsessed with fashion very early because one of my earliest memories with clothes and fabric was when I roamed around our small Sun Prairie, Wisconsin home in my mom's gigantic green circle maxi skirt. I twirled around in that skirt for hours.
2. Family member near-tragedy. My younger brother came out of the US Army and bought a motorcycle. He was riding on Sunset Blvd near Malibu when he hit an unmarked pothole. He lost control of his bike and swerved into on-coming traffic and hit an SUV's windshield with his head... so hard that both the windshield and his helmet cracked. He landed back onto the right side of the road and was rushed to UCLA Medical Center. There... he was induced into a 2 month coma to allow his swelling brain to rest and heal. I came back from Chicago where I was doing a post-doctoral fellowship at Northwestern University, joined my retired parents in taking 24 hour shifts to make sure that he was never alone. After living in the hospital with my brother for 6 months, he was well enough to come home to my parents. I went back to my post-doc but found doing surgery in my research to be difficult... I cried nearly everyday. I found that my research subject's struggle for life to be too close to my brother's. So I started thinking about what else I could do as a career... my husband encouraged me to pursue my love of the arts.
3. 2,000 lbs of clothes. I thought... but what field in the arts? I know I didn't want to be a starving artist. After careful thought... I decided on fashion design because well... I own 2,000 lbs of clothes. I know this for a fact because when my husband and I moved from LA to Chicago, we had a 5,000 lb limit. ha. I applied

Biggest highlight of your job so far?
Every other day has become the biggest highlight because things are happening very quickly, the company is growing quickly. When I started NAMI last June... I would have been happy with a trunk show but was able to show at NYFW and LAFW within my first season. Then, I would have been happy with whatever media coverage I could get but found that WWD was going to attend my first season show in LA. And now in my second season, I am confirmed as a designer for Mercedes-Benz China Fashion Week in Beijing this October! Don't get me wrong... I have lofty goals but I'm still grateful for the steady climb up to the top.

Your dutites as the creater of Nami?
What is a typical workday look like? I don’t have a typical day… everyday there’s something different. Just think of a juggler… and that’s what you are as a fairly newly formed business owner. Without giving away too many of the secrets, here’s what I do in no particular order: concepts sketching, draping, sewing, emailing, rummaging through inventory in my warehouse, coordinating photo shoots, negotiating costs of mass production, updating company website, designing business cards, paying customs tax, taking orders from buyers, shipping items to celebrities, fittings with celebs, lugging my collection to runway shows, editorial shoots, product shoots, maintaining online store, steaming, networking, attending a gazillion shows at Mercedes-Benz China Fashion Week , emailing, picking fabrics, researching color trends, flying to meet your samplemaker, interviews for media/press, speaking with an attorney about contracts, meetings with my publicist, meetings with showrooms, attending networking events that includes my collection, going to panels (i.e. SXSW Style X or UCLA Career Center), oh and did I mention emailing? And finally… I end the day with a moment on Facetime with my hubby to recount my “typical” workday. - Taken from NAMI tumblr
If you had the opportunity to dress anyone who would it be?
Marilyn Monroe. I would have said someone different before I saw the movie "My Week with Marilyn" while on a plane recently to Beijing. I never really knew much about her but the way the movie portrayed her... I felt strangely connected to her, related to her. She's beautiful, vulnerable, charming, and just oozes with femininity and glamour.
What is your Favorite beauty product?
I'm sorta a tomboy... I don't wear much make-up but I never leave the house without my liquid eyeliner from Almay, Jet Black, I've been using it for 13yrs! My only other item that I use is lipstick but not for my lips. I dab it onto my checks as blush, it lasts longer... something I learned from a magazine when I was 16 and it's stuck with me ever since! And Carmex... yes, this is for my lips. I'm sorta addicted to its menthol-y cooling affect. Same as with make-up... I want to exude the concept of "effortless beauty"... it's not too contrived. Many of the most beautiful things on earth just happened naturally.
Do you have any advice for aspiring fashion designers and business owners?
Advice of aspiring fashion designers... Internships: Please intern at as many firms as you can before you decide to go into this field or ANY field for that matter. The only way of really knowing what it'll be like to do this as a JOB on a daily basis is to try it out. Internships while you're still a student is a great way to gain valuable experience and figure out what you do/don't like about the position.

As for the business owners part of the question... write a business plan, do your research, get an attorney to look it over and find a friend who has an MBA for advice as well. Probably the best way also is to ask another start-up company owner what they're going through. I was introduced to one through a friend that I went and built bamboo homes in Nepal with... she has become a great mentor to me as she is building her organic baby clothing company called Balyna. Whenever we get together, we compare notes on how our respective businesses are going... it's a nice form of group therapy for all that it takes to run a small business.

To contact Sarah please email:
Company website:

Special thanks to Sarah for taking the time to answer these questions. I saw her debut fashion show at Los Angeles Fashion Week and I was inspired by her story. Thanks so much Sarah!


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