Underline recently had the chance to interview a new brand showcasing Korean history and tradition through streetwear: ONSAEMIRO. Despite not yet having a full collection, the brand stands to gain traction due to it’s founder’s ambition as it matures and progresses through it’s early stages.
How did ONSAEMIRO get started and why did you start it?
ONSAEMIRO started as a little side project earlier this year while I was attending college. I’ve always been interested in graphic design and fashion so the initial development of the brand was pretty organic. Even though I’m a business major, I’ve always had creative itches and I think ONSAEMIRO was the one creative project that continuously satisfied that itch. I thoroughly enjoyed every part of the initial development of the brand. Trying to find the concept for the brand, designing initial mockups, testing samples — all of it. It was awesome to see my vision materialize onto apparel that others, including myself, would wear.
Your brands name, ONSAEMIRO, what is it’s meaning?
It’s a Korean word for pure, unbroken, untouched, untainted — that type of meaning. It’s from a set of words called 순우리말(soon-oo-ri-mal) which loosely translates to “our pure words”. In essence, it’s a traditional Korean word that isn’t used much, if at all, in everyday conversation. I chose it because it’s a pretty word and it’s something different that people could identify with. I also wanted to separate myself from the brands that tack on a “Collective” or “Clothing” to a random word for their brand name. I’m not trying to downplay brands that have words like that in their brand’s name, but I feel like there’s so many brands with names like that now. Your brand’s name is a huge part of your brand’s identity, so that’s why I picked something a little more unique for my brand.
What is the main motivation behind your brand?
My motivation comes from my desire to be creative, simple as that. I grew up studying hard and playing sports to please my parents so I didn’t get much time to be creative. I was either doing homework or getting ready for a game. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m happy I did those things because it taught me a lot of life lessons and good habits but it sucked not being able to create something. Once I got into college, I had a lot more free time on my hand and that’s when I started getting more into my creative side. So right now, I’m just on a creative spree and it feels awesome knowing that other people appreciate it enough to follow my brand so closely even though I’ve just begun.
What is the inspiration behind ONSAEMIRO?
First and foremost, it’s inspired by Korean culture and history. Being Asian myself, I’ve always had a lot of interest in the culture and history of Asian countries, especially Korea and Japan. I’ve also always had a lot of fun studying world history in general, especially World War II, Korean War, and Cold War history, so a lot of my inspiration obviously comes from that. My girlfriend is also Korean so it’s cool to be able to do something that I truly enjoy while also learning more about her culture.
Is there anyone within the streetwear community or anywhere else that inspires you and your brand?
IISE is a Korean brand that inspires me a lot with their take on Korean heritage mixed with modern pieces. I don’t think there’s one thing they’ve put out that I haven’t liked. Everything they do is amazing and I respect how much they’ve grown over the years. Honestly, after I finalized my first batch of shirts, I realized I wanted to do something a lot more cohesive and minimal for my next launch and I feel that IISE represents that realm of design really well. I do want to blur the lines between high-end brands like IISE and brands like mine into something really unique that people haven’t seen yet while being at a reasonable price point. I already have some great ideas planned for the next release and it’ll be different from what I first put out but it’ll still retain my own aesthetic. Anyways, if you guys don’t know of IISE, go check out their stuff at their website: http://ii-se.co/. I hope to put out product as great as theirs in the future, and hopefully collaborate with them as well. I know that’s a long way off and I still have a lot to prove (to others and myself) but that would be a dream come true.
What were the most difficult hurdles to overcome while developing your brand?
It was really difficult to accept “being done” with a design. Even now, I still feel like my designs aren’t done or the best I could have made them. I have a folder with dozens of designs that were supposed to be released in lieu of others but ended up being pulled out because I couldn’t settle with a final four. My brother, who’s a musician, says that never being satisfied with your creation is something that artists in all fields regularly go through and it’s just something that you have to learn to accept if you want to continue to be an artist. It’s definitely given me a lot to think about but as of right now, it still bothers me just as much. I’m hoping that my next release will put those feelings away.
Is there any potential for ONSAEMIRO to integrate cut n’ sew into its clothing?
Definitely. I’m making it a point to make every piece from the next release cut n’ sew as well as manufactured in the U.S. It’ll require a lot of upfront investment but I believe in my vision enough to make that jump.
What’s the story behind designs of the two shirts you have coming up for release?
The inspiration for these two new shirts come from the new direction I’m trying to push the brand in. I really want to tap into that blend of Korean culture (and Asian culture in general) and streetwear aesthetic and I feel like I’m accomplishing that with this small drop. The first shirt features a flower drawing with the brand’s name written in hangul and hanzi. The second shirt features a traditional Korean hanbok sleeve design. Both are really simple designs but I feel like Korean design and modern streetwear share that characteristic. I hope people can feel and see the inspiration from both worlds.
Can you see yourself continuing to pursue the streetwear scene in the future?
I’m only 22 so I definitely see myself still being in the streetwear scene for a little bit, but I eventually plan to mature the brand as well as I get older and gain more experience and knowledge. I feel that would be more natural for me. However, nothing’s ever set in stone, plans can change. Obviously, I’ll never change what ONSAEMIRO tries to encapsulate, which is unique Asian-inspired design that pushes boundaries on all fronts.