Designer Profile: Andrea Wong

Andrea Wong is no stranger to Much & Little. We’ve carried her beautiful products for quite a while now and are excited to share this interview with a local designer that we support and love! The Vancouver resident, along with her personal team, designs and produces handcrafted leather goods inspired by the Pacific Northwest. With a meticulous attention to detail, functionality, and visual appeal, Andrea Wong’s creations are timeless, attractive, and practical. Each product is unique, tells a story, and is meant to age gracefully with use and love.

You can find out more at: https://awbyandreawong.com/

Pictured above: Granville tote in caramel, Main backpack in black, Northwest crossbody bag in caramel (https://awbyandreawong.com/).

Pictured above: Granville tote in caramel, Main backpack in black, Northwest crossbody bag in caramel (https://awbyandreawong.com/).

It was our pleasure getting to know the designer in more depth; here’s a glimpse into her life and creative process:

1.   What was the inspiration behind the first AW by Andrea Wong collection?

“When I first began AW by Andrea Wong, it happened quite organically. I was taking some time off for the first time in over a decade after working as a full time designer in corporate fashion. I travelled quite a lot during my time as a clothing designer and had accumulated leather skins and beautiful handwoven and printed textiles. I began experimenting and working with the materials that I had on hand. I spent time enjoying the process and creativity brought on by these limitations.

Initially, I started producing bags without the intention to sell them. I wanted to give new life to these beautiful materials that I had just admired on a shelf, so it was important that they would also function well for everyday adventures. I started taking my studio projects more seriously when I had a friend come to visit and insist that I sell her a bag. Sometimes it just takes that one person to encourage you to take that leap. I ended up a bit backwards having the products first before I even had a logo or a brand name.”

2.   How do you ensure the uniqueness of your designs against the competition?

“Every item in my collection continues to be handcrafted; this is a slow but rewarding process. This also influences the way I design. I don’t want to be producing an item that someone could find in any leather line. If I am going to be spending the time to make a lovingly handcrafted item, I want to create a unique and functional design with quality materials that will age gracefully. My passion lies in the design process and less so in the business side of things. I enjoy spending my time thinking about specific details like closures, pockets and leather strap attachments to ensure that my designs are unique to my line and well thought out.”  

3.   Was there a particular motivation behind the need to focus on women’s accessories specifically? Do you plan to branch out into creating other types of products?

“I suppose the products I initially created were more feminine. However, my line has been moving into cleaner more architectural lines which is creating more gender neutral items. I started designing more tech focused items such as laptop cases and phone slings which is something that I would like to continue to explore.”  

4.   What is the aspect of your business that you take the most pride in?

“After designing for reputable clothing lines with regular visits overseas at the factory level, I knew when I started my business that it was important to me to keep things more localized. I am proud that I run an ethically sourced and locally produced business.”

5.   What is/has been the most challenging part of your journey as a designer?

“The most challenging aspect of my journey as a designer is growing my business without compromising the product or the values that I have instilled.” 

6.   What are some of your other hobbies, interests, and passions?

“I am most happy in the outdoors. If I am on a snowboard in the winter or camping along the coast in the summer, I am at ease. I have worked along side the DTES community for years and am now looking at different ways I can effectively input my skill set.”  

7.   As someone who appreciates what Vancouver has to offer, what is your favourite thing about this city? 

“The mountains and the ocean! In the summer you can have a sunset beach picnic after work. In the winter you can hit a local mountain and have a snowboard session after work – and that’s all just during the week!” 

8.   What do you hope to achieve in the future, personally and professionally? 

“When I began working on AW it was a very open and exploratory time. I am looking forward to returning to that mode of productive and playful uncertainty as I continue to explore other avenues. I don’t want to limit myself to just design but also more outdoor adventures involving back country camping and bike touring as well as community development work.”

Designer Profile: Kara Yoo

With summertime and special occasions such as Mother’s Day fast approaching, we are delighted to highlight some of our favourite artisans of the season. We had a chance to interview Kara Yoo, a good friend and regular contributor to Much and Little.

Catering to women of all ages, Kara Yoo started designing and creating jewelry in 2012. With a meticulous attention to detail and craftsmanship, Kara’s pieces are made with love right here in Vancouver. Use of high quality materials such as argentium sterling silver, gold fill, as well as solid gold ensures durability, versatility, and elegance for all Kara Yoo Jewelry products. You can find out more at: https://www.karayoo.com/

Pictured above: arc necklace, Claira cuff bracelet, three stick studs (https://www.karayoo.com/)

Pictured above: arc necklace, Claira cuff bracelet, three stick studs (https://www.karayoo.com/).

We hope you come in to take as much pleasure as we do in profiling these creative members of the Vancouver community:

1.   What inspired you to start your own business?

“My parents were entrepreneurs and owned several different businesses while I was growing up. They immigrated to Canada 40 years ago and have built a solid foundation for who I am today – I have always been inspired by their hard work and dedication.

With that in mind, I needed to figure out what kind of business I wanted to own. I learned how to make beaded jewellery from my sister in high school, and continued that hobby as a young adult. While in university, I did a case study on a successful Canadian jewellery brand – this sparked an interest in making my hobby into a business. In my last year at university, I met the founders of a successful NYC jewellery brand at a conference. Hearing their story, I knew immediately that a jewellery brand is what I wanted to pursue. I enrolled in a 2-year jewellery program at VCC to learn more advanced techniques, and started my business in the last year of school.”

2.   How would you explain your design philosophy?

“Whenever I design pieces, I always have in mind versatility (can this piece be worn on several different occasions?), wearability (is this piece practical to wear? Is it comfortable?) and price point (can my customers afford this piece?).”

3.   What does your choice of materials reflect about you?

“We use only hypoallergenic materials which means none of our materials contain nickel. We primarily use reclaimed precious metals such as sterling silver and gold-fill because they are hypoallergenic and high quality (they don’t leave your finger black!). Our choice in materials reflect the brand’s promise to create beautifully designed pieces that are practical and wearable.”

4.   Who do you create jewelry for (i.e. who is your audience)?

Most of our customers are 25-34 year-old females, who like to purchase from local or indie brands. Our customers are socially conscious.”

5.   What has been the most gratifying and the most challenging part of your journey as a designer?

“The most gratifying part of my job is hearing back from customers and creating meaningful work for my employees!

 The most challenging part of my journey is keeping up the momentum and pushing through the stressful times as a small business owner that often seem impossible to get through.”

6.   What are some of your other hobbies, interests, passions, motivations, and goals?

“I love to bake and craft in my spare time! I take up new hobbies every now and then like knitting, crocheting and calligraphy. I also enjoy travelling with my husband – we are moving to Berlin this June! One of my goals is to have new experiences and try things I’ve never done before – Life is short!”