Armed with a degree in business marketing from Seattle University and a background primarily in the tech world, Kacy Yom, interestingly enough, always had a knack for accessories—handbags especially. After graduation, though, Yom found herself back in school again. This time she went to the Art Institute of Seattle to study graphic design. Then the tech industry started booming, and she landed a job as a product designer at Expedia. After five years, Yom decided to leave her cushy tech job to pursue her dreams of owning a handbag boutique.
She traveled to trade shows in Paris and London to source designer handbags—the whole experience, she says, makes you fall in love. The new shop-owner brought back a curated collection of finds to her little store in Ballard called Arm Candy. But after only a couple of years the economy tanked and she closed the doors to her shop, both brick-and-mortar and online. Back to the tech world Yom went. She had stints at REI and Amazon as a user-experience designer until the handbag world beckoned her again. This time around, though, she's designing and developing handbags all her own. —Elizabeth Podlesnik
I left Amazon in 2015 to pursue my dreams. A lot of time was spent teaching myself everything I needed to know. The hardest thing was finding a decent manufacturer. I had discovered a small mom-and-pop factory in Florence, Italy. After several emails and calls and being neglected for years, I finally heard back from them—Italians don't respond to email, they don't call you back, they won't do anything until you go over there and show up in person. So I bought a one-way ticket to Florence and spent a month at the factory getting to know the multigenerational family and perfecting my designs. We've built a great relationship over time. In the summer of 2017, we went into full production and officially launched Kacy Yom in Seattle during fall of 2017.
The Soh-Lee collection, a word that means “sound, voice” in Korean, is meant to embody the many expressions of personal style, empowering each person who carries our handbags to declare their distinctive look. A huge part of my design inspiration comes from my background and heritage. The bright colors are derived from hanbok, traditional Korean attire typically worn in traditional ceremonies and festivals; and each handbag has been titled after a Korean word.
Kacy Yom is an independent company rooted in the slow fashion movement and high quality. I care just as much about the design process as I do about the working conditions in which our bags are made. Going to the factory...building those relationships and seeing how everything is made is really important to me. My leather tannery is doing amazing things to minimize the impact on the environment.
I thrive off of fear and the challenges I'm faced with daily. I work with creative consultants that help me to understand the ins and outs of the fashion industry. I don't consider myself a fashionista. There's this famous quote that says you can make or break the outfit with accessories, and that's what handbags are for me.
My line is inspired by traditional design and a little playful innovation. I like structure, minimalistic style, and simple lines but I also love color. By combining them all, you create an interesting dynamic and juxtaposition.
It's very rewarding when I see my product on people. I love how they incorporate my design into their own personal style. It's so surreal and I'm eternally grateful. Maintaining a personal relationship with my clientele fuels me to keep going.