Jee Kim Designs Bags for Men on the Go

Story by James S. Kim. 

Men and Their Baggage
Designer Jee Kim, founder of Peasants & Travelers, creates stylish and functional bags for men, who were actually quite the bag innovators a few centuries ago.

 

It doesn’t take a fashionista to understand the relationship between women and bags. Synonymous, symbiotic, or both—it just takes a quick walk down the street of any downtown urban center to spot these two going hand in hand, or perhaps, on the shoulder or across the chest. Purses, totes, carryalls and clutch bags and more make up the diverse world of women’s bags.

It’s hard to imagine now that men once dominated the bag scene. But that’s where Jee Kim, designer and founder of the San Francisco-based men’s bag company Peasants & Travelers finds inspiration for her work.

Jee Kim. Photo by Narith Ta.

Jee Kim. Photo by Narith Ta.

“Back in the 18th century, it was the peasants who carried their owners’ belongings in makeshift satchels during travel. It was also the men who traveled long distances alone before women could, thus making them the first true carriers of ‘bags,’” she said.

Her company, as well as its name, pays homage to these early bag innovators.

Peasants & Travelers looks to bring together the oft-mutually exclusive qualities of fashionable and functional in men’s bags. Pay no heed to the jeers of “man purse” and the like. There’s something else for men besides the standard backpack or briefcase. Despite what many may think, there is a growing market for men’s bags, and Kim has built a solid footing for herself as a designer and businesswoman.

Kim, who grew up in Maryland, said she had high dreams of being in fashion and running her own business.  After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York with a merchandising degree, she secured a job with Gucci, the first of several brands that she would eventually add to her resume.

For over 10 years, Kim worked at brands that included Neiman Marcus, Banana Republic and William Sonoma. Her work took her all over the world, but it was her travels in Asia, specifically Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, that kindled her artist’s spark.

“I’ve always had a fascination with bags [and] their function,” she said. “A good shoulder bag [for example] frees your hands for multitasking. I noticed that men [in Asia] utilized bags as a fashion statement. The bag was a prominent part of the outfit. They didn’t seem to peg the bag with a gender, but embraced it.

“It was only a matter of time before American men would follow and expect more stylish bag options.”

Kim acquired valuable operation and production experience during her years in the fashion industry. The concept of Peasants & Travelers came to fruition and felt conceivable, she said, with the experience she had gained.

The company officially launched in August 2008, and Kim found herself initially running nearly all aspects of the company. Tapping her former colleagues in China, she was able to find partners in product development and design, and she would travel there for two to three weeks at a time to pick out fabrics, trims, zippers and whatever materials she would need. After finalizing the products, she would take the samples back to the U.S. herself, then haul them along to trade shows to showcase them to retailers.

The first collection shipped in March 2009. The 12-piece collection, which featured various bags, totes and carryalls in three different color waves (olive, brown and navy with black accents), began garnering attention in fashion media, including Urban Daddy, Thrillist and the New York Times. Notable retailers such as Urban Outfitters began carrying Peasants & Travelers products.

None of them, however, gained as much acclaim and popularity as Kim’s reimagining of the classic doctor’s bag.

“It put us on the map,” she said.  “It was versatile enough for work and/or for the gym. I [still] get emails requesting them.”

The bag takes after the classic doctor bag with the split-handle design on the top. However, Kim’s modernized interpretations are sure to draw glances with its unusual fabrics like cork, as well as the fine leather trim and the addition of shoulder straps.

“I think in the fabrics and the trim we use, it definitely updates the bag,” she said. “The strategy is modernizing a classic bag and making it comfortable for a guy who wouldn’t normally consider carrying a doctor’s bag, making them consider it and easing them into a style that is a bit more out there.”

Kim in her workshop. Photo courtesy of Jee Kim.

Kim in her workshop. Photo courtesy of Jee Kim.

She noted that cork is a material often used for shoes, and people don’t expect to see it in a bag. “That’s an element of surprise,” she said.

Unfortunately for potential buyers, the doctor’s bag has been sold out for quite a while, but they can look forward to a revamped, sturdier version in the spring 2014 collection.

The collection continues Kim’s vision of “fashionable and functional,” led by the weekend/gym bag, which features a separate shoe compartment and enough space for a weekend trip.

“As a creative person, you always have a storage of things that you like in the back of your head,” Kim said. “You always kind of are looking at things in a visual way. I think one of the strategies going in was, when a guy is carrying a bag into work and he’s also travelling, what are some styles that are classic but haven’t yet been interpreted in a modern way?”

Men who may be hesitant about checking out bags because of any “man purse” label shouldn’t have to worry. Men have long used bags, and now, thanks to Kim, they have some stylishly functional options from which to choose.

This story was originally published in the October 2013 issue of KoreAm Journal.  

 

Salary Gap Between Asian Men and Asian Women

Back in 1963, The Equal Pay Act became U.S. federal law which required that men and women receive equal pay for equal work in the same establishment. The law aimed to finally end the disparity in wages between men and women.

Fifty years have passed and where are we now? Apparently, not as far along as we had hoped.

TriNet, an HR services provider, recently looked into SMB hiring trends, firing trends, salary data, employee demographics and employee benefits for September. Unfortunately, the results are not exactly what we were aiming for.

Although women between the ages of 23-27 have similar salaries to their male counterparts, this salary gap sharply increases after the age of 27. Even worse? In the Information Technology sector, women make much less than men at all ages.

According to a study by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), the salary gap between genders is now larger than 20 years ago and has been consistently increasing.

“It’s very interesting because when you actually talk to employers, they often don’t see it as a problem,” says Council of Small Business Chair Amanda Lynch. ”They will say that they actually aren’t treating their employees differently and there is no gender bias. But often the statistics tell a different story. So we believe there is this unconscious gender pay gap that is happening where employers aren’t even aware of it.”

Lynch adds that it is difficult for women to get graduate jobs, often dominated by males, and so they end up settling for whatever salary is offered.

In the midst of all these unpleasant findings, there is some rather interesting results when the salary gap is analyzed based on race, especially for Asians.

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Interestingly enough, the salary gap between Asian men and Asian women total to about 10 percent, making it the smallest gender gap out of all the ethnicities. American Indian/Alaska Natives have the highest salary gap with more than 50 percent.

Although we understand that this is not a complete win because ultimately, Asian men still make more money than Asian women in the same jobs, it gives us a glimmer of hope for — someday — true equality in pay.

 

 

 

 

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Get a K-pop Complexion: Audrey’s Guide to BB Cream

When Audrey first wrote about BB creams in 2008, it was the latest thing in Korea. The oddly named “blemish balm” originated in Germany as a post-treatment cream for laser surgery patients and was later co-opted by Korean women to create the ssaeng-uhl (bare-faced look) coveted by the nation’s most beautiful actresses. (Even Korean men have taken to wearing BB cream.) Considered a staple in every Korean woman’s beauty regimen, BB cream is now sweeping the U.S., but thankfully for us, the newest iterations have a greater range of shades, coverage and textures.

When Harvard Business School grad Grace Choi first tried BB cream, she liked the finish but had trouble finding a formula that matched her skin tone, especially for different seasons. “I’m more yellow during the winter and more olive/brown during the summer,” says the 29-year-old Korean American. “Asian BB brands offer a very limited number of shades which do not suit the vast majority of diverse American women,” she adds. But she also found that many BB creams currently in the U.S. market didn’t give the same coverage and finish that the Asian BB creams were famous for. So Choi put her medical science background to use and formulated her own brand of BB cream. With 10 different shades, seven work for Asian skin: the Yellow line finishes more golden, while the Olive line has a more brown/tan undertone.

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BB CREAM TIPS:

* Apply like you would a sunscreen. Put a dime size dollop on your fingers and spread evenly on face. The cream will sink in and adjust to your skintone.

* Apply with fingers, says Choi. “It’s much easier to control and spread than with a brush or sponge.”

* The right shade is important with BB cream. Use one that’s too light and it can look masky. Can’t find the exact shade or right texture in a BB cream? Because BB creams provide buildable coverage, you can mix and match for the perfect formulation. I like mixing a lighter textured cream in a more golden shade with a thicker one in a paler shade, like Estée Lauder with 3Lab, before blending on my face.

Here, we review the best BB creams out there (even one for men!).

Sheer Coverage

Sulwhasoo Snowise Brightening BB Base

Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Skin Perfector (great for young skin, BB novices)

DermaE Evenly Radiant BB Creme

Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse BB Beauty Balm

Dr. Lewinn by Kinerase Instant Perfecting BB Cream

Vichy ProEven Mineral BB Cream

Estée Lauder Day Wear BB Anti-Oxidant Beauty Benefit Creme

AmorePacific Moisture Bound Tinted Treatment Moisturizer 

Urban Decay Naked Skin Beauty Balm

AmorePacific Color Control Cushion Compact

 

Sheer to Medium Coverage

Etude House Precious Mineral BB Cream Bright Fit

Amarté Natural Finish BB Cream (an editor favorite!)

Shiseido Perfect Hydrating BB Cream (another editor favorite)

Cailyn Precious Blend BB Cream (broad range of 6 shades)

Garnier BB Cream Miracle Skin Perfector 

Christina Choi Cosmetics BB Cream (great shades for medium Asian to dark skin tones)

DHC BB Cream Foundation

Comodynes Urban Cosmetics BB Color (darker shades available)

 

Medium to Full Coverage

Grace Choi Porcelain Skin BB Cream (the widest range of shades, especially for Asian skin, in either matte or dewy formulations)

Dr. Jart Black Label Detox BB Beauty Balm 

Dr. Jart+ Renewalist BB Beauty Balm

3Lab Perfect BB Cream (super anti-aging skincare ingredients)

Jane Iredale Glow Time Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream (tons of shades available)

Too Faced Air-Buffed BB Creme (an editor favorite!)

 

FOR MEN! (Yes, we haven’t forgotten you!)

Miracle Skin Transformer MEN SPF20

Tried any of the BB creams on this list? Tell us what you think!

Want us to test a BB cream for you? Let us know!

This Will Shock You: Salary Difference Between Male and Female Doctors

As women, we’d like to think we can bridge every gender gap there is. There have been more women striving for executive positions and more women in careers which were, back in the day, deemed too physically rigorous for the female body.  More and more, women are demanding leading positions to prove that we are just as capable as anyone else.

Which is why its alarming to discover that on average, female doctors make about $50,000 less than male doctors. Research from the Journal of the American Medical Association show that instead of moving forward, the gender pay gap in health-care fields have grown within the past decade.

The Washington Post notes, “In the late 1980s, male physicians earned $33,840, or 20 percent, more in annual salary than their female counterparts. By the late 2000s, that grew to a 25.3 percent gap, a difference of $56,019 per year. The same trends showed up among dentists and physician assistants, but not pharmacists or health insurance executives.”

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Although nearly 50% of US medical students are female, the difference in salary is far from equal. The study noted that one of the larger factors of salary was dependent on what type of doctor one became. For instance, specialists, such as surgeons, typically earn significantly more than primary care providers. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, more than half of the country’s pediatricians are women, but fewer than 10%of orthopedic surgeons are women. And even without taking specialities into account, women still earn significantly less than their male peers.

So what is it? Do women unknowingly choose lower-paying specialties? Are women groomed into choosing particular careers over others? (Similar to the lack of women engineers due to the fact that we never grew up with engineering as a career option.) Women certainly work just as hard as men and are just as deserving.

Tell us what you think below.