Home décor brand Kitty Bunny Pony makes charm its priority

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                Home décor brand Kitty Bunny Pony makes charm its priority

                CEO Kim Jin-jin of Korea's home décor brand Kitty Bunny Pony. The brand's showroom is in Hapjeong-dong, western Seoul. [BYUN SUN-GOO]

                CEO Kim Jin-jin of Korea's home décor brand Kitty Bunny Pony. The brand's showroom is in Hapjeong-dong, western Seoul. [BYUN SUN-GOO]

                Old, two-story houses line an alley of a residential neighborhood near Hapjeong Station, located in Mapo District, western Seoul.  

                 
                Strolling through the alley, a small store decked out with bold and colorful fabrics grabs the attention of passers-by. 
                 
                Rolls of fabrics scattered throughout the store are telltale signs that it is a place for those who are looking for sewing materials, but the fabric store is so much more.  
                 

                Local home décor brand Kitty Bunny Pony opened the fabric store next to its showroom in Hapjeong-dong in April and provides 50 original patterns and prints, all produced in-house. 
                  
                While the space is small, everything one could possibly need for sewing is crammed into the store, from fabrics to buttons to scissors. 
                 
                “I was pondering ways to show the true identity of Kitty Bunny Pony and came up with the idea for this fabric store,” said Kim Jin-jin, the CEO of Kitty Bunny Pony.  
                 
                “I want it to be an interesting place for everyone and make it accessible and enjoyable even if customers are just looking to purchase a single button,” she added.  
                 
                Launched in 2008, Kitty Bunny Pony produces various home décor products from bags to comforters to cushion covers using the fabrics it designs. Twelve years on, it has cemented its status as a small but mighty lifestyle brand.     
                If the showroom in Hapjeong-dong of Kitty Bunny Pony acts as the main stage for the brand, Kitty Bunny Pony Fabrics is the archive of its history, showcasing the fabrics it has manufactured so far.  
                 
                Bags and pouches made with Kitty Bunny Pony fabrics. [BYUN SUN-GOO]

                Bags and pouches made with Kitty Bunny Pony fabrics. [BYUN SUN-GOO]

                 
                The JoongAng Ilbo recently caught up with Kim to talk more about the brand and its growth in the highly competitive market.  
                Kim says Kitty Bunny Pony originates from an embroidery factory her father started in 1994 in Daegu. The factory used to produce embroidered products under original equipment manufacturer (OEM) contracts but after the entire nation was hit hard by the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, her father wanted to do something else. 
                 
                Her father wanted to “make our own brand” with his daughter, who had majored in graphic design in graduate school.  
                Kitty Bunny Pony first began with cushion covers, five of which were animal prints designed by Kim, and the other five were embroidered cushion covers produced from the father’s factory.  
                 
                “There were not many online shopping sites where you could buy home décor products back then,” Kim recalled. 
                 
                “Although we were a small brand only available online, there weren't many local brands producing their own fabrics and making products with the fabrics so we got attention from [consumers] early on,” Kim added.    
                 
                The timing of the launch was good, too. Kitty Bunny Pony met the needs of consumers who were into so-called Northern Europe designs that are often characterized by vibrant colors, bold patterns and practicality.  
                 
                In addition, the prices were affordable. As the company was producing its own fabrics and cutting down on distribution expenses by only selling its goods online, Kitty Bunny Pony products instantly captivated consumers.   
                 
                Kitty Bunny Pony has since grown significantly in terms of size and sales. Now the company sells its products directly through three channels: its online site, its main showroom in Hapjeong-dong and another shop located within a Hyundai Department Store in Daegu. Kitty Bunny Pony employs a total of 30 staff members, 15 based in Seoul and 15 based in Daegu.   
                 
                Kitty Bunny Pony’s signature fabric has logos of the home décor brand. Pouches, and bags made with the fabric are the best-selling item. [BYUN SUN-GOO]

                Kitty Bunny Pony’s signature fabric has logos of the home décor brand. Pouches, and bags made with the fabric are the best-selling item. [BYUN SUN-GOO]

                 
                Kim said she wanted to keep the brand solid instead of expanding it.  
                 
                “When we started first, there was no living brand we could model ourselves on. So all the past years have been a series of challenges. Fortunately, however, we gradually saw more and more customers over the past 12 years and could expand the business by keeping pace with its growth.”  
                 
                Kitty Bunny Pony is often dubbed as Korea’s answer to Marimekko, a Finnish lifestyle brand.
                 
                Kitty Bunny Pony has developed more than 150 different fabrics since its beginning. Based on the fabrics, about 50 living products are currently on sale.  
                 
                Of all the fabrics, the most popular one features the logo of Kitty Bunny Pony, designed in 2013. Bags and pouches made with this fabric have accumulated unit sales of 50,000.  
                 
                “I think the country’s fabric manufacturing infrastructure is as good as those of other countries, but I feel sad that [Korean lifestyle brands] have not been well known so far. But I see more young designers coming out these days and their products [contribute to] the promotion of Korean brands,” said Kim.  
                 
                Some products of Kitty Bunny Pony are exported to Japan and China. The company also takes part in international fairs and is gradually making a name for itself overseas.  
                 
                Now the company receives proposals from foreign artists for collaboration projects.
                  
                Apart from producing home decor products under the brand name of Kitty Bunny Pony, the company is open to other projects, which are hosted by Studio KPB.  
                 
                Along with organizing exhibitions, Studio KPB sometimes produces design products other than fabric goods such as colored paper. It has hosted one-day classes on how to make origami using the papers.
                 
                Kitty Bunny Pony is also enthusiastic about teaming up with many local brands and has already worked with cosmetics brand AmorePacific, instant coffee brand Maxim and bakery chain Paris Baguette.  
                 
                Kim chose a joint project with AmorePacific in 2016, where Kitty Bunny Pony designed scented sachets, as the most memorable one to date. 
                 
                Although AmorePacific is a giant in the local cosmetics industry, Kim said the project reflected Kitty Bunny Pony’s identity the most.  
                 
                After the collaborative project with AmorePacific, Kitty Bunny Pony found itself getting more calls for similar projects from other brands.  
                 
                Kim believes its varied projects such as organizing one-day classes and collaborating with other brands will eventually become an asset to the company.  
                 
                Kitty Bunny Pony did many collaborative projects with local brands. One such project was designing instant coffee packages of local coffee brand Maxim. [KBP]

                Kitty Bunny Pony did many collaborative projects with local brands. One such project was designing instant coffee packages of local coffee brand Maxim. [KBP]

                 
                “Rather than simply making a lot of money by selling products, I want to increase the company’s charm and make it sustainable.  
                 
                “This is the main reason I plan new things and seek opportunities for collaborations,” Kim added. 
                 
                When asked about imminent future goals, Kim said, “We are planning to publish a book on our patterns, marking the 13th anniversary of our brand’s debut next year. The book will contain some behind-the-scene development stories of our patterns and prints, too.  
                 
                “I want to keep suggesting patterns and designs that can be naturally melted into our life.”  
                 
                BY YOO JI-YOEN   [kjdculture@joongang.co.kr]
                 
                 

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