Just in time for the Design Issue: Houstonians Jessie Lee and James Kang are co-founders and partners in Namu Shop, an almost-year-old online retailer of rare, independent designers not easily found in the United States – with an emphasis on those from Korea and Japan. In addition, they do occasional pop-up shops throughout the year. LOCAL caught up with the fashionable duo at their recent pop-up at TOMO Mags in Montrose.
When did you start this business?
Namu Shop has been in the works since July 2016, so nearly a year ago. We officially launched the site (namu-shop.com) this past March with Spring/Summer selections, our first season.
How do you select lines you want to carry?
The basis for starting Namu Shop was to carry independent designers that we’ve personally enjoyed but couldn’t find easily in the US. We focus mostly on rarer labels from Japan and Korea, emphasizing elevated daily wear – clothes made for the everyday but with details that make them special. For us, it’s about staying true to timeless, thoughtful and wearable design. Quality is just as important – our designers use premium, natural fabrics and produce in storied manufacturing hubs like NYC’s Garment District, Japan and through artisans in Bolivia, India and more.
How did you get here?
Jessie: I currently work full-time at an oil & gas software company, having graduated from UT Austin with a degree in chemical engineering. I’ve always loved clothes and have wanted to start my own business but wasn’t sure how or when. In college, I took it upon myself to learn as much about the industry as possible. I took a patternmaking class at UT alongside my engineering classes and interned for a summer at a wholesale clothing business in LA. Most recently, I worked weekends at Myth & Symbol; Trang and Chau (the owners) really took me under their wing to teach and mentor me about retail and the whole buying process.
James: I work full-time at a legal services company, and I studied at Colgate University. Jessie and I are not only partners in this venture together, but also in life (getting married this year). Though we don’t have a background in fashion or textiles, we’ve always geeked out about clothes together. When we both started working, we ordered a lot from shops in Japan and the UK, simply because the designers we liked were not readily available stateside. The retail and e-commerce environment is increasingly competitive, but we saw a unique opportunity to introduce and represent these designers in the North American market. It’s been an incredible learning experience for us and a real joy to see people resonate with the concept.
See what they’ve created at www.namu-shop.com.