Inside an inconspicuous building in Greenpoint, Brooklyn sits an apartment filled with handbags and a cute black and white cat. While this may trigger images of a sweet old lady, living her best life in her life long apartment, that’s nothing close to whats going on. It’s actually the live/workspace of designer Yegang Yoo and her accessories brand Imago-A.
Yoo is a graduate of Parsons School of Design and has had an extensive career in the fashion industry. Not only did she work closely with Rachel Comey, and Vena Cava but she was also the lead designer at Ports 1961. It was at her last employer that she traveled to Milan and discovered her love of handbags and accessories.
“The handbag launch was in 2013. We did it very organically,” she explains as we move through the small space that she creates most of her work in. A board leans up against a shelf and it features colors and fabrics. She has made paper prototype bags that look identical to the ones she creates. It gives her a sort of pre-made quality control. “While I work on things, I just pop them into illustrator, print them out so I can really see a perfect spec and if I don’t like it, I change it here instead of wasting time, money and pieces,” Yoo tells us.
There is nothing wasteful about Yoo’s production process. Every inch of her space is used functionally so she gets the most out of it. “The hardest thing is about organizing myself,” she says. “It can be hard when you’re designing and running the business side of things.”
Part of this difficulty is also knowing what the right move for the business is. “When I started making the bag with the signature lucite buckle, is when things started to click,” she tells us pointing to the custom buckles all pinned to matching the fabric on her mood board. “It got a lot of buzz and so I started building other shapes around the buckle. Now I’m in a good place. I think some of the trial and error is necessary to get to a better place.”
Yoo was born and raised in South Korea but moved to New York City to attend college. While her brand is certainly a New York brand, she admits that many of her customers can sense her upbringing in her designs. When asked if she takes any influences from Korean fashion she explains, “I think that it’s kind of subconscious, I never do it intentionally. I notice that a lot of my customers are Asian-American or Asian because the aesthetic comes through. Many will say they can tell the designer is Korean. But I don’t know why I can’t tell. I’ll hear comments like ‘why don’t you use traditional Korean silk?’ That just feels too literal to me. It doesn’t attract me.”
This season, Imago-A is releasing a few new silhouettes that, while still simple and functional, can make or break an outfit. As Yoo holds up a new a Chartreuse crossbody and sort of spins it so everyone in the room can see, we all let out a little yelp of excitement. The reaction was a perfect example of just the type of joy her collections can give.