A handbag modeled after the popular dish bibimbap and shoes with noodle-like laces make up an accessory line that Helsinki-based designers Johan Olin and Aamu Song are producing with Korean fashion label Ssamzie. During a residency with the retailer last fall, Olin and Song—partners in the multidisciplinary firm Company—developed the collection, called Made in Korea. “We know what to expect from the tag ‘Made in China’ or ‘Made in Italy,’” Song says. “We wanted to explore the character of Korean production.”
Last spring the duo undertook a similar investigation of place. Wondering what is still made in Finland, Company crisscrossed the country by train, visiting manufacturers of boots, stools, and rocking chairs. After commissioning the factories to produce small runs of their designs, Company exhibited and sold the products at Helsinki’s Kiasma museum under the name Top Secrets of Finland.
Made in Korea’s first seven products will be sold in Ssamzie stores this spring, and Top Secrets of Finland travels to Oslo this summer. Producing each line in its respective country was a learning process. “In Finland you have a family who owns the factory where they’ve made the same shirt for three generations, whereas in Korea we had to navigate a network of independent factories, each specializing in a small component or assembly step,” Olin says. “But in both places the factory workers insisted we become friends first. Production flowed smoothly after that.”