Meet Jia Yee Ni! Our FIRST full time team member!
Click through images below to shop Jia Yee's looks!
I am so excited to introduce our FIRST full time employee Jia Yee Ni! She came to work with me back in 2013 as part of a school internship, and quickly became an irreplaceable part of the team. Even at 19 years old she was incredibly talented, determined, and had such a positive approach to her work and life, an old soul in the best way.
This past October I found out she was a free agent and I knew we had to scoop her up right away! The stars had finally aligned and I am so happy to have her on board! Her expert pattern making skills, attention to detail, and design sensibility is exactly what we needed!
Want to learn more about this amazing lady? Of course you do! Check out the Q&A on our journal (link in profile) where you can find out what her day to day is like here at Kordal or what it's like being an identical twin and why that peaked her interest in fashion. Welcome Jia Yee!
Tell us a little bit about your role at Kordal, what is your day to day like?
"As Kordal’s first full-time employee (yay!!!) my technical title is “Design + Product Coordinator.” I handle a little bit of everything as we are a super small team, but these days I’m in charge of woven development. This means that I’m in our Crown Heights studio drafting patterns for new styles that Mandy and I have designed together; sourcing fabrics as well as buttons, zippers, and any other trims we may need for these styles; and working closely with our factory in the garment district to figure out the best ways to construct/finish our garments so that we can bring not just beautifully made, but also thoughtfully made pieces to our customers! As the year progresses, I see myself handling woven production and taking on e-commerce and social media strategy, as well as diving deeper into looking at how we can be more sustainable with our wovens since they’re fairly new to the brand. One of the most exciting things about working with a small business like Kordal is that my day-to-day is always different!"
You interned with us while you were in design school, what made you want to work at Kordal full time?
"Mandy and I both went through the Fashion Design program at the University of Cincinnati where we were required to complete five internships in order to graduate. It was an incredible opportunity -- and the reason that I chose UC -- and I had the chance to work for really big corporate companies like Michael Kors and White House | Black Market, as well as the chance to experience the complete opposite end of the spectrum: really small businesses like Kordal, Shaina Mote, and the Textile Arts Center. It’s eye-opening to work for a major corporation where they have all the resources you could want and need, but also to see the waste that comes from those processes… so I really found a passion for working for smaller companies who wanted to make a change in the industry; to bring goods that are thoughtfully made to consumers and also goods that are meant to last, rather than novelty items that are meant to last a season or less. It was also much more rewarding for me as a young designer to work for small businesses because I was able to have more of a hand in the design process and the opportunity to get a glimpse of what it would be like if I wanted to start my own company one day.
I worked at Kordal for my second and fourth internships and I just remember having so much fun with Mandy. Right away we hit it off, and she was always an amazing mentor - even working late was fun with her, as cheesy as that sounds! She trusted me enough to hand real projects off to me, and I experienced autonomy as a designer for the first time in my career.
After I graduated, I began to realize how important it is to have a good boss, too. It makes a huge difference to work for someone who cares as much about your professional development and well-being as they care about the work that you bring to the table. Mandy is one of the most caring, generous, and thoughtful people I know, and I couldn’t ask for a better boss!!"
You always bring the best homemade lunches to work, can you share some of your favorite recipes with us?!
"I love that this question is included ;) To be fair, I follow a lot of recipes and just add or remove things! I recently made this soup from Olive Garden that was pretty great (don’t judge me!!) that I used to get all the time when I went out to family dinners with my mom and sister in Ohio. I think I just googled “olive garden pasta e fagioli recipe” because I had a hankering for it, and went with the first thing that popped up. Other than that, I have a few recipes that I make a lot like this Corn Chowder recipe where I add shredded chicken, this comforting Tomato Risotto recipe that's perfect for cold days, this random Cornbread recipe that I’ve been making since high school with my sister, and this ~amazing~ Brown Sugar Pecan Cookie recipe I make for pretty much every party! As a healthy alternative (for when it’s not 10 degrees out), I like to roast a bunch of veggies and toss them with Trader Joe’s 10 minute farro. I recommend roasting sweet potatoes, lacinato kale, and cherry tomatoes, plus some sauteed mushrooms!"
In your opinion, why does fashion design matter? What draws you to this particular industry?
"I’ve always kind of gone back and forth with the fashion industry. What difference can material items such as clothing really make in the grander scheme of things? It’s a question that I often struggle with, so here’s the best response I’ve come up with so far…
I grew up as a twin, and my mother dressed my sister and I alike until we were in the 7th grade. I always attribute this experience as my reason for going into fashion. My twin sister Jia Lu is my best friend and my relationship with her is easily the best relationship I’ll ever have in my life, but it’s a complicated experience to have a twin -- to be constantly compared to, referred to, confused with that person. To not feel like you have your own identity. So I think that’s what clothing did for me -- it was a sense of identity that belonged to no one but myself, once I could choose for myself; it was an outward expression of my inner self and my individuality.
I’m drawn to the fashion industry because of a few reasons: because it gives me the ability to help others find their own sense of self through the artistic expression of what they wear and how they dress, because of my own desire to be creative and to make things, and also because there are a lot of things wrong with the industry. There is so much waste that comes with design, and the impact of the fashion industry on the planet alone is almost unfathomable -- landfills overflowing with clothing, water turned rancid because of fabric processing, people’s lives destroyed and even taken all just to make a $5 t-shirt. Working with small companies like Kordal who aim to work with natural and renewable resources, who work with factories that follow ethical standards for their employees, and who are mindful of the culture they’re creating, supporting, and promoting -- that’s why I believe fashion design matters. We’re always going to wear clothes, so I think it matters to not only design a product thoughtfully, but to rethink the whole system of design itself."
How would you describe your style?
"This is a surprisingly tough question. It’s kind of an ebb and flow with my style, honestly, depending on where I live, where I’m going, how I’m feeling, and what I’ve thrifted recently. I think I hit my stride when I officially moved to New York last August and lived in Bushwick. New York for me has always made me feel like I could be whoever I wanted to be in general, but living in Bushwick was really the first time where I felt like I could dress however I wanted and it didn’t matter what other people thought of me. It’s so different to go from dressing in Cincinnati, OH, on a university campus where it’s acceptable to wear sweats to class or leggings as pants (can’t lie - I did it and sometimes still do!), to moving to a neighborhood like Bushwick where people are weird in an
amazing way and aren’t scared to be who they are and to visually represent themselves that way, too. It was such a liberating feeling. I was more unapologetic then with what I wore, and now that I live in Clinton Hill I think I’m still trying to figure out my vibe. A lot of my clothes is thrifted, but in general you’ll usually catch me wearing cuffed jeans (because I’m 5’2”), white sneakers, and gold hoops. One of my favorite looks to wear is my Carhartt overalls that I thrifted for $10, a light gray Patagonia crewneck sweatshirt that I thrifted for $2 layered underneath, and under that a nude Uniqlo heattech turtleneck with white socks and white sneakers. Comfort has also definitely come to the fore as I’ve gotten older!"
What artists have you been interested in lately?
"Recently I’ve been interested in the works of Yayoi Kusama (who hasn’t been?) whose mirrored boxes at the David Zwirner Galleries in December were really incredible. I had been to her Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away exhibit at the Broad in L.A. a few years ago, but it felt like a totally different experience to see the smaller scale works where it was like looking into another universe rather than being enveloped by one. I actually think I preferred the smaller scale works because the whole experience of the Mirrored Rooms seemed to lend itself to being enveloped in the need to take photos and capture as much of the 30-60 seconds allotted through photography and video than it did to actually experiencing it!"
Is there a life event or person in your life that has had a profound impact on you?
"My twin sister Jia Lu has always had and I’m sure always will have a profound impact on me. It’s a complex experience to grow up alongside someone with whom you inevitably compare each step of your life -- and for a long time I felt like I didn’t measure up -- but it’s an important thing to learn and remember that other people’s successes aren’t your failures! Jia Lu recently graduated last spring and now works as an industrial designer at Evolve Collaborative in Portland, OR, but we easily manage to talk nearly every day. I admire her constant curiosity which compels her to learn new skills like spoon carving, mushroom hunting, and teaching herself new programs to broaden her scope of work; her fearlessness to meet new people and really, truly connect with them; and her dedication and drive to just be a better human being in general. She's the one person I can be really, really weird with, and I think everybody needs somebody like that in their life!"
What current global issues matter most to you?
"We’re all sharing in a unique moment in history, where a lot of what we’ve accomplished as a society thus far is being questioned and even threatened. It’s hard to put one thing above others, but to me one of the most pressing global issues right now is the globe itself. As a designer, I enjoy creating things and seeing those things come to life, but the things we make have life cycles and unfortunately a landfill so often is at the end of that life cycle. It’s more important than ever to be conscious both as a designer and as a consumer to really think about how the products out in the world are being made and where they’re going to end up. It might sound 'granola,' but we are all of the earth, and if we aren’t taking care of it then we aren’t taking care of ourselves!"
What is something most people don't know about you?
"Hmmm this one is a toughie! I’m pretty open about most things in my life to most people, but I guess one thing that people probably don’t know about me is that I've got a burn mark on my left hand from playing with fire as a baby. I honestly kind of forgot about it until I asked my sister this question and that was her response for me!"
Share your thoughts with us in the comments below
on why you think fashion matters!