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Yurina Kim: To prevent burnout remind yourself of the bigger picture; Why did you get into this?

One thing that helps during these times is to remind yourself of the bigger picture. Why did you get into this business? What was that moment when you realized you loved fashion? I had the pleasure of interviewing Yurina Kim, a San Francisco-based entrepreneur who has worked for over a decade in the fashion industry […]

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One thing that helps during these times is to remind yourself of the bigger picture. Why did you get into this business? What was that moment when you realized you loved fashion?

I had the pleasure of interviewing Yurina Kim, a San Francisco-based entrepreneur who has worked for over a decade in the fashion industry with notable brands like Nordstrom, Marc Jacobs, Macy’s and more. After many successful and very busy years as a fashion and design buyer, she decided to shift her focus from an office desk to a yoga mat during a yearlong sabbatical through southeast Asia. Upon her return to the states, she settled down in San Francisco and completed her yoga teacher training and discovered a mission of bringing peace and balance to others. After spending countless hours looking through lookbooks of tight-fitting leggings that all looked the same, Yurina was frustrated to find that most yoga brands didn’t reflect her personal style, or provide the flexibility she needed to get from corporate to cat pose without carrying an extra bag of clothes. One day during savasana, the idea for YURIYASA was born, creating the perfect union of fashion, expression, and freedom from feeling constricted in both body and mind. In addition to her fashion work and yoga practice, Yurina is passionate about advocating for women’s rights. Portions of her profit go toward charities that benefit women such as the Global Fund for Women and the ACLU.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was still a young girl who could barely reach the top of a clothing rack with her fingertips, I remember watching my mom’s face light up whenever she saw a beautiful dress hanging in a store. That was the moment I realized my curiosity and passion for the idea that fabric can be created and used to help people feel beautiful.

Growing up as a 1st generation Korean-American who partially learned about this country by watching TV, the concept of fashion became something real when Rachel from Friends got her job at Bloomingdale’s in 1996. This is when I realized that there were actual jobs in the world of fashion, and I knew I was meant to be a part of it.

As a Brooklyn kid who moved to Seattle, I was thrilled to go back to NY to work for both high fashion labels and large retailers. Up to this point, I was so focused on my career that I didn’t leave enough space to explore other opportunities in my life, so after my last corporate role I decided to start my next adventure and travel around the world.

While backpacking in SE Asia, I fell in love with yoga and the next chapter of my life started when I moved back to the states and became a yoga teacher. Between working and teaching, I found myself constantly hustling from coworking spaces to yoga to date nights. I wanted to look put-together wherever I was, and wanted clothes that could transition from day to night but I just couldn’t find any good ones in the market.

I searched everywhere for clothes that were sophisticated enough for an impromptu coffee meeting and versatile enough to catch a yoga class without having to go all the way home to change. This category of clothing wasn’t currently addressed in the athleisure space, so I decided to make my way back to fashion to fill this gap in the market.

I don’t think style, comfort and affordability have to be an “either or” option. YURIYASA was born to blend these three aspects and become part of every woman’s wardrobe. So alas, my exploration into other opportunities led me back to fashion.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?

Becoming an entrepreneur has been the most humbling experience of my life. Even the most seemingly miniscule tasks would turn out to be a hurdle opening up a new can of worms I didn’t expect. Every project I thought would take a few days would take a few weeks, and so on.

I feel like I self-studied through an MBA program picking up skills along the way that I didn’t foresee but am so glad I know. Case in point, building websites and using photoshop. My plan was to outsource technology-related to projects to people who were good at it, but as I started to work on my website, I realized I had a lot of fun working on it.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The not so funny — but lesson learned — part of the story is when I was in the phase of making my first sample. I was looking for fabric I could buy for cheap so that I could take pictures in them to start teasing the launch. Well, because the fabric was not close to the fabric I wanted to use for production, I spent extra time and money re-doing patterns.

The funny part of the story is when I found a fabric reseller from out of town who was in SF for the day making deliveries to studio spaces around the city. I didn’t have a studio space, so my friend came to help me pick up the roll of fabric, which was probably about 30 pounds and 6 feet long, from a Petco parking lot. I have a picture of my friend and I in the parking lot with this lumpy roll of fabric in front of Petco and I laugh every time I look at it.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Raw and gritty is the heart behind YURIYASA, because that’s the reality of life. Life is busy and life is imperfect, and I wanted to our company to connect with people through shared experiences and the real pain points we go through everyday.

YURIYASA provides women of all ages, versatile and stylish pieces that fit into our realistic modern-day lifestyle that requires us to juggle a hectic life. It’s hard to maintain a balanced life between work, being active, family and a social life. This collection was created to help us hustle between one activity to the next when we don’t have time to go back home to change or have the energy to haul around extra clothes wherever we go, through thoughtful designs catering to both fashion and function.

With YURIYASA, the goal was very simple. I wanted to make yoga apparel that didn’t just look like any other yoga outfit. They had to be simple, easy to wear clothes that are functional for any fitness class, yet provide the glam factor in the streets. The avant garde vibe of NY meets the relaxed comfort of the west coast. Because yoga clothes can be so much more than leggings and hoodies.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I’ve been burnt out many times before, and totally empathize with feeling discouraged and anxious.

One thing that helps during these times is to remind yourself of the bigger picture. Why did you get into this business? What was that moment when you realized you loved fashion?

It’s so easy to get inundated with millions of tasks and fires to put out throughout every day in the fashion business. This can lead you down a wormhole and leave you feeling overwhelmed because most of the time is not spent on the creative parts often romanticized.

The other helpful thing has been to find a community of women entrepreneurs who are going through similar experiences. A fashion brand isn’t just about clothes, it’s the whole lifestyle. Meeting and talking to other people, in various fields from fashion to food, has helped drive my motivation and curiosity to think of new fun and exciting ideas to work on in the future that ultimately speak to our customer.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We donate a portion of every item sold to organizations fighting for women’s rights around the world.

I knew from the very beginning that whatever business I started, it would serve a social mission. We want to show our gratitude to our customers who spend their hard-earned money on our product, by paying it forward to those who need our help.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Whatever you do, just make sure you work hard at it”

During college, I spent a lot of my time with other 1st gen Asian-Americans who were pursuing finance, medicine and law. I started getting really worried about my future and how smart and realistic I was being about wanting to work in fashion. So I decided to get a double major in finance and marketing and got an internship at a big bank in the city. I absolutely hated it and got even more worried that I wasn’t going to amount to anything.

Then I remembered what my mom told me when I was in elementary school cutting up fabric to make clothes for my barbie dolls, that as long as I work hard at what I pursue, she would support me. Those words continue to help me back on my feet with confidence time and time again.

Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?

The way we interact with fashion has evolved so much in the last 10 years with more people exploring and being receptive to niche brands and designers. I started in fashion when huge department stores and mass advertised brands were the go-to shopping destinations. And now we’re in this time when people want to interact more personally with the companies they spend their money on, which has turned the tables completely for brands in fashion. This opens up more doors for niche brands who want to connect with their community.

Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?

Women fill most of the space in the fashion world, but when you get to the executive and management level roles, it’s men who mostly fill that table. It’s eye-opening that even in a mostly female-focused industry, fashion companies also need to be involved in the conversation about the gender gap in big corporations.

With the many new independent brands and companies making a splash, there are more and more business decisions being made by women and this trend is definitely growing.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think specifically of innocent children caught in the crossfire of politics and greed who deserve education, shelter, food and clean clothes. I think whatever movement might help them, would indirectly open up hearts and borders for more people to reach outside their own bubble. Every person in this world has the same goal — to be happy. It’s so simple yet so difficult to achieve. The more we can figure out a way to lend helping hands to one another, the better we will all be.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@be_yuriyasa

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

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