In Conversation With The Brother Duo Behind Haerfest
It was possibly the coldest day of the winter season when we met up with brothers, and Haerfest co-founders, Tim and Dan Joo, at Quartino Bottega Organica. Upon arrival, the stillness of the day was alive in Quartino with no more than five people seated. With calm jazz music flowing in the background, it was the relaxing atmosphere we hoped for to get to know the brother duo. Over a few cups of tea, we talked about Haerfest (pronounced: “harvest”), designing with creators and entrepreneurs in mind, what it means to be on the go with purposeful bags at your side, and their experience as honorable participants of the CFDA Fashion Incubator class of 2018.
Known for their collections of backpacks, duffels, briefcases and totes featuring Italian leather, water resistant rubberized fabrics, and a signature ring and stud system, Haerfest is now expanding their brand by reaching into more travel and grooming projects - partners include household names like Mercedes Benz, and WeLive Wall Street, to name a few.
For more of Haerfest in the founders own words, keep scrolling:
On Their Background:
“We have been around for about 8 years now, and traditionally we started with wholesale by stocking in boutiques and department stores like Barneys, and Opening Ceremony. To expand globally, we tapped into trade-shows in Paris and Milan, so we’re accustomed to a more traditional way of growing and building our business. Now, with the emergence of the evolution of consumer brands due to the rise of technology, we have had to pivot the direction of our business and adjust by tapping into and expanding our offerings with more strategic brand partnerships in the travel, beauty and wellness space. It definitely came with a lot of challenges but it kind of pushed us to think differently. We are first generation Korean-Americans who grew up in Long Island. I [Tim] started out studying architectural design but later on moved on from that to explore more of womenswear, and marketing. For about four years, I had worked in marketing and advertising before getting into fashion, and before starting Haerfest with Dan, I was working at Opening Ceremony.
And I, [added Dan] come from a tech background. I used to work at IBM for a few years doing programming. During the beginning stages Tim and I were living together when he had the cool job at Opening Ceremony and I was still in technology. He used to show me all the different designs he made, but it wasn’t until he made a series of tailored backpacks and I thought this was something different.
On Maintaining Brotherhood as Business Partners:
Our relationship as business partners really improved our communication with each other. In the beginning I was always playing the role as the know-it-all bigger brother, and treating Dan in a way where his thoughts weren’t valid. Then I soon realized that he was bringing fresh perspectives to the table, and that it didn’t matter if he was my younger brother. I needed to respect him, and his opinions as a business partner.
We also have this inherent trust with each other [Dan added]. I think the most important thing is that we understand each other because we have uniformed values. At the end of the day, when things get tough and if it all doesn’t work out, we are still going to be brothers so that is a part of the bond. Family comes before business.
On The Inspiration Behind Haerfest
We take a minimalist approach to designing our products because we want to create bags that are functional for the modern professional with a mobile lifestyle. When we think about what it means to be an entrepreneur today, that vision is of someone who has no set office space and is constantly on the go - from work to the gym, and from the gym to a meeting, so our products are inspired by becoming the office between offices. In regard to style, it’s modern and stylish - powered by simple, classic, and purposeful design with pockets for specific devices, and essentials to make the bags functional.
On Being A Part of The CFDA Fashion Incubator Program:
Being a part of the CFDA Fashion Incubator Class of 2018 was an incredible, and valuable one because we were able to connect with mentors and have resources we wouldn’t have had outside of the program. The community of designers selected also exposed us to a new group of peers that are all so knowledgeable and supportive in an authentic way. That sense of community was really important, because as a designer it is really common to kind of be in your own bubble. The program itself also helped us with partnerships, and activations too. For example, we were able to work with W Hotels.
Outside of the fun and rewards, we had to go through a really lengthy process to get there. It started with recommendations from our friends who are former CFDA participants, to applying, to submitting all of our finances, and lookbooks. We also had to get recommendations from people in the industry, and so on and at the end of the process, it narrowed down to 15 from 300 applicants. One of the final steps was having the committee visit our studio for another round of interviews. It was rigorous, but the application process positively challenged us to polish our brand story, and craft the way we shared it.
We have collaborated with WeLive to create welcome, and appreciation kits for their new residence. It is a unisex travel kit designed by us - curated with quip toothbrush and Malin + Goetz skincare inside of each bag. We are looking to continue our partnership by creating a vegan leather passport sleeve for their WeMRKT initiative for WeWork members. People have been redefining the idea of work, and they are becoming more mobile, so for us these kinds of collaboration is still within our ethos, which is creating bags for visionaries in motion. Another exciting project we have been working on is our newly launched collaboration with Mercedes Benz called the Benz Box. They [Mercedes Benz] wanted to create something that was sort of an extension of the dealership experience, with products that consumers can use outside of their cars. So what we did was create a bag equipped with branded essentials such as flashlight, blanket, and an umbrella. Each Benz Box is personalized with the customers name and the name of the dealership. It was our first large scale project.”
Learn more about the brand, here.