Interview with JooHyung Yi, Founder of Hyphenate

If you’re looking for a stylish crossbody bag that is ready to take you to wherever, new Kickstarter-funded brand Hyphenate is ready to wow you with a fresh spin on a traditional street wear bag. Their first bag, the Street-Slang, is a crossbody sling bag that’s designed with versatility and function in mind, but with a unique twist! We sat with the Hyphenate founder, JooHyung Yi, to explore more about his project and the story behind Street-Slang and the brand.

Q: What inspired you to start Hyphenate?

Hyphenate was inspired by my personal experience as a Korean [Hyphen] American and seeing so many other multicultural people with similar experiences of being neither, both, or all cultural identities at the same time. Cultural gatekeeping, code-switching, identity crisis, and so many other common experiences as a multicultural person seem to fall on the sideline in many other brands because it’s too complicated or too loaded to represent. Hyphenate is focused on representing that “in-between” life experience through fashion, philosophy, and conversations with everyday people.

Q: What sets the Street-Slang apart from other bags on the market right now?

The Street-Slang is symbolic to the life of a person with a hyphenated cultural identity. We’ve been called various things throughout our lives, whether it be based on stereotypes, skin color, prejudices, or even just a simple slip of the tongue impulses. I’ve been called chink by strangers and banana by my own family. It doesn’t phase me though because of my tough skin, which is why we chose a 1680D ballistic nylon for the exterior of the bag. It’s tough, rugged, and durable. The hardware is focused on utility and practicality to symbolize our need to be adaptable and flexible to fit into different cultures or code-switch. And finally, the interior is colorful to represent the vibrant cultures and traditions that we carry within us.

One main thing that sets the Street-Slang apart from all other bags in the market is that there is an open-faced pocket on the outside of the bag for your phone, boarding pass, notebook, or whatever else fits in there. This design is either seen as ultra-convenient and people can’t get enough of it, or it makes people uncomfortable with being so exposed. That highly exposed pocket is intentionally designed that way to enhance our social awareness and self-awareness when using the bag. Why would it be convenient for some people and yet cause anxiety for others? One reason we came up with is that each individual could be projecting their own level of trust in strangers and themselves onto that pocket. If you trust people around you and your own ability to manage the bag/pocket so nothing falls out or is stolen, then of course you’d love the convenience. If you don’t trust people around you and would rather the bag/pocket to function without you thinking then of course it could add some anxiety. However, that level of social awareness is something that we multicultural people have grown up with as being normal.

Another additional aspect is that each Street-Slang will be coming with an 80 page journal. The journal is designed to write you thoughts from one side and your feelings from the other and then eventually they’d meet in the middle. The practical reason is to simply have a place to write things down when you need it, whereas the hopeful and intentional reason for the journal is to encourage self-reflection, self-awareness, and self-care.

Q: What unique aspects of the design for the bag are you most proud of?

The entire bag was designed using the Golden Ratio almost precisely. We used the iPhone as our starting measurement to leverage off of the genius of their design team and then we built the rest of the bag using the Golden Ratio to have the perfect dimensions to fit your essential daily carry. The width of your phone and wallet turns out to be the perfect length for a journal, water bottle, book, and a ton of other items that you would consider essential.

Q: Is the bag available globally?

Absolutely. Our Kickstarter has been backed by people from 28 different countries so far!

Q: Anything else about the brand you’d like our readers to know?

The Street-Slang in particular was inspired by my knack for giving good and thoughtful gifts to my friends and family. I knew that Hyphenate was a brand encouraging people to go travel and discover their roots, but I had to think to myself what would be the best gift that I could give someone that is doing exactly that? I’ve been wanting to design a bag like this for over 5 years, so it made sense to combine my passion with good intentions to come up with what in my opinion is one of the most thoughtful gifts a person can ever receive: a travel bag + journal. If you do intend on gifting it to someone, the key in making it thoughtful and personal is filling the bag with other gifts: tickets for a weekend getaway, snacks, pictures, or maybe simply writing some thoughts in the journal to get them started.

If you loved the story behind the brand, support Hyphenate over on Kickstarter! For a limited time, project backers can order the Street-Slang at a reduced price. By March or April the product will be available only for full price.

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