Retail: Koreatown, Regional 'Local + Global' Partnership

Retail: Koreatown, Regional 'Local + Global' Partnership

By Shea and Raan Parton

Photos by Ken Tisuthiwongse

We are privileged to release the Koreatown Market Bag, exclusively sold at Poketo's second Los Angeles location inside The Line Hotel. This is our 55th of a total of 74, City Series Market Bags, connecting regional retailers with our global advocacy and helping to create consistent employment for artisans in rural Bangladesh (Watch: Bangladesh Co-op). 

On April 1st we caught up with husband & wife team, Ted Vadakan and Angie Myung, the founders of Poketo, at The Line Hotel. Shortly after we opened our Apolis: Common Gallery space we were please to have Poketo open next door to us on Third Street in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles. Ted and Angie have been inspiring neighbors and that have built a brand with the goal of taking art off gallery walls and into people’s lives. While touring The Line Hotel we recorded our conversation with Ted and Angie that we first previewed on our weekly column over at style.com. We asked our friends at Poketo the following four questions to help all of us better understand the lives of entrepreneurs in the world of design:

Where could Poketo be five years from now?

I think a lot of businesses run on that five to ten year mentality. We don’t come from a business background, I (Ted) come from a film background and Angie studied graphic design, so we approach business in an unconventional way – we approach things from a creative perspective, not the bottom line. We want to continue to grow Poketo organically and I eventually see Poketo stores nationally. But, Poketo is not just a retail business, it is about bringing people together with our art shows and workshops and that is what gets us super stoked. We’re just doing what we love to do and building strong relationships with all kinds of artists and creatives along the way. So when we think about the future we like to ask the question: what do we want in our lives? Whether it be gathering friends together, traveling, or learning, we see Poketo five to ten years from now to be in line with building a business that we enjoy.

What is the future of the retail industry?

[Angie]: I don’t follow trends, I don’t read blogs, at Poketo we just do what we feel like doing, so within five years from now we may be doing some completely different. [Ted]: Yeah, for us retail is such a personal experience, we really got to love it, and when friends and colleagues pop in and say hi we love that and it makes retail so personal to us. I don’t think it is a surprise, you need to create relationships with your customers and your friends and that is what’s fun about it. I think retail is going to naturally continue down a path of building relationships and community. I think having a retail space that we can call our home has been amazing for us, we really enjoy it and we want to continue down this route because we just love being face to face with our customers.

Why did you guys choose to have your second store in a hotel?

From day one when we started Poketo going into retail was always a goal, it was something we always wanted to do. In fact when we moved down to LA we were so close to signing a lease for a gallery, retail, live concept. In hindsight we were really fortunate that it fell through due to a really small lease detail. This chain of events allowed us to focus on the brand and building our business. We had the freedom to not think about unnecessary overhead. We powered through the next eight years and we would always think about retail but we just did not think we were ready. When we finally came across the opportunity in the Arts District in 2012 it just felt right. This step exposed Poketo to a lot of people and it got us excited about having a home base to do workshops, events, and all the things we dreamt of for a Poketo retail experience. Then only a few months after we opened in the Arts District we were approached by the Sydell Group, responsible for New York’s NoMad Hotel. We were stoked that their vision for the hotel was truly a collaborative effort. They included a lot of different creatives in Los Angeles, Roy Choi and The Houston Brothers, as well as several LA based artists and designers. We were really excited by the opportunity to be involved with this group of creatives. Also it was a unique location, similar to the Arts District in Los Angeles that has a lot of potential, but also kind of a daunting. Daunting in a sense that it is like ground zero, there is so much possibility and so many ways we can build an experience and be part of Koreatown. We were just really intrigued by the idea of taking the concept of retail and our brand to another space. Also to see the Sydell Group’s vision for the hotel with designer Sean Knibb who reimagined this mid-century building has been a privilege. It has been a really good fit for Poketo.

Tips for an entrepreneur that wants to start a brand?

You need to first come up with a good, solid, original idea. The idea is so important. If you’re just trying to make a quick buck do not start a brand. Starting a brand is so much work, it is a constant 24/7 project. So if you don’t love it then there is no reason for you to do it. You have to love every minute of building a brand.

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Since 2003, Poketo has grown from an upstart creative enterprise and in June 2012, Poketo opened its flagship shop/gallery in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles. The Poketo flagship store also hosts art exhibitions with its ever-growing roster of local and international artists, in addition to workshops and other unique public events. In March 2014, Poketo opened a second location at The Line Hotel in Koreatown, Los Angeles. Over the years, Poketo has been commissioned by Nike, MTV, Weezer, Arcade Fire, SF MoMA, De Young Museum, Cartoon Network, Disney and many more to create exclusive lines stamped with Poketo’s signature fun and functional style. Its irresistible aesthetic so captivates the imagination that, in 2010, retail giant Target took notice; Poketo curated a 52-piece collection of messenger bags, laptop cases, water bottles, umbrellas and wallets–all made with an eye for artistic detail. To date, the shop has collaborated with over 200 international artists to produce lifestyle wares that infuse art into daily living. Ted and Angie have shared their expertise with guest lectures at the Parsons School of Design, Wharton School of Business, University of California San Diego, CalArts and Art Center College of Design, Creative Mornings, Dwell on Design, among others.

Visit Los Angeles this year and add the Koreatown Market Bag to your gift list while enjoying a local meal. We look forward to seeing our relationship grow with Poketo and we are grateful to make a global impact with our new friends in Koreatown.

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View Ted's Look
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