Interviews | April 1, 2019

A chat with – Sang-Jin Park

We spoke to CEO and founder of Carin, about his vision and values – from the brand’s early days, to the evolution as the rising star of Korean eyewear

words Cayce Pollard

Tell us how you started Carin?

I worked as an optician for over twelve years and I got to experience many eyewear brands from overseas and also Korean products. I thought “There are not many products on the market that suit customers in terms of fit and aesthetic and that also come at a reasonable price.” Thankfully, the Korean market appreciated my values and passion. I was in the market with a longstanding customer base, knowing what they where looking for. I made it my job to make sure they were happy with our brand. And still, to this day we work to amaze people.

How would you describe your (brand) design-style?

I take inspiration from Scandinavia and apply it to the brand. Its simplicity and modernism is our motto.

Where do you get your ideas from?

I get my ideas and inspiration from the comfort and soft feel of high quality, traditional Scandinavian furniture.

What is the most beautiful aspect of your job?

When we design and release a new product and get a positive market response. It gives me thrills and chills because the product appears just as it was meant and was expected to be. My designer and the team participating in the design process feel really happy when the design, just a concept at first, turns into an actual product and is well-received.

And the worst one?

In terms of product, it is when the outcome is different from initial expectations: for example when there is a dissonance between its design and its structure. You know, sometimes on paper the design seems good but it is hard to come up with a structurally good product.

There are a lot of creative ideas coming from South Korea, particularly in eyewear. Can you tell us what you think has brought this about?

One of the qualities of South Korean people is that they are extremely open-minded when it comes to exploring new products or brands; this means there is a greater need for variety. If you go to optical stores in Korea, they have a far wider variety of products when compared to other optical stores around the world. Traditionally, design has always been very strong here. This has enabled creativity to flourish in the South Korean eyewear industry. The South Korean market itself is small but there is a lot of diversity and I saw many new products and innovative designs while working as an optician; I noticed strong research and fast-changing design trends.

Can you share some tips on the most creative places to hang out in Seoul and what makes them so special? Your favorite shops, places?

First of all, I want to introduce Carin’s Yeongdo place and Hongdae Lounge. They are experience-type eyewear showrooms located in Busan and Seoul, respectively. At Carin Yeongdo Place you can try on our sunglasses to enjoy the ocean view while drinking a cup of coffee and relaxing. Everyone is welcome to create and share memories and experiences here. This is also the place where I come up with new designs and get a variety of new ideas for my business. There are many hipster cafes in Seoul and in other small cities as well. People like to visit, not just for a cup of coffee but to experience different spaces. People love to take photos of pretty stores and coffee sets and share them on social media. Carin’s flagship stores want to be like those fun places.

What makes Carin frames so special?

Carin is special in that it’s the expression of a deep understanding of feminine detail, better than anyone else. The main colour for most brands is yellow gold, but the main color for Carin is rose gold. Through a combination of colours using rose gold, we express a feminine aesthetic that has not been developed by any other brand.
We emphasize feminine details with soft circular elements, as well as unique temples and hinge design. These elements were designed using inspiration from Scandinavian furniture and are reinterpreted to express femininity and Scandinavian style which are both at the heart of our design.

What is the concept that you are developing for Carin?

Carin’s approach is to combine simple and sophisticated designs with light-weight materials to make them comfortable. On the other hand, Carin’s Nordic inspiration is also an expression of authenticity. For 2019, we designed the ‘Sunrize’ sunglasses inspired by Nordic ‘white nights’ and sunlight. Our main concept for this season is ‘Urban Dream’, designed using metals to emphasize a modern, urban concept.

What other interests do you have in life besides eyewear?

I am interested in interior and furniture design. We design our own office and department stores, we also design café/showrooms and booths for the optical fairs.
I am very interested in space.

Would you like to share something else with?

My wish is for people to recognize the value of South Korean brands. South Korea is highly specialized in the eyewear market and industry; there are many optical stores and manufacturers.