There are so many handbag labels around. What makes Grayer different? “The key difference can be summed up in one word: ‘uncompromised’. On the technical side, I put a tremendous amount of effort in on the material and constantly challenge the manufacturers; on the emotional side, I want to make sure my bags are fun, practical and, most importantly, affordable. That might sound easy, but for a new brand, it was an uneasy path.”

As a Korean who grew up in New York and now lives in Hong Kong, what do you think of the obsession with Korean fashion and pop culture? “The journey between Seoul, New York and Hong Kong makes me one of the luckiest people. I get to experience all these cultures first-hand. I am really proud of the transformation of Korean fashion and pop culture. When I was young and living in New York, I had already started seeing a change of perspective in Korean culture – moving away from being led to now leading. It’s amazing how fast and far we have come.”

Tell us about using unconventional materials such as neoprene for your bags. “I am convinced people are tired of ‘formulated’ bags. By using a neoprene fabric, I add more dimensions to the product. It also aligns with my philo­sophy that practicality has to be a big factor. We will continue to explore materials to make sure our bags are not boring. It’s our way to make it fun – for both our customers and us designers.”

Speaking of bags, what’s always in yours? “The usual items, I suppose … lipstick, my wallet, my pencils and sketch­book, always my bottled water … and candies!”

What inspired your first collection? “I started from scratch – from mood boards and sketches, and with the help of an artisanal bag and accessories atelier in Florence, Italy, where we had worked endlessly on establishing the core philosophy of Grayer Atelier. We focused on how to translate our visual language and philosophy into a practical, functional and fun collection of bags.”

Anya Hindmarch, the designer who put the fun back into bags

Who are your style heroes? “There are so many, but if I were to pick one, it would have to be Anya Hindmarch. Aside from such well-made products, she manages to challenge and update her offerings each time. Being a trail­blazer, she defied the norm while being uncompro­mi­sing with her craftsmanship and materials. Being a female entrepreneur, she’s definitely an inspiration to me.”