jewellery designer & shopkeeper johann kim

Five years ago Johann Kim founded fashion and lifestyle store Pigeonhole. It's now one of five shops in Perth that sells a wide selection of independent labels, including cult Korean stationery brands. One of them is known as Cabin Fever, a cafe cum gallery space down an arcade in the CBD. As well as designing fashion and accessories for Pigeonhole, Johann has also set up a wholesale division and retails online. He is also the Australian distributor for The Impossible Project, a European company that is releasing new films that are compatible with existing Polaroid cameras.

Which five words best describe you? "I want it done yesterday!"
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I started out by making jewellery out of beads and wire when I was 19. I think I spent a total of $14 in materials when I created my first collection of earrings and walked around to Perth boutiques with them. It was just a random part-time hobby that I did whilst I was studying, but it developed my interest for boutique stores and independent retail.

I opened my first store when I turned 25. I opened it with a couple of credit cards and a lot of help from family and friends. The store contained a random mish mash of jewellery that I designed, clothing from local designers and design products and quirky items sourced from around the world or collected on my travels. I didn't really know what I was doing, and I'd opened the store in a very random, off-beat location, but stuck at it.

Five years on, I've now got six stores and a little coffee shop in Perth along with a production office in Seoul, Korea and a wholesale showroom and warehouse in Melbourne. It's been a pretty hairy ride and I still feel like I don't know what I'm doing, but I enjoy the journey and trying out new things.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Plant many kinds of crops, you never know which one will succeed, maybe they all will!
What’s your proudest career achievement? I can't pinpoint one particular moment. I prefer to take pride in the journey and the wonderful people in it that make it worthwhile. I have an amazing team of people that I work with, and I think that knowing that such talented and passionate people are working with you, that makes me feel proud to do what I do all the time.
What’s been your best decision? To put on staff that are better or smarter than me.
Who inspires you? People who have found what they love and wholeheartedly do it!
What are you passionate about? Community. I've always hoped that my company could be one that brings people together, gives them a sense of belonging and purpose and empowers them to fulfil their dreams. Business is more than just selling stuff, it is about people and making sure that they find value in the things that you offer them and that you make sure that they are feeling valued as well. I try to take this approach in how we build our team and also how we include our community and customers in what we do. Whether we hold exhibitions or workshops or open up to interns and work experience students or just provide opportunities for people to work in a creative environment. I hope to allow opportunities for people to find meaning and make meaningful relationships with one another through what we do at Pigeonhole.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Jesus. I'd like to meet him face to face.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? I'd like to open a takeaway food joint. I know that sounds very random, but I just think it would be a lot of fun. I'd also like to get into furniture. These are all things that are probably not too far away. I guess I don't have heaps of dreams as much as I like to enjoy the present and the opportunities that come my way and just like seeing how far things can go with the (sometimes very little) resources that I've got!
What are you reading? Not much other than about a hundred emails a day!

images courtesy of pigeonhole