Today we're joining Yilan Song, the founder of Minzuu boutique, for a home tour and interview on her exciting business venture. Minzuu is an online boutique for well-made, artisanal home decor & personal accessories. In case you missed it, also take a look at this recent post on Minzuu's stunning ceramic tableware and the history of Japanese patterns in design.
Jacquin: Hi Yilan! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to interview you today and take a look into your home. I really love Minzuu's collection of high quality global finds. Please share a bit about your business Minzuu.
Yilan: I'm Yilan, the founder of Minzuu.com. Minzuu is a hybrid of online boutique and e-magazine featuring the global artisan community, independent designers, burgeoning artists, and ultimately the preservation of traditional handicraft skills around the world. I'm currently living in New York with my husband and our two children.
Yilan: Whimsical, rustic, and playful. Neutral colors allow me to relax and truly be myself, plus, they make the perfect canvas for fun pops of color.
On top of a neutral backgrounds, I love to add home accents that come with a unique story or history like you'll find at Minzuu. These cultural decorative items simply do not look or feel the same as decor fresh from the factory, but instead tremendously enrich the texture of your space.
When we first moved to NYC from San Francisco eight years ago, we made a trip to IKEA and purchased all of the essentials for our apartment. When the time came to retire some of these old items, I started to carefully pick products that were handcrafted by artisans as their replacements. I learned that surrounding myself with handcrafted decor that has a story, actually makes me much happier. Handmade products usually carry a higher price tag, but they are more solidly built, last longer, and age beautifully. I quite enjoy seeing the change of colors and textures or watching them develop a beautiful patina with use, as that evokes a feeling of belonging, a quintessential element of a home.
I learned that surrounding myself with handcrafted decor that has a story, actually makes me much happier.
Jacquin: What inspired you to found Minzuu?
Yilan: The original inspiration came from my own quest for living authentically. A few years ago, I finally got tired of characterless, mass-produced products, and wanted to look for something more original, uniquely made by local artisans with their ancestral skills. Pieces crafted with old techniques made me feel bonded to their forgotten, beautiful walks of life. However, they turned out to be surprisingly rare, at least at the price point affordable to me.
Well, I thought globalization could do better than this. Why don't we champion an alternative model of production and consumption? With the convenience of emails, we can connect and communicate with artisan groups everywhere. They no longer need to go through 2 or 3 layers of middlemen to reach the global consumer market. Additionally, with developments in international logistics, their products can be securely delivered to almost every corner of the world for reasonable prices.
I was just finishing my graduate study in international development, and this idea made me really excited. I was hopeful to see the global artisan community benefit from the growth of e-commerce, rise above poverty while keeping their handicraft traditions alive.
Jacquin: How do you find new artisans from across the globe? What has been the most exciting part about working for Minzuu so far?
Yilan: So far, the most exciting part of this journey is the people I meet who share the same passion and vision. I first shared the idea with a few friends and professors, and they soon introduced me to a few dozens of like-minded people around the world. From there, I received even more connections. Continuing to meet and speak with all these artisans, artists, designers, educators, business owners and non-profit leaders always gives me new ideas, opens up new opportunities, or leads me to discover new artisan groups that I can't wait to work with.
Jacquin: What is your favorite space in your home?
Yilan: My favorite space is the bedroom I share with my husband, and the space also doubles as my home office. I love every piece in the room for their beauty and functionality. It's not a tiny bedroom if judged by the standards of Manhattan, but I'm sure it's smaller than most people's walk-in closets in the suburbs =) Nonetheless, it's an amazing space created to keep myself uplifted and inspired, but in a calm, organized way. The use of vertical space for storage keeps all my files, stationery, product samples, and photography equipment conveniently within arms' reach. The whites, grays, blacks, and earthy tones create a soothing base for dreaming, day or night.
Jacquin: What does Minzuu have planned for 2016?
Yilan: We have only been officially launched for less than a year so there are lots and lots of things planned everyday. For our e-magazine, we are striving to provide a deeper and broader coverage of art and cultural events around the world. For our online store, we are refining our collections to present the best craftsmanship and the most refreshing design. With that being said, our foremost focus this year is on expanding our community, making ourselves and our philosophy known to a broader audience. If you are a lover of art, craft, culture, or travel, sign up at Minzuu.com and let's embark on the journey together!