Home Fashion The Classic Nameplate Necklace Lives On, in Many Languages

The Classic Nameplate Necklace Lives On, in Many Languages


“I’m obsessed,” Chloe Park said when she realized the woman entering the Goop Bond Street boutique in New York City where she was shopping was the jeweler Jennie Yoon.

Ms. Yoon, 38, the founder of Kinn Studio in Los Angeles, was in town for a pop-up shop at Goop, where selections of her jewelry had been laid out on a tabl: delicate earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets, mostly in yellow gold.

Kinn Studio’s Heritage Bar Necklace. The necklace was introduced this month, in the Heritage line, timed to Korean American Day (Jan. 13).

The design that particularly caught Ms. Park’s attention were the necklaces personalized with Asian characters, variations of the nameplate necklaces popular in the 1980s and ’90s. “I really want one of the name necklaces,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Those necklaces, along with Kinn’s nameplate bracelets and rings, feature engravings or cut out versions of the letters and characters themselves in a variety of languages: Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese and Thai, as well as English. Ms. Yoon grew up in Seoul, and moved with her mother to San Jose, Calif., when she was 12. Her father joined them later.

The move wasn’t easy. “I didn’t speak any English,” she said. “I used to dread roll call. The teacher would butcher my name,” which, in Korean, is Hye Jung. Today, Ms. Yoon wears one of her name necklaces with Hye Jung spelled out in Korean characters, a visible expression of pride in her heritage. “I’m happy in my skin,” she said.

The impetus for starting her brand, however, stemmed from a different experience. In 2016, the family home in Los Angeles was robbed. “The thieves stole my dad’s watches and about 30 pieces of my mother’s jewelry, heirloom pieces, with a story to tell, like her engagement ring,” Ms. Yoon said. “In Korea, you are given gold jewelry when you are born, and you pass it on.” But now there was nothing to give.

She began scouring vintage shops in downtown Los Angeles looking for replacement pieces, but in the back of her mind she was thinking about starting a company to create what she called “modern heirlooms.”

“After a lifetime of wear,” she explained, “you’ll be able to pass your jewelry on as heirlooms.”

Ms. Yoon’s background gave her the tools she needed. In 2007 she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and social behavior and a minor in business at the University of California, Irvine, and in 2013 she graduated with an M.B.A. with a concentration in entrepreneurship from Pepperdine Graziadio, on the west side of Los Angeles.

“I worked as a founding employee at Casetify, a global tech accessories brand,” she said. “As an early employee, I learned everything that it takes to build a business from the ground up — this is where I learned everything I know about e-commerce, brand building, business development and marketing.”

She took classes to learn the basics of jewelry making and, in 2017, introduced Kinn Studio. The name was chosen, at least in part, because “when a name has a K in it, it’s more memorable, like Nike,” she said.

Last year Ms. Yoon debuted the Asian character styles “for my daughter; it’s part of the Dear Kaia collection.” This month, she introduced more styles, in the new Heritage line, in honor of Korean American Day, Jan. 13. Prices start at $180 for a character charm.

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