10 years with Building Block
2 Sisters, 5 Studios, 10 Years.
As most small design businesses go, we started with an idea before a business plan. Many seasons and lessons learned later, "the plan" is always in-progress, and through it all, there have been many memories to share. Below is an abbreviation of 10 years of Building Block–time truly flies!
Once upon a time in 2011, two sisters found themselves working in different cities, an ocean apart, at corporate design jobs.
Kim set up a little sewing table in the corner of her 400 sqft apartment in Tokyo and began experimenting with a vintage Singer machine on weeknights. Some leather, rubber cording, and a block of wood later, the first Building Block bag was made. After receiving a handful of orders from our dream stockists like Totokaelo, Opening Ceremony, and Creatures of Comfort (shoutout and RIP to all 3!), Nancy joined the hustle and the two of us decided to take the ultimate life leap.
After we quit our day jobs to pursue Building Block full time, we celebrated for a day, then snapped into work mode.
We moved back to our parents home where we worked out of our dad’s garage for an entire year. As orders came in, we lovingly hand tied each hangtag, typed up each invoice, ironed out what a season and linesheet meant, and worked out the big kinks in production. Our first loyal customers received their bags from us here.
In 2013 we moved into a space in downtown LA where we lived and worked together, listened to a lot of Sade, and designed some of our best sellers like the Rucksack and Business.
During this time we traveled back and forth to Taipei 3x a year where we really solidified our relationship with our production workshop, who we still work closely with today. Also, The Selby came to feature us in this space which put us over the moon!
In 2015 we collaborated with our dear friends at Iko Iko + Waka Waka to create a shop and studio experience. Our 3rd floor walk up space was within the historic Women’s Building in LA, a non-profit arts and education center that was a cornerstone in late-twentieth-century feminist culture. It was here where we grew a sense of community as we opened our doors to friends and visitors from all over the world.
This is also the year we hired our first employees, had our first sample sale, and opened our online store (feeling like real adult humans by now!).
In 2016 we moved into our first Building Block flagship studio + store in Chinatown where we are today. We had a lot of fun designing all the custom parts in the shop to offer the full expression of our collection.
Over the years, we’ve learned that faster doesn’t mean better and have slowed down the seasons to feature less flashy colors and more classic, perennial shades. We’ve been asking ourselves what’s next rather than what’s new and most of all, reminding ourselves that Building Block’s original ethos has always been to champion process.
Come visit us + our wonderful team at our newly re-opened store where we have done some further editing and are, as always, evolving :)
Kimberly and Nancy