Photography by Ye Rin Mok
Exactly 12 steps away from Building Block's studio door, is the studio of Hansel from Basel — a Los Angeles based socks and accessories brand that makes our favorite cozy tights, the softest knitwear, and essential clothing. Hannah Byun runs Hansel from Basel alongside her husband Nicholas Haggard and is an inspiring model for how to be a woman at ease while in her 12th year of owning an independent small business. Trust us, it's an all-intensive job to create product for people, but we love Hannah because she's got the right perspective—which is to say she will order the sugar-filled pastry without thinking twice.
On a Monday morning, we have a chai latte and chocolate croissant alongside Hannah in Highland Park and settle into familiar conversation about trusting yourself at 38.
Tell us what’s in your bag!
A lot of things! Maybe too much? But you caught me on a light bag day.
— Face sprays, lip balm...ESSENTIALS!
— My quilted work scarf
What compelled you to start Hansel from Basel?
I always imagined myself designing or taking part in something creative. At the time Hansel from Basel started, I wasn’t sure what I wanted in a career and was playing around with going back to school. During this quarter life crisis, my family owned and operated a sock factory in Orange County and I started making my own socks as a much needed creative outlet. I loved the process of seeing something made from start to finish and having grown up with it, it felt tangible and exciting. I created a small collection and launched Hansel from Basel at Creatures of Comfort back in 2007! Hansel from Basel essentially began as a creative project and continues to be so to this day.
You work with your husband, how is it running a small business alongside a spouse?
Crazy as it sounds, I love it. It was an adjustment at first but we are two peas in a pod. It's nice to know someone has your back through and through. Also, having a good partner will force you to communicate better, plan better, all things better.
Speaking of small businesses, we’re studio neighbors! How do you start your mornings in the studio?
We love being studio neighbors with Building Block. One of my favorite past times is peering through your windows after hours to see all the new amazing things you're making. My work schedule is often impacted and varies during the day so it's extra important that my morning be just right. It all starts with coffee, a little bit of breathing (b/c I get super anxious in the am), and a little reading (b/c I hate seeing my subscriptions pile up). After all this is said and done, I go to the gym and then dive head on into work.
Tell us about something you value/cherish that you’ve owned for a significant amount of time.
The jewelry my parents gave me. Most of them are family heirlooms so they mean a lot to me. Because I grew up in the states and most of my family was in Seoul, I always romanticized a life very different than my suburban upbringing. From time to time, I'll pull out the jewelry and start thinking about my grandparents, family history, etc.
...And something new you’ve acquired that you value?
Tesla Model 3! It's a zippy little car sans gas.
What about your life now would be most unexpected to your younger self?
Relax, it will be ok. It always is. Also, it's fine to be a little awkward.
The name Hansel from Basel has such a magical ring to it! If you could travel to any time/place, where would you go and why?
Korea during the time my parents were growing up. It's not so much about Korea but just seeing what my parents were like before they moved to the US. Whenever I go through family albums, it makes me so happy to see my parents as younger people: coiffed hair, dressed in their cute little outfits, and living their life in a different culture, time, and place. They wore such cute outfits!!!
What's your favorite thing about being your age right now?
Favorite thing is knowing that all my choices, decisions, actions are just that, my own. You really learn to trust yourself at 38!