Hello Friend: Q&A with Erin Han owner and designer of East/West

Hello Friends! We're so excited to share with you the East/West x Hello Kitty and Friends Collection. But first, meet Erin Han the owner and designer of East/West! Learn more about what inspired her to start her small business and find out how to start being clothing conscious *hint* you can start by owning a piece from the supercute East/West x Hello Kitty and Friends collection - shop the styles here.
Hello Erin, can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
My name is Erin Han and I am the owner, operator and designer behind East/West Shop located in the Chinatown neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles.

What inspired you to start your own business and tell us more about  East/West?
When I was a teenager I worked at Goodwill and was one of the only kids in my school wearing vintage at the time. I mention this because my interest in finding and repurposing things that are out there is something I’ve been into for a very long time. After being a clothing designer for 11 years and working in the fashion industry, I started East/West Shop to show people how retail could be different - how we could look at vintage as valuable as something made new. I want to show how there are SO many ways we could re-use and re-purpose all the materials already out there. We use our store as a place of education to interact with the community and to have the conversation of “how was your shirt made”. We believe that if we’re aware of what we’re buying we can inspire others to make more solid choices that will create a healthier future for the apparel industry. 
As part of our “Small Business, Big Smile” campaign, tell us about the inspiration behind the East/West x Hello Kitty and Friends collection and what piece was your favorite to create?
We are so excited to be a part of this campaign! As a small business we are excited to share our message about being clothing conscious and excited to collaborate with Hello Kitty and Friends by continuing the celebration of their 60th anniversary. For this collection, the denim pieces were my favorite to create. I love to see how the patch-working comes together at the end! I feel proud of these as well as our small mending patches. 

Can you tell us more about sustainable fashion and any tips on how to start being more clothing conscious?  
One of the first things you can do is to start mending the things you have! I find so many shirts with missing buttons, small holes, etc. It only takes a needle and thread to repair almost anything!  One of my favorite mending techniques is called Sashiko. It’s a method of garment repair that originated in rural Japan. Essentially you are taking one piece of fabric and quilting it to another piece of fabric to reinforce an area that is thin or to cover a hole. It’s like story telling through clothes. love that Hello Kitty and Friends are part of this story with their mending patches. Patches and Supply Kits are available online through the collaboration
 And lastly, do you have any advice for an inspiring small business owner? 
For anyone who comes to me asking for advice with starting small apparel companies - I remind them of how many materials are already all around us. Repurposing and finding vintage clothes is relatively affordable with a huge potential if you’re willing to put in the work. Be conscious and aware of the footprint of whatever you are going to start making. Owning your own business is a lot of work and it never ends. At the end of the day you have to feel proud of what you’ve done!