'I'm originally from Korea—we moved to the Texas when I was young, but moved back to Korea pretty soon after I learned English. I stayed there through college, and after I graduated, I worked at this film studio and it was really stressful. You would work like a slave, and then have to go out and party, and then go back to work like a slave again. By that time, I was in my late 20s, and I just needed something different. I had always really liked fashion, so I told myself, 'I want to study fashion business in Italy. That'll be my new thing.'
So I gave myself one year to study fashion in Milan, to see if I would like it. I ended up meeting my husband [and business partner] there. He was working on a design job and we fell in love after a year. Eventually, I had to go back to Korea, and he had to go back to LA...we tried long distance for a few months before deciding to get married. I moved to LA with him, which was hard—I didn't have a car, and I didn't know anybody, and LA is so spread out that it was kind of isolating. While I was waiting for my green card, we started the first Mohawk General Store as a sort of experiment. We stumbled on a space that was tiny and cheap and we were like, ‘Yeah, let's do something!’ Then it consumed my life—my customers became my really good friends, and they’re like family now. Then it just grew like crazy. After two years we found the current space and that's how we got where we are now.
In Korea, everyone is really obsessed with skincare and staying young—it's kind of crazy how much money and time people spend. My mom used to use at least eight products day and night, but I think that’s kind of the norm for Korean ladies. When I go back, I feel like some country bumpkin because everyone is polished—the hair is done, the makeup is done....Here, you try hard to look like you haven’t tried. I bought the Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint in Medium and I mix it with an SPF, because I’m brainwashed to not go into the sun without it. I use Nars Ginger Concealer Stick for dark spots and blemishes, and I like to use MAC Cremeblend Blush to give myself a little color. Guerlain Liquid Eyeliner has always been my signature, but I just got eyelash extensions so now I don’t have to use as much. For my lips I use something really sheer, like MAC Lip Conditioner.
Recently, my mom gave me a coupon for this Korean facial with stem cells and told me to go with my husband. So we went and he kind of freaked out...we were in these machines and they were doing this whole body massage. But I like to experiment with skincare a lot— SK-II Stempower is really good, and I also use Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum. Then I got into argan oil after I went to Morocco. It’s really good for erasing all of your wrinkles, so I’ve been using it on my hands, my feet and my face. One of my favorite things to use is the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence. It’s one of their cult products...There's this story about this guy in a sake factory who had super young hands, even though he was like crazy old, and somebody saw that so they created the essence with sake. For spots, I use DBH Blemish Balm, which is soothing. And that's my face!
I also do the Korean spa thing. I go once every season, and it’s good for your skin because you get scrubbed down like a piece of meat. It’s graphic! I do it at New Year's just to become super clean for the beginning of the year. Then I like to do it once after summer to scrub off my super-tanned skin that’s starting to flake. For more regular exfoliation, I like the Grown Alchemist Polishing Face Exfoliant. I also use this black soap that I got from Morocco—it's made from argan oil as well. You slather it all over your body, and it kind of looks like black clay.
My hair was long for more than 12 years before I cut it short. Long hair flatters me, and that’s why I kept it that way—it was safe. But I was just really bored and I wanted something completely different. I mean, it’s not that different, but it was a big thing for me. My husband had never seen me with short hair, so he was like, ‘Oh. OK.’ I think now he’s used to it now. I don’t like to wash it every day because I feel like I lose more hair if I do that—and on the second day the oils come out, so it actually looks good. Amore Pacific Ryo Anti-Aging Shampoo is my current favorite. Maybe twice a week I’ll wash it properly—I don’t know if my mom would approve, but that’s what I do.”
—as told to ITG
Bo Carney photographed by Dana Boulos in Los Angeles. Interview by Jane Helpern.