December 3, 2009

destination: korea, our newest collection of inspired children’s clothes

For our Spring Collection, our design team set off to explore South Korea to gather our inspiration for the season. This was very exciting, as I really knew very little about this country…and South Korea didn’t disappoint. In Korea, Isabelle, Tami and I found a uniquely vibrant, energetic culture and a land of exuberant color, ornate architecture and beautiful artisanal crafts. Enjoy!

Laura Boes

VP of Design

Korean yin yang on door Korean Street Scene Dragon on roof of Korean temple

It’s hard to imagine a place that bustles more than Seoul, home to the 1988 Summer Olympics, and the fifth largest city in the world. Everyone contributes to the energy and excitement… we heard so many parents urging their little ones along with a hearty “Gaja Gaja!” (“Hurry up Hurry up!”), rushing from one place to the next. This playful saying inspired our Gaja Gaja! t-shirt.

the Kims in Korea kimchee and other Korean foods Korean temple

In Seoul, we did a lot of exploring with the Kims, Tami’s extended family. They introduced us to Kimchee, the quintessentially Korean side dish of pickled vegetables that’s eaten every day at breakfast, lunch and dinner. We love spicy food, so we fell in love with this dish and decided to honor this staple in the national cuisine with our kimchee boy’s tee.

Insadong street scene Korean masks Korean door knocker

We wandered in and out of Seoul’s distinct, charming neighborhoods with the Kims, and discovered Insadong, a traditional arts and crafts street. We found shop after shop selling traditional crafts like Hanji, handmade Korean paper, used for everything from masks to clothing to furniture. Here, Isabelle and I found the inspiration for our Hanji floral dress.

Through our wanderings, we also noticed wonderfully ornate doorknockers at the entrance of homes as well as temples. The knockers were shaped like dragons’ heads to protect against evil spirits, and we incorporated them into our Heem Dragon polo.

hanbok patchwork jogakbo shopping in Dongdaemun market

At Dongdaemun Market, the largest shopping center in South Korea, we found many examples of Hanbok, traditional curved, high-waisted dresses worn at festivals and celebrations. This iconic, elegant design inspired the proportions of many of our Spring dresses.

We were also charmed by the resourcefulness of the traditional craft of Jogakbo, the art of patching together leftover scraps of colorful fabric for everything from blankets and clothing to wedding gift wrap. Two of our favorite dresses in this Collection are inspired by this patchwork tradition.

temple doors temple stairs Gyeong ju city metal work

As we traveled throughout Korea, we climbed steep stairways to find intricate detail and beautiful colors in ornate ancient temples. In Gyeong Ju, Korea’s historical and cultural center, we were awed by Bulguksa Temple– particularly the geometry of gridded doors and the beautifully painted floral patterns, which inspired us to create textured plaids and colorful prints.

We are so pleased to share our new collection, inspired by our journey to Korea. Enjoy!


  1. eBirdie says:

    How fun – I love to see the inspiration behind the clothes!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Ooh… making me “homesick” for Korea!!!

  3. Christine says:

    I’m so excited for this new line. My son came home from Korea last summer and we love incorporating his birth culture into our every day lives… what a wonderful way to do so!

    (I’ve already ordered the Kimchi shirt… that was a must)

    These photos bring back wonderful memories of our trip to Seoul… thank you for sharing!

  4. Sara says:

    I’m so in love with this new collection! I never bought Tea (my son is almost 12 months old) before but I’m so in love with this line! Thanks!

  5. Christine says:

    Love it! I just posted about this on a Korean adoption website with a link to your site. :o)

  6. Amy says:

    I’m in love with this collection! My two children are adopted from Korea and I can’t wait to show them not only the clothes, but all the wonderful historical and cultural references you’ve incorporated into the catalog and your website. I’ve always been a fan of tea clothes, but now I’m a total devotee. Korea is a wonderful country, thanks for honoring the land and the people. Awesome!

  7. san says:

    Thanks for recognizing the art and beauty of a country that is often underappreciated. I liked seeing my favorite places here, as well as the beautiful prints they inspired. BTW, the persimmon cloth of Jeju island would be beautiful on little ones (if maybe too expensive).

  8. Sharon says:

    I am currently living in Insadong, one of the areas you visited. You have captured the beauty of Korea and it’s people so nicely in your designs. As much as I miss San Francisco, I feel fortunate to be experiencing Asia and all it’s wonders. My daughter gets many compliments when wearing her Tea outfits in Seoul! Many thanks!

  9. Nana says:

    Wow wonderful to see a collection inspired by the dynamic, splendid country, Korea, also known as “morning calm”! It’s always fascinating to experience Asian cultures other than typical Chinese and Japanese. Good work! Keep it up!

  10. Chang-Shin says:

    Would you consider doing some adult versions? I adore the dresses! And the T-shirts!

  11. Eunyoung says:

    Thank you for understanding and sharing the beauty of Korea.
    Your design is really beautiful.

    I hope more and more foreigners can know about Korea from you.

    from one of Korean :-)

  12. Jenny Moon Godley says:

    Thanks for celebrating Korea, a country far often overlooked in Asia. I tried to teach my two sons Korean (I am full Korean), but I live in a town in Florida that does not have a very large Korean population. So, we have taught them Spanish and only speak spanish in the home, though my husband is caucasian. We used to live in Panama. We get lots of looks in public when this Korean mother and her caucasian husband are talking to their children in spanish. Anyways, I actually took a photo almost exactly like the green doors from the temple from my last family visit to Korea. I wanted to show this to you but there is not place to add attachments here. I thought it would’ve been a cute idea to do numbers spelled in English on the shirt but sounded out in Korean. Or in another language. Since you have a huge hispanic population in the states, I hope to see some things in spanish. Thanks for the wonderful clothes for the boys, so hard to find these days!

  13. says:

    I am very excited to see the appreciation for Seoul’s beauty because here at, we were also inspired by eye-catching designs and unique cultures in Seoul and Tokyo and built a website about them. We’ve focused on making the best of these cities accessible to English-speakers.
    What a lovely collection!

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