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'Heimat' for me is something linked to the past with a subtle feeling of melancholy surrounding it

For the upcoming SS20 collection ‘Heimat’ (homeland) NINA YUUN has joined forces with the Swiss-Korean jewelry maker Nicole Hana Kim. After working with silver for several years, Nicole launched her jewelry label “hana kim” in 2018. She is fascinated by craftsmanship using sustainable materials. Born in Switzerland to her Korean mother, she has talked with us openly about her feelings of ‘Heimat’. Read below this thought-provoking and touching interview. Thank you, Nicole!

Nicole, thanks for your time. As you are completing the collection with your unique and beautiful jewelry you are already pretty familiar with the questions we seek to answer. What does ‘Heimat’ mean for you?

For me ‘Heimat’ is very much linked to people in combination with places. For example

sitting with my mother in the house I grew up in means ‘Heimat’. If she would live somewhere else, although the notion of ‘Heimat’ is linked to her, I would call it rather just familiarity than ‘Heimat’. The feeling would be a mixture between familiarity that may occurs through scents, tastes - as in food, people I know and memories from the past. Somehow the concept of ‘Heimat’ for me is something linked to the past with a subtle feeling of melancholy surrounding it.

When we first discussed about a potential collaboration for ‘Heimat’ [collection], the Korean concept of jeong popped up in my head. It is a very particular feeling in Korean culture. It is often translated to love, but it captures even more. Jeong is an inseparable bond that is formed over time towards people or even objects, as for your favorite cup for example. Often it is referred to as a positive feeling, but sometimes it can be also something to explain stagnating relationships; for example couples that have been together for a long time and fight all the time - it seems like a toxic relationship, but somehow there is this inseparable bond. Jeong relates to my notion of ‘Heimat’: it is built over time and the bond can’t be neglected, neither if it is linked to positive emotions nor bad ones.

Are there things that make you feel home?

The Korean cuisine, so definitely tastes that carry me back home.

Are you well integrated into the society? Do you sometimes struggle?

I really feel Swiss and feel very well integrated. I rarely feel alienated to the society I live in, maybe because I live in the city. If I go to the countryside I realize that people are sometimes startled by me speaking perfect Swiss German although I look Asian - those are the moments I realize I am different to Swiss people.

What is really weird for me is whenever I go to Korea people there are super surprised when I speak Korean as to them I look very European. They often laugh because they think it’s so strange that I speak Korean. I feel really connected to Korean culture because of my relatives and the huge cultural influence from my mother, therefore I would wish to be more integrated in Korean society.

Nicole applying brooches to one of the SS20 NINA YUUN x hana kim pieces. Photo by Nina Yuun.

Have you experienced stereotyping or discrimination based on your looks?

As a child a lot in school and also as a teenager, then mostly on the street or when going

out. But now as an adult not anymore, maybe because society has changed, or maybe because you get more confident as you grow older.

I remember this one situation when I was maybe 14 and I went to Zurich city for my piano lesson. I went into a small shop and then there was this 40 years old guy that just left the shop when I was entering and he said „Hoi Ching Chang“. It’s funny when I think about the situation now, but at that time I was really startled and confused because this guy triple my age mocked me!

Do you feel that what you describe as 'Heimat' is being threatened?

Since ‘Heimat’, or rather Heimatgefühle [sense of home] for me is linked to the past, I don’t feel like it can be threatened in any way.

What do you feel when you imagine 'Heimat'?

Personally, ‘Heimat’ is mostly associated with joy, sometimes a bit oppressive. For example, when you’re at the place you grew up for too long it feels a bit oppressive, although it is joyful most of the time.

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