by Kourtni Rader
In 2009 I made my first trip back to Korea. This trip changed my life and shifted the trajectory of my career. This sounds so cliche, but I know that this community understands how a trip of this magnitude can impact and change a person - forever. I was fortunate to be able to continue traveling to Korea on a fairly frequent basis. Every trip became more and more meaningful and I fell deeply in love with the Korean culture, its people, fashion, and beauty products. My wardrobe also shifted from Western sizing and mainstream brands to unknown Korean brands or tagless clothing that were sized as “free size”. My L’Oréal lipstick was now Holika Holika and my over priced name brand heels were replaced with 10,000 KRW (approximately $10 USD) heels from underground shopping malls. I would often return from these trips with an extra suitcase bought in Korea stuffed with clothing and shoes. In 2013, the unexpected death of a sister shook my family to its core. The loss and pain of her death remains, as she would have celebrated her 50th birthday on May 25th.
After her passing I was looking for a way my sisters and I could cope with her death and honor her memory and legacy. Within 3 months of our sisters passing, Seoul Sisters Boutique was born.
My two sisters and I, who are also adopted from Korea (we are not biological siblings) were able to work through our grief through selling Korean fashion and accessories!
Three years later, I opened a second Seoul Sisters Boutique in Oregon, where I currently live. I soon realized that managing two boutiques, one in Oregon and one in Michigan and running a boutique adoption tour and travel company that I opened in 2012 was a lot. My sister and I felt that our little boutique had served its purpose and we ended up closing our Michigan store. I’m sad that the store closed, but at the same time it freed up valuable space for me to refocus and shift Seoul Sisters to accommodate a broader customer base, to include more diverse sizing options.
Korean clothing is primarily sized as free size. That means, it’s only designed in one size. If it fit, it fits. If it doesn’t. It doesn’t. Although Korean clothing is beautiful and unique, the lack of sizing options limited our growth and customer base which is over 80% non free size. Our retro and vintage inspired lines that are available in various sizing compliment our specialty lines from Korea. I expanded our Korean beauty skin care and make-up lines and began hosting workshops and events at the boutique. I also host similar Korean beauty events for adoptees and adoptive parents at Heritage Camps. I feel these events at Heritage Camps are educational, but to be honest for the campers, they’re just a lot of fun!
I was finally able to reopen my doors on May 15. Boutique life has changed and when I sit back and dwell on the negative aspects of how this pandemic is affecting my businesses, I get anxious. For those who know me personally, know that my life is planned at least 12 - 18 months out. Between my tour and travel company and boutique, this pandemic has has affected Seoul Sisters, but we all know that adoptees are resilient. I am resilient. The boutique is resilient and the families and adoptees I work with are resilient!