Eugenia Kim has a great origin story. Make that three.
Here’s the tale of the smart Pittsburgh native who heads to Dartmouth College thinking she’ll become a doctor—only to ditch the idea when she winds up sick and sees what it’s like to be in a hospital. Or there’s the day she got such a bad haircut that she designed a hat to cover it up—and was showered with compliments. And there’s the moment she was fired from her job as an editorial assistant at a fashion magazine—which allowed her to go into hat making full time.
Smart move. Last year, Eugenia Kim celebrated 20 years in business. Her vibrant, whimsical hats have crowned A-listers from the Duchess of Cambridge (who knows a good crown when she sees one) to Katy Perry, Madonna, and Beyoncé (who posted photos of herself wearing a wide-brimmed Eugenia Kim sun hat stitched with the words “do not disturb,” causing the hat to go viral).
This year should be just as eventful. Kim recently launched her first bridal line for spring, and she’s getting married in June. We caught up with her to find out more.
Getting fired must’ve been tough, but it certainly worked out for the best.
Fear really motivated me. I thought, “I’ll do anything not to have another desk job.” Now I have customers in Texas, Palm Beach, Hawaii, in Asia, in Europe. If a Russian person sees me, they’re like, “Oh, can I take a picture with you?” I didn’t realize I was famous in Russia. But it’s all cold weather and they love my stuff.
Now brides will, too.
It took me forever to find my [wedding] dress. There was nothing for a bride like me. Someone quirky, you know? Then I made all the headpieces for a whole bridal party—bride, bridesmaids, flower girls—for the wedding of a friend of a friend. I saw this niche no one is serving.
It seems your client is a bold bride. No blushing brides for you.
We have our Instagram-worthy pieces, like, if you’re getting married on the hills in Scotland and you have a helicopter with an aerial view, then this headpiece is for you. [I’ve had to learn] what colors brides like to wear. There are so many shades of white—I didn’t know. So it’s challenging. What people wear on their wedding day is different from an everyday thing.
You’ve just celebrated 20 years in business. What’s next?
We launched bags two years ago. Now bridal. We’re soft-launching scarves. The trick is figuring out the timing. It’s daunting when you’re young and have a brand and don’t know what you’re doing. I’m more strategic now. I was creative but kind of dumb when I started. Unorganized. But, honestly, it’s better to start off creative than organized. Administration is something you can learn. You can’t teach creativity.
Do you have time to relax? Recharge?
I used to work so many hours when I was younger. Now I know how to get a ton of stuff done by 6 p.m. each day. I decided I’m going to play tennis three times a week. I’m hardcore. I thought, “I must be burning 500 calories inthat hour.” So I studied my fitness app and it turns out the days I am in the office and not playing tennis I burn more calories than the days when I do play tennis.
Looks like your office time is your cardio. My fiancé says, “You never sit still.” But that’s the energy I’m putting into the brand. At least now I know why I’m so wiped out and hungry at the end of the day.