Pharrell Williams and K-pop stars are drawn to Mina Kwon's designs

American rapper-producer is among the hip-hop celebrities illustrator Mina Kwon has worked with

South Korean hip-hop artist Mina Kwon (above), who is working with beauty retailer Escentials on a Christmas campaign, on how she met Pharrell Williams.  -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN
South Korean hip-hop artist Mina Kwon (above), who is working with beauty retailer Escentials on a Christmas campaign, on how she met Pharrell Williams.  -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

South Korean hip-hop illustrator and artist Mina Kwon has a phone address book that most K-pop and hip-hop fans would kill for.

"Pharrell Williams? He texts me and we also keep in touch via e-mail," the soft-spoken 29-year-old says nonchalantly of her friendship with the famous American rapper-producer and fashion designer.

She was speaking to Life! while in town for work last week. Her job as a designer has allowed her to rub shoulders with many hip-hop celebrities such as Williams, and YG Entertainment artists, including K-pop boyband BigBang's Taeyang and G-Dragon.

YG Entertainment is a record label and talent agency and considered one of the biggest entertainment agencies in South Korea.

Kwon is known for her colourful celebrity caricatures that are inspired by pop-culture icons such as the Simpsons, Family Guy and Charlie Brown. Her drawings caught the eye of Williams, who contacted her two years ago after discovering her work online. He invited her to visit him in Los Angeles to discuss how they could collaborate.

Kwon, who has been a fan of his music for the past 12 years, recounts: "I met him in a studio in Los Angeles. He saw my artwork on a website and he invited me to meet him. I cried."

Since that meeting, she has worked on many projects with him, including T-shirt designs for his clothing line Billionaire Boys Club and designing an enamel smiley face pin that pays homage to his signature oversized hat.

The artist, who says she has been "drawing and doodling" since she was three, has also garnered a strong fanbase. Her Instagram account

(uknowminakwon) has close to 165,000 followers, many of whom comment on her posts and ask her to create illustrations of South Korean hip-hop artists or jewellery for them.

Kwon, who is single, says a fortuitous meeting with YG Entertainment producer Teddy Park some years ago led to her successful career in design and gave her the opportunity to make friends with the Korean music elite.

She says in halting English: "Teddy found my work online and rang me, and that's how it all started. I didn't think people would like my work, then after meeting Pharrell, my work got more popular."

Her latest project is a Christmas campaign with beauty retailer Escentials, in which she designed festive props, shop displays and wrapping paper in her signature style.

She says her work is inspired mostly by hip-hop music, from the likes of American rappers Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West, R&B singer Chris Brown and, of course, Williams. "I love hip-hop, the beats, lyrics, the vibes, everything. I got into it after listening to rapper 2Pac's song Changes ," she says.

The latest hip-hop song that has been playing on repeat for her is Come Here, a new track from South Korean rapper Masta Wu, featuring Dok2 and Bobby. Asked if she has plans to pursue new interests or hobbies, she says: "Maybe DJ-ing because I like music. And creating sculptures because I love toy sculptures."

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