My Bag

Inspired by Coco Chanel

Jewellery designer Ko Young Ji incorporates Chanel style in her design and gives her pieces an edgy and vintage look

Anything, it seems, can be a source of inspiration for South Korean jewellery designer Ko Young Ji - from the humble honey bee to nondescript car tyres to the late fashion icon Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel.

Her pieces - a mix of chunky bejewelled bracelets, delicate rings and necklaces with multiple elements woven together - sometimes include surprising materials.

Speaking to The Straits Times recently, the 37-year-old founder of jewellery label Salut de Miel says: "I've used polycarbonate plastics, which are more often used as building material or in car tyres, and fabrics, which are more often used for making traditional hanboks or household curtains."

She wants to take things that people would not expect to be in jewellery and make them accessible and elegant, she adds.

Prices for her bracelets range from $69 to $75, while necklaces are about $85 to $165.

For her upcoming collection, the soft-spoken Ko was inspired by the struggles of Coco Chanel before she founded the famous French fashion house.

Jewellery designer Ko Young Ji ST PHOTOS: DESMOND WEE

She says that many know only of the glamour and success of the label, but are not aware of the hardship that the French designer had to go through.

An illegitimate child born in a poor-house hospice in 1883, Coco Chanel grew up in abject poverty. After her mother died when she was 12 years old, her father placed her and her two sisters in an orphanage. She worked as a seamstress and a singer at a bar before starting a millinery, which would eventually grow into the maison that is Chanel today.

Ko says: "She had such drive and willpower to establish herself and her brand."

In her collection, which will be released in June, she has incorporated signature colours and symbols associated with Chanel, which means lots of black, white and camellia flowers.

"But instead of the glamour and prestige associated with Chanel today, I wanted to show a more edgy and vintage style to reflect the passion and grit of Coco before she started her label."

Ko has not always been a jewellery designer, having been a dance costume designer in South Korea for seven years before heading to Paris to study fashion.

In 2012, the bachelorette did her master's in fashion design at Ecole Superieure des Arts et Techniques de la Mode, or Esmod, a private French fashion school in Paris.

She developed an interest in jewellery design after getting compliments for the pieces she created for a fashion collection during her studies.

"Starting your own fashion label can be very challenging. I was told that the jewellery I made had potential to be popular and I thought it would be something different."

After graduating in 2014, she founded Salut de Miel, which means "hello honey" in French. She came up with the name when she was in Paris.

Being 10 years older than most of her classmates made it difficult for her to interact with them, she says, but she found solace in her time alone at home, away from the stress of school.

"From my house, I could see bees and they made me feel relaxed and happy. I also really like the smell and sweet taste of honey, which I find very comforting. That is what inspired the name of the label."

The label has been seen on celebrities including K-pop idols Girls' Generation and Korean actresses Uhm Ji Won and Baek Jin Hee.


    I designed this bag for my label, Salut de Miel. Although a handbag is easier to carry, I like clutch bags because I think they are more stylish.

Ko has her own showroom in Seoul and the brand is stocked at various department stores and multi-label outlets in countries such as Malaysia and China.

In Singapore, the label is available at department stores Takashimaya, Tangs and Robinsons, local spectacle label Visual Mass' new store in Marina Square, as well as multi- label online store, which also has a pop-up outlet at Suntec City.

Asked about her future goals for the brand, Ko says she would like to expand it into a fashion label. She recently launched a bag collection for Salut de Miel and says she would like to design apparel soon.

"I like to work. I work every day, even weekends. I like being in my office, and creating and designing."

Things in her bag


I carry various glasses in case I want to change my look. The clear glasses create a more serious look and I wear them during business meetings. These glasses are from Singapore label Visual Mass. They are very light and super comfortable.


These are from South Korean brand Lapiz Sensible. I like the classic shape, which flatters my face.


I usually don't go for designer products, but this print reminds me of a canvas painting. I really like the artistic feel so I decided to splurge on it.


I like carrying more accessories from my own label - extra rings, bangles and earrings - so that I can change them on the go, depending on how I feel.


I always take this when I travel. When there is a time difference, this helps my body adapt and helps me sleep.


I bought this while I was studying in Paris and I always have it with me because it reminds me of my time there.


I like this coral pink colour because it is a very natural shade and matches my skin tone. I've worn this colour for about two years now.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2017, with the headline 'Inspired by Coco Chanel '. Print Edition | Subscribe