Photography: Matilda Mathews
Photography: Matilda Mathews
2020 has been quite a challenging year for most of us, with many of us dealing with restrictions and lock downs in our own way. For Julie Song, she used the extra time at home with family to start a business. Here, Julie tells us the story behind Jibé, why she uses recycled t-shirts as part of her creative process and how her Korean heritage has shaped her as a person.
Jibé, meaning 'at home' in Korean, was born during the global pandemic.With restrictions in place, I was literally ‘at home’, spending extended periods of time with my family. As an activity to cure our boredom, mum and I began to crochet together during the lockdown. I never imagined this hobby would turn into a business but when I began gifting my crochet bags as a ‘care package’, the idea of Jibé was born.
Each Jibé bag is crocheted from recycled t-shirts. I loved the idea of using recycled t-shirts as yarn so mum and I gathered our old t-shirts and cut them up into pieces to start crocheting, and I quickly discovered that the texture was much thicker and sturdier than other fabrications. Soon after we started cutting up our own old t-shirts, we discovered a local store that stocked recycled t-shirt yarn, and from then on mum and I were unstoppable.
I grew up watching my mum and grandma frequently crocheting recycled yarn into t-shirts and other items. When my grandma used to visit us from Korea, she would always pack kilos of recycled t-shirt yarn to crochet so it was natural that my mum taught me the basics of crocheting too.
I wanted to create something that I could get great use out of and decided to make smaller pouch bags with a handle. I first started drawing ideas of what I wanted but it took a lot of trial and error to find the right shape and size.
The beautiful thing about crocheting is that you never have to cut, disconnect and reconnect yarn to bind the bag together. The yarn connects all the way around row by row without having to cut and bind anything.
I’ve become acutely aware of my own heritage through Jibé. My mum and dad are first-generation immigrants from Korea. Their story is one of struggle and triumph.
Leaving behind their jobs and friends in Korea and arriving in Australia without knowing a single word of English was a challenge. Like many other parents, raising children in a foreign land and trying to instil Korean values in a Western context was also extremely difficult.
Learning their story taught me about resilience, persistence, and most importantly sacrificial love. My parents could have easily chosen to give up in difficult circumstances but they chose to endure for the sake of our future and benefit..
I am still yet to learn more about their stories, but staying connected to my roots through crocheting, whilst drawing in my upbringing in Australia has become a well of inspiration.
My Korean heritage has definitely shaped me as a person. It’s a part of who I am. so it will definitely surface in my design and creations. Growing up, my grandma would crochet bucket hats, vests and sandals for me.
My personal style has inevitably been shaped by my culture. Korean fashion(hanbok) from centuries ago was and is all about layering and simple-elegant silhouettes. Hence naturally, I find myself always finding pieces to layer with, to add a touch of detail in my outfits.
There’s also something therapeutic about crocheting with one hook and one string of yarn that binds a beautiful bag in one whole continuum without disconnecting. The style and approach is very fitting to the simple and straightforward Korean culture.
At the end of the day, the Lee Mathews and Jibé ethos is quite similar. Lee Mathews values art, lifestyle, culture and authenticity, apparent through its design, fabrics and artistic direction. Lee Mathews strives to continue a story and a philosophy behind her work, adding depth to the whole collection. This is what I also strive to achieve through Jibé.
I’ve worked with Lee Mathews since 2017 and being surrounded by LM’s beautiful creations has also inspired me to pursue Jibé.