Partially looking to reclaim her days as a world-class traveler and more importantly to try to help preserve dying artistic practices in far-off locales, Mona Kim has started Moowon, an online magazine and e-commerce site. After quietly unveiling her site in March, Kim has garnering attention through word-of-mouth and right now her trajectory is to try to unearth as many obscure stories as possible, she said during a phone interview from her Paris office.
Kim said she will continue to develop concept work for such fashion brands as Uniqlo and cultural institutions like Brazil’s Museum of Tomorrow — her main occupation for more than 20 years. Last fall after visiting friends in the U.S. who are knee-deep in entrepreneurial pursuits, Kim said she was inspired to figure out a side project. Planning to archive the stories featured on Moowon, she hopes the site will attract a community of expats, world travelers, curious individuals and image makers. With each story averaging about 200 visitors a day, Kim said she hopes to add at least one new story a week through an expanding base of freelancers. In the early stages of speaking with potential sponsors, she expects to align Moowon with one fashion or design company that has a reputation of being dedicated to artisans.
A recent trip to India led her to feature a piece about Bhuj, once a city of extraordinary beauty, where the Great Rann or “white desert” as it is known, is the largest seasonal salt desert in the world. The area’s dusty roads are secret passageways to a vibrant ecosystem of nomadic tribes, artisans and weavers who hum away behind traditional looms working with indigo-dyed fabric.
Some of the site’s more striking imagery — and there is no shortage of that — appear with an interview with James Suzman of Anthropos, who addresses how concepts of time, technology, affluence and traditional crafts in relation to modernity help outsiders better understand the San Bushmen of the Kalahari in southern Africa.
Not interested in what she described as a Travel & Leisure-type of take on these underpublicized locales, Kim said she is aiming to help resuscitate these artistic ecosystems by presenting them as purely as possible. “There are all these things that are still happening in the world that no one knows about,” she said, referring to the various crafts she features on her site. “It’s not necessarily a lifestyle but everything in between. Perhaps we are trying to approach these subjects in a more honest way.”
To that end, the site currently features a video depicting the ancient and rare craft of Rogan art as practiced by a family in Nirona, India. Originating 300 years ago in Persia, Rogan art uses such motifs as geometric flowers, peacocks and the tree of life, which are meant to evoke a once-sublime culture and its understanding of beauty.
Those more interested in shopping than learning will find items like a necklace made from natural white ostrich eggshells and green recycled glass beads or indigo-dyed handwoven stoles made by weavers in India’s Vankar Vishram Valji.
Even the site’s name Moowon has a back story. In Chinese character, “MOO” signifies “exuberant, luxuriant. thickly wooded”and “WON” signifies “garden, courtyard, field, pasteur,” Kim said. Reluctant as she was to share potential destinations, she said she will get to South Korea’s largest island Jeju-do, and France is “like a gold mine with all these unknown guilds.”