Mimi Takes Charge
This designer’s been paving her own way since her very early days.
Though Mimi Jung’s life has been full of success stories—the latest being her stunning line of agate-and-rope jewelry that’s getting more love by the minute—she’s worked her ass off to get where she is. In fact, she’s been more or less running her own show since she was 13. Here, she opens up about getting her footing.
Mimi, past and present
“When I was 13, my mom remarried and had a baby, and she became more focused on her new family. So I ended up moving in with my sister, who is five years older, in Binghamton, New York. It’s not like I got in trouble and was sent off to military school or anything—I was pretty nerdy.
So, I walked into the high school near my sister and enrolled myself in the tenth grade. I literally walked in by myself and was like, ‘I’m here!’ It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but now, looking back, it seems crazy. Plus, as you can see in that picture, I was a really late bloomer. I looked like I could have been nine years old, and I looked that way basically until I was 16.
So, attending Cooper Union had been my goal since I was in third grade—I don’t know why, exactly. It was just embedded in my brain. They had a pre-college program, but you had to be a New York City student to attend. I totally lied on my application and said I went to Cordozo, a high school in Queens where something like 90% of the students are Korean, and I got in! Eventually, I moved to Queens and was accepted to the undergrad program.
When you’re fending for yourself at that age, you learn that if you want to make something happen, you have to do it for yourself. No one was forcing me to go to school. No one was forcing me to take the SATs and go to college. But I knew that I wanted a future, and that’s what I had to do. I think I became really scrappy.”
Come back tomorrow to see one of Mimi’s successes: The piece she made for Of a Kind is really spectacular.
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Fueled by her ability to create the sort of things you could stare at all day long, Mimi Jung has had a varied, multi-dimensional career path. The designer, who lives in Brooklyn with her ad-world husband (in an exceptionally furnished apartment, no less), attended ultra-competitive Cooper Union, after which she dove into the realm of graphic design, with a focus on books. “I think I liked the fact that there was an end product—something you can hold. It felt very permanent, as opposed to a campaign or a billboard,” Mimi explains.
But she quickly tired of the tedious, long-term nature of that work and fell into fashion blogging, first as a sort of passion project and then, as she grew a dedicated following, as a full-blown gig. Her jewelry line came to be in a similar way—half happenstance, half hard work. After getting lost in the crazy rock collection of a store in Hong Kong, Mimi brought her finds home to make jewelry for