Meet the Maker: Kelly Kong of MANDRN

Meet the Maker: Kelly Kong of MANDRN

Hey Homebodies, meet Kelly! We have long admired her brand's minimalist + efficient bags that really serve the 'fewer, better things' ideals we love. Her brand was one of the first we reached out to when we started the shop.

We're so excited to share her story on starting this company and the values that guide her. Shop the OG Remy bag here + check out more styles directly at Mandrn.

Take us back to the beginning, tell us the story behind how you got started with Mandrn.

MANDRN started over 2 years ago, after I decided to quit my lucrative marketing career in the corporate world. I always dreamed of living a nomadic life, where I could freely travel, connect with like-minded people and be surrounded by beautiful products that I share with the world. I knew I couldn’t find the right network to help me bring this vision to life in Vancouver, my hometown, so I booked a one-way-ticket to Bali in hopes that jumping off a cliff, and believing in my vision that this dream could become my reality.

When I got to Bali, I stumbled upon the suppliers that MANDRN use today who were serendipitously located in the little alley around my street. I walked past them daily and admired their leather goods they displayed in their windows. My old cheaply-made fanny pack broke, and it was impossible to find a minimal, cute, everyday replacement on the market, so I designed one with the family-factory on my street.  I wore the first prototype fanny pack religiously for 6 months (well now going on 3 years) and kept receiving numerous compliments and asks of where they could buy one too. After hearing the feedback from my community, and wanting to support these incredible local artisans- I felt drawn to launch my business. There weren't enough brands that connected you back with the people who were making the products and who put so much love and energy into everything they do.

I’ve always been a big day dreamer, so starting MANDRN has been an incredible outlet for me. Anything I can imagine can be a reality and it’s been really fun to create an inspiring and dreamy world, and support the local people of Bali while we do it. MANDRN’s so much more than a brand, it’s a lifestyle, it’s a way of thinking, it’s a way of living, it’s a vision, it’s something I get to lean into daily for inspiration. I learned you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when starting a business, but do the wheel YOUR way. No one has your heart, your passion and no one is you. If you believe in yourself and your mission, eventually others will too. 

We love the minimalist + functional vibe of our pieces, what inspires your designs?

Traveling inspires my designs. The last 3 years having lived in Bali, Amsterdam and Vancouver has taught me that less is more. When you are living out of a suitcase, each piece that you do bring has to be so damn versatile, it’s got to be your working-out-of-a-coffee-shop, sight-seeing, beach-walking, to let’s-hit-the-club bag all-in-one, as you don’t have a lot of space when always traveling to bring more. I wanted to create a super minimal, timeless bag that is thoughtfully designed to keep all your essentials close, elevate your wardrobe, and be wearable in so many settings. I think we achieved that at MANDRN with our fanny-pack collections.

Any tips for how to get re-inspired when you’re feeling stuck?

Be gentle with yourself when you notice you’ve drifted and are feeling stuck- it happens to all of us, and it’s often cyclical. I usually go inward and figure out where I am feeling blocked and where the root of it is coming from. Am I procrastinating because of fear? Is the task boring, is it ambiguous? Am I in an environment that is stifling? Am I around people that aren’t inspiring? When you identify where the stuck is coming from, then you can build a plan to overcome those triggers. Often the fixes are simple, change up your environment, put boundaries up with energy vampires, write a huge to-do list of that giant daunting goal and make it digestible, take care of yourself and up your self-care game. When you start experiencing little wins and feeling proud for honoring your own word to yourself, you start feeling the dopamine and boom, hello inspiration and motivation. Life is all about falling off course, noticing you’ve fallen off course and getting back on track. 

Tell us a bit about your process and behind-the-scenes with your team.

MANDRN has been fully remote since the beginning. So we have part of our team in Bali (the heartbeat of the brand), Amsterdam and Vancouver. Behind the scenes usually looks like setting up calls on WHEREBY (better than zoom!), working on Asana (best project management tool when you are working with several people on one project with deadlines) Google documents and Trello to keep us all on the same page and organized. When we work with our suppliers, we prefer in-person meetings as there is a language barrier and it always saves so much time explaining and showing our feedback in-person touching the product instead of over email or phone. 

Do you have a personal favorite from your collection?

My favorite is always changing, at the moment I am obsessed with our Atlas bum bag in Sage, it totally elevates any outfit I wear, and it’s nice having the extra room to carry all my things. I love our new hand-woven Remy, however, I’m waiting for summer for it to match my neutral attire. 

What do you hope people feel when they purchase and wear your bags?

I hope they feel a warm and fuzzy feeling knowing they are supporting local Balinese artisans and a small business. I strongly believe if you put so much love and passion into your products, the end-consumer will feel that everytime they wear it. I want them to feel inspired to chase their dreams, and live a positively free, intentful life. 

Do you have any meaningful rituals that bring you joy?

Waking up early has been a game-changer for me. It really sets the tone for the day as I have 2 hours of self-care rituals I can do before the world wakes up. 

  • I will light a candle, grab some tea and dive into my morning pages - I write 3 pages every morning in my journal. It’s a free flow of writing, and I write down all my thoughts and process anything that i’ve been going through. It’s amazing, extremely healing and gets rid of the noise before I start my work day.
  • I meditate for 10 minutes a day, using the Daily Calm app and have noticed a huge difference with my focus.
  • I love doing Melissa Wood Health, a 20 minute low intensity pilates class that connects me back to my body. 
  • Every Monday morning, I am like a kid on Christmas eve, eagerly waiting to listen to my weekly curated Spotify playlist, and find some new dance tunes to jam to that week.

What does ‘homebody’ mean to you?

“Homebody” to me, means comfort. It means listening to some really good tunes, it means feeling warm, it means a fresh bouquet of wildflowers, a candle being lit , it means being around those you love. Homebody for me is synonymous with being cozy and being in a beautiful, inspiring space. It means being present and appreciating the little things. I am a HUGE homebody myself so Homebodies, Unite!

Keep up with @thehomebodiesco@wearemandrn on Insta

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