Seoul based MOTE blends artisanal with a mythical, olfactory experience derived from Nature

say hi to_ MOTE

If you don't already know, I will confess that I have a full fledged obsession with Korean (north and south) design. Korean design has a certain exoticism juxtaposing minimalism and the bright avant-garde.

For me, South Korea is The Netherlands of Asia - in terms of design at least. Playful, experimental and never failing to intrigue. I could go on for ages on the topic of contemporary Korean Design, but unless we're sitting in a pub with a full pint and you can see my exaggerated facial expressions excited mannerisms, I doubt it will be half as fun... and I will save you the eight pages of design nerd discourse.

So not only have we now established that the Korean Design scene gets me hot and bothered, but I also have a strong affinity for supporting young entrepreneurs who work in an artisanal way. This is exactly why I want to feature la crème de la crème of the handmade olfactory objects and experience in Asia, MOTE Seoul. I personally have a stash of soap from budding Korean designer, which I love not only because it is ethically handmade and looks beautiful in my bathroom but because I love the way the shape and form evolve with use to become something entirely different. 

I am ever fascinated and encouraged by hearing the stories of other creators and how they took the jump to launch their company and the creative process behind their products or work. I was lucky enough to snag some time with the woman behind the hottest new Korean design brand. Founder and creative director, Vora Jean, sits down and talks to me about what inspired her to create her own brand, how the beautiful and unique candles and soaps are hand crafted in Seoul by artisans after over a year of research and development and how fleeting moments in nature inspired the entire collection. 



Candles and Soap

July 25, 2017


| Kristen | Can you please introduce yourself and what you do.

| Vora | Hi, I’m Vora, CEO and creative director at MOTE or “Memories Of The Earth”. 

My design philosophy is to capture the beautiful moments of the earth into our products. 

I see all my life experiences as inspiration and ingredients to my vision.



| Kristen | What is your background in and what made you decide to start making candles and soap?

| Vora | My background is in visual communication design. Initially, I started working as a user interface designer for a gaming company in Tokyo and later, at LG Electronics in South Korea. 

After four years designing user interfaces, I began to pursue my own work as a brand designer helping other businesses create a strong brand image connected to their products.

Over time I developed a desire to create my own brand. At first I toyed with the idea of a brand that will invoke a beautiful emotion, and ultimately found my inspiration travelling around the world. 

I saw first-hand the beautiful moments on the earth and the emotional response from people experiencing these moments, including myself. Close to nature, there is a sense of calmness, refreshment and happiness. 

This had a great impact on my design philosophy. And I wanted to create a product that would be a reminder of these moments. I felt that scent can be used to deliver this emotional response by positively affecting the mood and reminding people of the same moment found in earth. Also, I wanted to create a product that would protect earth so that the beautiful moments will continue to exist in nature. I hope our products can deliver on this message and purpose.



| Kristen | MOTE stands for Memories of the Earth, Can you tell us the idea behind MOTE and how you first got started?

| Vora | MOTE is an artisan laboratory that studies and produces beautiful moments found in the scents, colors and imageries of the earth. Our name is derived from the acronym for “Memories Of The Earth.” 

MOTE strives to capture the essence of beautiful but fleeting messages that the earth sends to us. Glancing up at the sky and watching it soak in shades of pink. Standing at the edge of the sea and feeling consoled by the tides. The crisp, fragrant breeze of a late autumn night brushing past your face. The feeling of fresh earth beneath your feet. The occasional crashing of waves and the scent of a dense forest. These occurrences in nature heal our body and soul. I believe that these moments of earth treat people who are now living too busy lives.

In order to create our products, I consulted and team up with some of the best chemists and perfumers in South Korea. Together we started a laboratory and developed the company.


| Kristen |  How long did it take you to develop MOTE before you launched? Was it difficult to start your own company?

| Vora | After the initial concept stage, the team conducted countless color and fragrance tests using only organic materials. After a whole year of testing, we developed a distinct layered marbling technique to deliver the highest quality natural ingredient directly to the skin.

"I am both designer and CEO, there were situations in which I had to choose between company profits and design quality. 

In both cases, I choose a more difficult path to better reflect the design philosophy and value, believing that the long term result will be that much better."

I came across two key challenges in starting our company. First, we decided to forgo the factory system and instead decided on an eco-friendly method of handcrafting our product in the lab. This initially created difficulties in terms of running an efficient operation, from making molds to managing artisans, and led us to taking more time to get the system in place. Secondly, because I am both designer and CEO, there were situations in which I had to choose between company profits and design quality. In both cases, I choose a more difficult path to better reflect the design philosophy and value, believing that the long term result will be that much better.


| Kristen | Can you talk a little bit about how the process of how the candles and soap are made? How long does it take to make each batch? Are they handmade? Do you make the candle’s ceramic pots at your workshop as well?

| Vora | Many natural soaps in the market use harmless materials but do not take into account the potential toxic byproducts created from combining these materials during the production process. This makes it difficult for the natural ingredients to have the intended effect on the skin. MOTE’s signature marbling technique avoids chemically combining the 100% natural ingredients to better nourish and moisturize the skin. This is achieved by keeping each element in separate layers to maintain its integrity. The ingredients in our soaps are delivered the moment the lathered foam meets the skin, bringing the person closer to the effects of the most natural and freshest raw ingredients. This distinct layered marbling technique was designed by MOTE.


All products at MOTE are handcrafted. Other competitors including larger companies do not choose this route due to production time. Currently, MOTE produces a batch of 50 soaps a day, but it takes an additional month for these soaps to ripen and to be readied for use.

For the candle’s ceramic pots, we use our own pottery equipment including an electric kiln installed in our workplace. Each candle container is created by an expert potter who marbles each pot before bisque firing and second firing process. Clay-based pottery allows for the natural circulation of scent indoors, even while the candle is unlit. Each and every handcrafted pot is a work of art unique in its marbling design. We make 100 ceramics a day, but it takes more than a week to bake the ceramics.


| Kristen | We know Korean beauty and bath products to be some of the best in the world. What do you think makes Korean products special? How is that reflected in MOTE?

| Vora | I believe there are two main reasons why Korean beauty and bath products are considered to be some of the best in the world. Korean society is very sensitive to the newest trends and a hot product spreads quickly here. So R&D and innovation is one of the few ways to survive in the marketplace. In addition, appearance and beauty is one of the top areas of interest in Korea today. As a result, cosmetics and beauty products have rapidly developed over a number of cycles.

MOTE will continue to develop new ways to deliver our core brand message of beauty found in moments in earth. MOTE’s soap product is just one instance of how we are striving to realize our goals while also remaining competitive in this market. I am happy to say that the feedback since launching our soap has been great and that our customers love the product. Today MOTE is trending as one of the hottest brand in Seoul and we hope to continue introducing products and experiences customer will enjoy.


| Kristen | Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?

| Vora | It has been no more than a year since the company started, so I am still very much learning. My advice is to enjoy your work and to create an environment for colleagues to enjoy work too.

"An interesting story, picture, writing, or experience can be your inspiration for your new company."

We are still a young company and have to tackle new sets of challenges every day, but it is that much more rewarding when working on something you and coworkers enjoy. So find something you love, something you can connect with. Life is too short not to follow your heart.

And don’t be afraid to start preparing, however small or seemingly inconsequential. An interesting story, picture, writing, or experience can be your inspiration for your new company.



insta_ @mote.seoul

say hi to_

Shop This Article


Have a look at...