Jun Lim brings us BORNTOSTANDOUT®, direct from Seoul, South Korea.
We had so many questions about the buzzed-about new Korean niche fragrance brand BORNTOSTANDOUT®, we simply couldn't contain ourselves. Many thanks to founder and creative director Jun Lim for taking the time to come through with such thoughtful and inspiring responses...
Q. There's a visceral excitement vibrating around BORNTOSTANDOUT® right now, what do you attribute that to?
A. Personally, I can’t thank all of our fans in the US enough. As the first country our brand launched in outside of Korea, the fans in the US have been our heroes in creating the buzz around us, and in having us take off virtually everywhere in the world.
We attribute the excitement to our unique visuals and our juices. And maybe the fact that we are the first niche perfumery from Korea had the local fans even more curious!
We like to be visually different, intuitively — bold and raw in aesthetics across our products, photo campaigns, and any visual communications. More importantly, our fragrances are easy-to-like, highly approachable, yet really distinctive in style from the mainstream perfumeries from Europe.
Q. How would you describe the BORNTOSTANDOUT® ethos and aesthetic?
A. Rebel against the standards.
In Korea, a radically collectivist society, certain pre-determined, standardized ways of life are strictly expected of individuals. You are considered an outcast if you deviate even slightly from the "normal" paths. You abstain for the greater good of the society.
And we like to talk about breaking this, especially through the theme that is still considered an absolute taboo to talk about – SEX.
Our aesthetics are an intuitive representation of our values. The stark contrast of red vs. white on the white-porcelain-inspired flacons, the raunchy names, and raw photo campaigns. You understand what we are about, by just having a glimpse of our website or Instagram, without having to read through our boring philosophy.
Q. Are your fragrances and packaging influenced stylistically by the brand being based in Seoul and/or from Korean culture and art?
A. Yes, it is reflected across all our visuals. For instance, we replicate the minimal yet voluptuous curvature of white porcelain (a traditional cultural symbol of Korea) for our flacons. We use pure-white color as the basis (the color that represents traditional ideals of Korea) with crimson red, a dramatically contrasting color to the white, to represent our un-orthodox identity.
Q. How did fragrance become important to you initially?
A. Versace Blue Jeans was my first ever fragrance, which I bought as a high school freshman. I wanted to smell like someone more grown-up… I was really into preppy looks. I would apply it (VERY) liberally to make sure everyone in the school could smell
it and notice my presence! It was the last piece of the puzzle, which completed my look and, more importantly, made me feel good. Confidence-booster!
Ever since then, the importance of perfume has really grown. Particular fragrances are bookmarks of my life, and I love the rich nostalgia they offer… and the feelings, emotions attached to it.
Q. When and why did you decide to launch a niche fragrance brand?
A. I launched BORNTOSTANDOUT® on April 2022, just one year ago. It was my Love and expertise intertwined.
Needless to say, I love perfume, and lots of it. Perfume and paintings have been the only two things that I have ever collected… I sold most of the paintings to start the brand btw… while I still have a room of 250 perfumes!
My specialty during my investment banking days was the local cosmetics and retail sector. While you see hundreds of skincare/color cosmetics brands from Korea distributed globally, there is no single perfumery from Korea with such prominence.
Challenge accepted. It was natural. I quit my job, sold everything I have, borrowed all I can from the bank to start this… (because starting a legit perfume brand is extremely costly in Korea).
But think of it. Making the most beautiful juices you imagined, and bottling them in the most stunning flacons. Isn’t this what we all dream of as fragrance nerds? So I did it.
Q. How do you approach creative collaborations with the perfumers you work with — do you have a specific process?
A. There is no structured process. I have "carte blanche" to do whatever I want.
As a brand, we do not impose budgets for the perfumers, to free the creativity. So… I write stories. Sometimes the imaginary scenes I dream, and sometimes based on moments of my past — certainly on my free-spirited, bohemian aspects, a lot of times on love and its absence.
And I take a long time in guiding my perfumers to the style that I want, so each juice serves true to the name of the brand. It stands out, and we make sure each user feels free-spirited after that first spritz in the morning.
Q. What's most important to you when creating a new scent?
A. Being soulful.
Q. Which perfumery ingredients/notes do you love, and which do you loathe?
A. Ambroxan… which I think is still an underrated note in perfumery… but a droplet of it makes everything more magical, and makes the fragrance extremely sensual (by my definition!).
I am certainly not the biggest fan of animalic notes. But I’d love to work on it, to turn it into our style.
Q. Your store in Seoul is visually impressive [pictured below], how did the design come about and can you tell us a bit about the intended store experience?
A. Not a fan of typical beauty shops… too commercial and centered around displaying as many products as possible. I wanted to reflect our brand’s ethos onto the flagship store. The curvatures inside, the white porcelain decors, minimal displays, the contrasting colorways… I wanted the visitors to understand what we are about, without anybody explaining.
It cost us a fortune (and is still virtually owned by the bank!), but it doesn’t matter… because I love it and our fans love it.
Q. Are you a visual artist yourself (re. the photo of you painting) and, if so, how would you describe your art?
A. I like making everything around me beautiful… art is just one of my expressive tools! I paint. I design. I draw what makes me happy intuitively. I love this quote from Martin Scorsese, “The most personal is the most creative.”
Q. What are the three top selling BTSO fragrances in the US so far and why do you feel they’ve become the hits?
A. #1 Indecent Cherry (by far), #2 Drunk Saffron, #3 Dirty Rice. There are certain styles that US fans favor which I think bodes well with our style — intuitively romantic and playful. Thank you for making them the hits!
Q. How would you describe the BTSO audience, who were the fragrances designed for?
A. Those who are free-spirited (or want to be free-spirited!).
Q. What do you want people to say about BTSO when they experience the brand and fragrances for the first time?
A. There is a voice inside which speaks and says: I’m dirty.
Q. Which BTSO fragrances do you wear most?
A. Dirty Rice. I have one everywhere, literally. My car. My bedroom. My bathroom. My office desk. It is a magical scent. Subtle, yet extremely sensual and intimate scent that will turn heads, without being too loud about your presence.
Q. What does a typical day in the life of Jun Lim look like?
A. There has been nothing "typical" in my days for a while. Ever since the border restrictions from Covid loosened, I have been traveling non-stop across Asia, US, Europe, mostly for meetings with local distributors, retailers, perfumers, other brand owners, because face-to-face convo is always better than Zoom, call, or email! Plus, our product look...
As a design-centric brand, I’m always on the lookout for new sources of creativity – i.e. visiting local fabric markets, spice markets, art galleries, museums. For me, these are easy ways to step outside of my comfort zone, the great enemy of my creativity!
Q. Any exciting plans for the brand that you can share with our audience?
A. A new line-up of perfumes is coming, in higher concentration of the juice and with differentiated aesthetics here and there! Playing with more exotic raw materials than our existing products, I should say?
Q. We’re excited to be your first store in Northern California and would love to host you for an event. Any chance you’ll be available in the coming months?
A. Most certainly! Come and meet me at MoS!
Explore the BORNTOSTANDOUT® Collection