Off Duty: Jina Kim, CEO, Co-Founder Circumference NYC

Written By Tiana Gidley

Photography by: The Bleu

Mavens in the beauty industry never cease to fascinate me, especially when they occupy the small venn diagram overlap that exists somewhere between boutique beauty and going green. In case you haven’t noticed, some seriously badass women are changing the face of this industry, all in the name of an earnest desire for deep understanding, wide-spread knowledge, ethical practices rooted in sustainability, and helping women feel their absolute best — inside and out. The list of brands and CEOs who check these boxes loud and proud is short, but growing exponentially. So, for today’s Off Duty interview, we felt it our civic duty to shine major light on a forerunner in the game, one we’ve grown to admire and respect over the past year and the sharp-dressed captain of its ship. We also think both brand and boss are pretty f-ing rad, and many of our other Off Duty ladies are fans, too! If the clues haven’t already left you with a few concrete guesses, today we’re stripping away layers of excess to get back to basics with beautifully-designed, ethical skincare line Circumference and its innovative, kind, and incredibly inviting CEO / Co-Founder, Jina Kim.

Creative producer by day, Circumference’s leading lady in charge by night, this thirty-something new mom doesn’t show signs of slowing. Armed with baby Miles and her husband as her business partner and co-captain, Jina is continuously seeking new ways to make her brand greener and more sustainable through a wholehearted, unpretentious approach. Read through ’til the end as Jina opens up her minimalistic, albeit bright and thoughtful Brooklyn apartment and gets candid on juggling so many important roles, the future of her brand, and quirky favorites like Schitt’s Creek. And, don’t miss the 4-1-1 on her LED light mask either! We’re wholly convinced we may need to take out a small loan to purchase one for ourselves if our skin ends up looking anything like Jina’s. Beauty lovers, this one is for you!

Jacket and pants by Cos. Top by Aritzia.
Jacket and pants by Cos. Top by Aritzia.

How do you typically spend a day off when the work can wait?  “I’m a new mom, so my days off are spent with my infant son, Miles. Living in New York City means endless places to explore. We’re blessed with so many museums, galleries, and parks, so we find opportunities to expose him to new things all the time.”

What’s the story behind your home, and how long have you lived there?  “We moved to our home just short of a year ago. After spending a few years in East Village in Manhattan, we moved to Brooklyn for a more kid-friendly neighborhood. We live in a great neighborhood called Prospect Heights just blocks away from Prospect Park, so we have access to some much needed greenery. With a baby, our two-bedroom apartment feels like it’s bursting at the seams!”

What are some of your favorite things in your home?  “My husband and I have a set of vases that we made when we were younger that has traveled with us for 10 years. It’s become one of the most cherished items in our home. I love my Hasami dishware and mugs. Each year I accumulate a few more pieces and each item feels so special and well crafted. My friend gifted me a Haptic Lab Constellation quilt when my son was born. It’s so soft and beautiful that I use it more than my Miles does.”

Where do you find / shop for home decor?  “We have a somewhat eclectic selection of home decor that’s both functional and decorative. I wouldn’t say they particularly come from one place, but are really a cumulation of things we’ve collected over the years. But, never underestimate Ikea, CB2, or West Elm for some functional basics!”

Coffee table books or magazines you love?  “Gather Journal, Unconditional, Business of Fashion, and Gentlewoman are staples on our coffee table.”

Favorite candles?  “Maison Louis Marie Cassis, Eath Library Subtle Reader 1, DS & Durga Big Sur After Rain.”

Your favorite, must-read books?  “Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover, all books by Tana French, and Harry Potter is an absolute must! I grew up with these books and can’t wait for my son to discover them when he’s older.”

What are your favorite Netflix series / shows?  “Versailles was an incredibly fun, historical drama. Some of the best costumes and hair! The Great British Baking Show for some light, background viewing. Compared to American reality shows, all participants have such a positive and supporting vibe. Schitt’s Creek is an under-the-radar comedy show that I really enjoyed. Eugene and Dan Levy have the best set of eyebrows in the biz! All the BBC stuff — Sherlock, Luther, Happy Valley. These are all so addicting, and I end up staying up all night watching episode after episode.”

Any podcasts you’d recommend? The Daily by The New York Times is my morning go-to. The Rewatchables by The Ringer is really fun. It offers in-depth breakdowns of classic, fun, re-watchable movies (think: Mean Girls, Mission Impossible, My Best Friends Wedding). My Favorite Murder. The two hosts are hilarious and it’s an easy, guilty-pleasure listen.”

Do you sleep-in on your days off?  “I wish! My natural alarm clock is whenever my baby wakes up. That could sometimes be as early as 5 a.m., or if I’m very lucky, 7 a.m.”

What’s currently on your bedside table?  “Breast pump pieces, Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask, Circumference Pure Balancing Botanical Face Oil (that I use multi-purpose), LFN x Circumference Daily Cuticle Oil, glasses, hand cream, and a Maison Louis Marie candle.”

What are your hobbies?  “Reading, watching way too many TV shows, baking desserts, yoga, oh and does face masking count as a hobby?”

Night in or night out? How do you spend it?  “Used to be a night out — dancing and cocktails were a staple — but after Miles I prefer a night in. Can’t say no to a night in with a combination of takeout, movies, face masks, and red wine.”

What’s your sign?  “Leo!”

Song on repeat?  “Hmm… nothing specific, but always love a good ’90s Hip Hop/R&B Spotify station.”

Signature scent?  “DS & Durga White Peacock Lily has been my go-to recently. I also rotate in Maison Louis Marie Cassis and Le Labo Santal.”

Tell us more about your LED face mask.  “I received this this LED mask from Korea and I’ve been trying to incorporate it into my daily night routine just before sleep. It took some time to really learn the benefits since it has a few different settings — red light which helps promote collagen production and helps with fine lines, blue LED light which helps with acne, and lastly pink light which helps with scarring. It’s definitely an investment, but I think it’s worth it if you can be disciplined about using it every night for just 30 minutes before you go to sleep. It’s really helped even out my skin tone and generally brighten it all around!”

Describe your personal style.  “I’d describe my style as simple, elevated basics.”

Your first fashion splurge? Details please.  “Chanel quilted flap. My mom had one growing up, and I always dreamed of having one.”

Your biggest fashion failure?  “There’s a photo of me somewhere with red eye shadow to perfectly match my red prom dress. I think everyone can relate to an unfortunate prom incident.”

What do you wear when you’re spending the day comfortable, at home, and off duty?  “A pair of comfy joggers with an oversized t-shirt or sweater at home. I’m very particular about not wearing my ‘outside clothes’ in the home. After sitting in the subway, the thought of sitting on our couch or bed is so gross. Off duty? A pair of classic Levi’s and a t-shirt or a linen jumpsuit.”

Who, what, where inspires your style the most?  “I’m constantly inspired by the woman I see on the streets of New York. It’s really a combination of the confidence I see in women going about their day, matched with such a diverse, eclectic range of styles. I draw inspiration from all of them!”

What are three things on your want list?  “Loewe Hammock Bag, Pearl Earrings from Prounis, cashmere sweater from Khaite.”

Your five wardrobe staples, go…  “Cropped jeans, linen everything, silk tops, jumpsuits, and a stacked heel.”

Favorite designers / brands?  “I’ve been loving the bold and rich colors from Hellessy. Labucq is a new shoe brand I recently discovered and I love the shapes and quality. Lastly, for some simple, functional basics, COS is always a safe bet.”

Very favorite online shop?  “I usually try to purchase directly from brands, but Net-A-Porter is always great for their excellent selections and customer service.”

Dress to impress or keep it casual?  “Casual.”

Heels or flats?  “Heels.”

Favorite shops in NYC? Dover Street Market is always a joy to visit. I draw a lot of inspiration from there. Maryam Nassir Zadeh for their own brand, but they also curate some amazing brands. Sea New York on Canal Street is always a fun visit. The Primary Essentials for beautiful home goods.”

Dress from Ann Taylor Loft.
Dress from Ann Taylor Loft.

Breakfast / brunch of choice?  “Toast with coconut oil and a side of berries.”

Coffee or tea? How do you take it?  “Black coffee.”

Favorite local cup?  “Near our home, I frequent Konditori, Sit & Wonder, and Milk Bar.”

Fave cookbooks? Manresa: An Edible Reflection, Dining In by Alison Roman, Smitten Kitchen, and Food 52 Genius Desserts.”

What’s your go-to dinner recipe when at home?  “My go-to quick dinner is bibimbap (a traditional Korean rice dish) with a fried egg and whatever leftover veggies I have in the fridge. I usually make this with a side of miso soup.”

Favorite local restaurant and what is your go-to order?  “A few doors down from us is Chuko, the best Ramen in New York — can’t go wrong with their shoyu ramen.”

Regular Postmates / takeout order?  “Thai, Chinese, Sushi, Korean — my Seamless / Postmates history is mostly Asian.”

Late-night snack you always crave?  “Salt and vinegar chips and Sour Patch Kids.”

Any supplements you take / magic elixirs you make or swear by?  “I love apple cider vinegar and a big glass of water first thing in the morning to wake me up.”

Any most-loved kitchen gadgets?  “I love my Kitchen Aid immersion blender. Making baby food is such a breeze with it. Also our Hurom juicer!”

How do you stay active?  “Walking! Luckily, I live in NYC, so I walk everywhere.”

What does self-care look like for you when you’re off duty?  “Off duty, self care means getting out into nature. Whether it’s a quick trip upstate or a walk in Central or Prospect Park.”

You decide to treat yourself, how do you indulge?  “Pasta or pizza followed by ice cream.”

Tell us a bit about what you do.  “I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of Circumference NYC.”

Your skincare line, Circumference, was founded on the belief that personal beauty should never come at the ugly cost of one’s health or our planet’s health. What drew you to clean / sustainable beauty initially?  “Prior to starting Circumference, I worked with a team to launch a sustainable fashion line. It was really an eye-opening experience, and to see the responses and support from customers was incredible. Sustainability was already an important topic within the fashion industry, but as a long-time beauty / skincare enthusiast, I was starting to notice that between all the conversations of sustainability within fashion, food, and various other consumer industries, beauty seemed to be not only quiet on this front, but in some ways to the contrary. I started to notice more wrongs than rights with little movement toward innovation. I wanted to explore and marry both my passion and experience in beauty and sustainable innovations, and Circumference was born!”

Did you always want to be in the beauty industry?  “It was a difficult choice to leave my previous opportunities behind, but ultimately, the idea of starting Circumference really started to consume me in so many ways. I can’t say I’ve always wanted to be in the beauty industry, but a simple idea turned into a deep interest, and ultimately turned into a must as I did more and more research.”

Who / what has been your biggest inspiration?  “Can’t say it’s just one person, but the community we’re surrounded by. I’ve met so many fellow female entrepreneurs, artists, creatives, and leaders who are paving the way for a new generation of businesses (many of which share a similar mission as us) that I’m inspired by every day.”

What does a typical work day look like?  “My typical day is usually all over the place. Between my day job as a creative producer, running Circumference, and being a new mom, my typical work day can be a bit crazy. But, being a producer by trade means staying organized and making sense of my chaotic days, so I find ways to make it work.”

What’s it like working with your husband?  “We often have people asking us, ‘How do you work together?!’ But there’s no one I would trust more to make important, thoughtful decisions as much as my husband. He’s fully supportive of my endeavors and as a partner in both life and business, we feed off of each other’s energy. Running a business is so challenging both physically and emotionally, so having him by my side to support me in so many ways is a blessing. We truly share this dream and reality together.”

Any words on work / life balance that we’re all trying to achieve?  “Build a realistic roadmap with tangible goals and objectives. Stay focused on the tasks directly in front of you, as well as being cognizant of what lies days, weeks, and even months ahead as there should always be a central north star.”

What keeps you motivated?  “Having a baby certainly lights a fire under your ass in a lot of ways. I’m motivated by a combination of wanting to leave a better world behind for future generations, as well as creating a reality in which I can truly dictate and control my own work / life balance.”

Any tips to those looking to make their routines more green?  “Don’t underestimate the smallest of actions. It’s the small steps that can ultimately add up to something greater. Cutting out cheap, disposable single-use beauty items like sheet masks (often packaged in plastics), as well as supporting brands that use glass packaging or has a strong ethos in sustainability is a good start.”

What’s next for you and Circumference?  “We have some incredibly exciting news coming in the near future. Some amazing partnerships on the horizon that will really help bring more exposure and opportunities for us to engage with customers in so many dynamic ways. Follow us along at @circumferencenyc for the latest!”

Written by: Tiana Gidley

Tiana Gidley is a 20-something Contributing Editor at The Bleu. She binge-watches reality TV on Bravo, throws a mean murder mystery party, and makes her bed every morning.

1 Comment

  1. Jill

    May 30, 2019 at 5:52 am

    She seems wonderful. Really loved reading this.


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