The “Introducing” is a series of interviews or stories of independent lifestyle and design brands that you have probably not heard of yet. It’s an introduction to the brand story told by its founder. In this interview we are introducing a women’s watches brand “Cyssan” founded by Joanna Kim.
Can you tell us the back story of the brand? Why was it started? Was there a particular trigger or event or idea that helped to form the concept?
Before launching Cyssan in September 2021, I’d moved around the world working as an English teacher, in Italy, China, France and Switzerland. Wherever I lived, my attention was drawn to fashion, art and design, and to women – how they live, what they do, what they love. I’ve met many inspiring women, many inspiringly unconventional, and I’d always had the idea at the back of my mind to launch a business focussing on this kind of woman.
Although watches have always been a key part of my life, especially when I worked as a teacher – I always wore my watch upside down so I could subtly check the time, my interest in watches and jewellery really began after meeting a talented watch and jewellery designer in Milan, more than fifteen years ago.
I discovered more about luxury watches while living in Switzerland, and it was here that the idea for Cyssan first started. I’d actually been looking for a watch that combined an element of jewellery with the function of a watch. Something that looked cool and sophisticated, but came at an affordable price – I couldn’t find anything. I realised that many watch brands focused on men and watch movements, rather than on women and what they wanted.
Then in 2020, during lockdown, I decided it was time to start working on creating my own business. This is how our first Cyssan collection started.
What is the brand’s mission?
We chose the name Cyssan /Kis’n/ due to its meaningful significance. Cyssan means kiss in Old English. A ‘kiss’ plays such an important part in women’s lives, and means so many things to different women around the world: affection, passion, respect, friendship, peace, good luck, and love, to name a few.
It is our mission not only to embed this significance in the Cyssan brand and products, but also to create watches and accessories that will make women feel empowered and unique. Our Cyssan watches should remind the incredible women that wear them that we own our time; we are the ones who decide what to do with it.
Who are your watches for? What kind of woman?
Cyssan is a considered watch brand envisioning and designing timepieces for unconventional women. Our limited edition women’s watches are for women who want to be reminded of how powerful they are, how distinctive their style is, and how their uniqueness is an amazing strength.
The pieces in our small debut collection all function as embellished accessories that can be worn in a more unconventional way – on the inside of the wrist. Perfect for women who want to challenge convention.
We also want the women who wear a Cyssan watch to feel special in the knowledge that few other women in the world are wearing one like theirs. This is why we decided to launch a small first collection of just 500 pieces.
What is unique about the products?
When you think of most well-known watches and watch brands the words standard, traditional and conventional may come to mind. You may think of circular-watch faces, functioning straps, and square or rectangular watch packaging. You’ll probably be able to picture a standard watch advert: a woman touching her face, or with her arm positioned across her body showing off a watch. You won’t see cyssan doing this.
Our watches have been designed specifically with women in mind. They’re not designed for men, and then scaled-down for smaller wrists, adding ‘feminine’ details, and they’re not ‘boyfriend’ watches.
We know a watch has a specific function – it keeps time. It doesn’t have to be beautiful. But typically women want to optimise everything. We want to make everything the best it can be. We don’t just want something that works, we want something that works AND that is beautiful. We want things that represent our full identity. This is what we had in mind when we created our watches: they don’t just respond to a need to know what time it is, but they also remind us of how unique and powerful each of us are. They keep time, but look good, strong, cool, sophisticated while working. Just like women.
We envisioned Cyssan watches as affordable double-duty accessories: they have all the style of jewellery with the function of a watch. From the unusual elliptical-shaped watch face, to the cruelty-free straps with their added jewellery element, to the pink, cylindric-packaging, every tiny detail has been thought out to make Cyssan watches unique and stand out from the sea of sameness. Moreover, having been heavily inspired by the way watches were worn in the past, our watches been designed and created to be worn with the watch face on the inside of the wrist. I don’t think any other watch has ever been envisioned in this way.
Your favourite piece – a recommendation for a customer who hasn’t heard about the brand before.
My favourite piece, and what is often our best-seller of the month, is the CYS5.
I think this could because of its low-key luxury feel. I love the combination of the yellow-gold watch case, champagne-coloured dial, the curved buckle, and the sand-coloured strap which is embellished with a mini bejewelled ring. I wear it constantly!
It’s lightweight, a great colour-way for spring and summer, and a great accessory to elevate any outfit. I wear it to meetings, out for lunch with friends, to art galleries, to parties, and it regularly catches someone’s eye.
Any plans for this year?
We always envisioned a brand that showcases a community of unique, fearless women, who believe in challenging convention, in being true to themselves, and lifting each other up. To help us achieve this, we launched an Inspiring women series and A woman and her watches video series on our Cyssan London YouTube Channel. In the coming months we’ll be talking to some more incredible woman. For example, we’ve got an award-winning founder of an adaptive fashion company, a superb photographer and artist facilitator, a talented watchmaker, and a designer and lecturer, just to highlight a few. We’re always looking for inspiring women to take part.
We’ll be at London Accessory Week, on 16-17th July, an event showcasing independent designers and brands from all over the world. We also plan to do a number of other pop-up events to raise brand-awareness and let people try on our limited-edition timepieces in the run-up to Christmas.
Cyssan is stocked at Wolf&Badger, Immaculate Vegan, and The Accessory Circle, and we’re currently talking to a couple of other really interesting platforms, so we’ll hopefully be stocked on them in the next couple of months.
We’ve also started designing new items for Cyssan. The idea is to expand the brand to offer more than beautiful women’s watches….
We have high hopes for the rest of this year!
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