Hi, my name is Yena Kim. As my IG profile outlines, I was born in Korea, raised in India, and assembled in New York. I create content inspired by my dog, a Shiba Inu, aka Bodhi, the Mensweardog. He's called "Mensweardog" because he has a knack for modeling the best of the best in menswear with such fine finesse and pizzaz that it's almost unbelievable, and it causes people to do triple-takes. It took about 1.5 seconds to come up with the name.
It's the kind of rare magic that simply could not be ignored, so I decided that I would quit my full-time dream job and spend the next foreseeable number of years photographing my muse and gracing the internet with moments of Bodhi’s glory.
I was born in Korea, and when I was about seven, my family moved to India, where I absorbed all of these new cultural influences like a curious little sponge. I couldn't speak a word of English or Hindi, so I had found a way to communicate with pictures, gestures, and other expressions for a good number of years before speaking fluently with anybody outside of my family. My parents made it a point to travel quite a bit, so I visited many countries in Asia during middle school. For my high school years, I attended a boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, where we had 45-minute daily access to the internet to work on assignments and projects.
This was when my love for the internet began. Here I was, (happily) isolated on top of a mountain. For 45 blissful minutes, I could tap into the rest of the world and ask any questions and find answers, communities, music, inspiration, connections, and possibilities. A few years, five internships, and a college degree later, I worked at Ralph Lauren as a full-time beading & embellishment designer. It was an excellent job with the promise of stability and upward trajectory. One fateful rainy day, boredom got the best of me, and I decided to dress up my very handsome Shiba Inu in menswear. The result was very unexpected.
Instead of running away like an average dog, Bodhi sat there smiling with this dashing expression on his face and a gleam in his eyes. This is the moment that I realized that Bodhi was my kind of weird, and he reveled at my excitement as I scrambled to snap a few photos as he posed. The first platforms that we used were Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our first post on Tumblr was featured on GQ, and the internet fame snowballed across all of these platforms. There were emails from TIME, CNN, The New York Times, Forbes, and Anderson Cooper blowing up our inbox, and it just got to a point where I had to choose between a great full-time job or a mystery adventure with my dog. Guess which route I chose?
I usually like to work with a few limitations: for example, for sponsored partnerships, the brand's goals and campaign objectives, and their collection concept, I may provide an initial kickoff point to start imagining Bodhi’s different scenarios. In my mind, he is a master of disguise and is also able to channel a spectrum of personalities from other worlds: from fashion to music, art, entertainment to legends, you name it, he can pose for it.
For non-sponsored content to let my mind free, I allow many inspirations to permeate the creative content. I have a fashion design background, so I always have an eye for exciting fits, unique combinations, and coordination of colors and textures that exude something special that evokes a feeling. Sometimes when I have a creative block, I just take some time out to spend quality time with the dogs. They're so playful, magical, and imaginative that usually, within a few minutes, I start to get glimmers of ideas to stir up in my mind.
I've been in digital marketing even before the influencer marketing model and paid marketing models appeared following the rise of social platforms like Instagram. I use many cores, essential tools for performance overviews like Google Analytics, and native platform insights. I've used HootSuite, Social Bakers, and other comparable tools to do more comprehensive deep dives or do AB testing for campaigns, optimize ad campaigns & conduct competitive research. Many creators in this space will tell you that they use a social scheduling program and perhaps even some automation tools like Zapier to rapidly post to other social platforms.
I would say that I use these tools most when consulting for another company (outside of my usual mensweardog scope), which I enjoy doing from time to time. With Mensweardog, my goal has always been and will always be high-quality, feel-good organic content, so there's a lot less time spent on analytics and a lot more time spent on creative direction, set creation, lighting & concept design. I also find that freeing myself from a social post planning calendar allows for spontaneity: followers can feel when something has been planned and released vs. when a creator has been compelled to share a message or a fresh moment unfiltered.
There were so many fears starting when I decided to quit my full-time job to pursue photographing my dog in snazzy fits. I had no choice but to succeed because there was no Plan B. There was no "if worse comes to worst, I'll stay at my parents'' or "at least I have enough savings to hold me up until my next job." None of these were options for me, so I had to make extra sure that I could take care of myself and Bodhi, and to do that, I needed to be inventive, vigilant, and unapologetically proactive.
It's effortless to let anxiety and doubts take over, and I will admit there were many moments where I would stop and wonder if I've made a hugely irresponsible choice. But the wonderful thing about fear and anxiety is that it's only a mind's interpretation away from sheer excitement.
I read my heart palpitations as excitement for what I will do today. I read my repeated thought patterns as a useful checklist of things that I wanted to accomplish. I read my lack of plan B as apparent confidence in my abilities to see plan A to success. And the best of all, I always knew that even in the scariest moments, I could turn around and see & cuddle Bodhi, who is an unmatched source of peace, humor, and comfort.
With Mensweardog, a lot of things happened organically and very quickly. Within days of launching our Tumblr blog & Instagram page, we received emails and phone calls from major news outlets, fashion brands, lifestyle companies, you name it. We were creating content weekly because there were just so many requests, and they were so excited that it didn't even feel like work.
There was never outside help in building this brand; it was just a passion project initially, and as we created unique examples of work, the paid sponsorships followed. One of the most challenging criticisms that I received early on was on an IG post of Bodhi’s photo. It was one of the first ones ever posted, and someone had commented, "It's just an iPhone photo. I don't get what the big deal is."
This struck me because this person was right- indeed. This was just an iPhone photo, and even with Bodhi's magnificence, I felt like I needed to do my part to step it up. I started to teach myself photography- I learned from books, videos, tutorials, asked photographer friends, and practiced every day until I felt comfortable doing Bodhi justice in these photos. I look back and am so grateful for this comment because it really put the fire under me to do better, seek more, and have an interest in things that I've never explored fully before.
I am aware that none of these fun projects or opportunities would exist if it weren't for our followers. I always remember to be grateful and put out the best work that I have to do my audience justice and give back happiness to a loyal group of followers who have joined me in seeing Bodhi grow. Our loyalty is always with them.
Content creation sounds fun and comfortable from the outside: the perfect life where you get to be creative in beautiful places, meeting interesting people, and all of this is true, but well, you don't see all of the work that goes on behind the scenes. For example, for a single MWD photoshoot, there are days of sourcing the outfit pieces, accessories, and props. Then there is the set’s curation: sourcing the materials, whether it's fabric or seamless background or planning for an on-location site. There is the studio production side where we perfect the lighting, angles, and perspectives. There's a tremendous amount of effort put in to make sure that Bodhi is happy, well-fed, well-walked, and feeling fabulous.
We take at least 300 rapid-fire photos in one photoshoot session to result in one or two final photographs that see the light of social media day. Then there is color correction, retouching, image optimization, and caption crafting, so in a nutshell, it's a compact, hyper-efficient version of an entire production + social media studio. My point being, it is incredibly enjoyable to work, but you will have to work very hard, you will have to work long hours, you will have to juggle a lot of platforms and programs, clients and partners, so make sure that it's something that you enjoy doing and building.
There was a time when content creators were being encouraged to post at least three times a day to keep their audience engaged because there is so much to consume on the social platforms that you had to claw for relevance. It's easy to get roped into chasing success through quantitative performance numbers. But, looking at the bigger picture of well-being, content creators have a huge responsibility to ask themselves: "What is the optimal number of posts for the mental state of both the content creators as well as the users"? and work accordingly.
How much of our mental state, sense of self, and sense of happiness are we giving up to see an uptick in numbers in our insights? Is it reasonable or necessary for our followers to see content at this frequency, or do they need a break to put down their phones and enjoy other areas of their lives? We post once a week for our brand because that’s what suits Bodhi, me, and it feels like the right frequency to uplift and not overwhelm our followers.
I initially quit my full-time job because I had no more sick days or holidays to use for these entertaining opportunities that I was finding through Mensweardog. It was a pretty spontaneous choice. I knew that I needed to see this thing through, and the full-time job did not provide the kind of flexibility of time that I needed, so I decided on the name of adventure.
There are a few notable milestones that I will always carry with pride. The first is a double-page photo spread of Bodhi sporting the Top Summer destination on the New York Times Sunday Paper. I was living on the Upper East Side back then, and the first thing I did when I woke up in the morning was run to my local corner store and buy out the 20 copies that they had of the New York Times Sunday newspaper. Then I ran back up and gave Bodhi a big kiss because I was so proud of him. A second milestone would be the book that I co-wrote with my ex-partner, "Mensweardog presents the new classics: First looks for the Modern Man.”
My marketing strategy is to build a following based on providing value and positivity for the users and collaborate with companies that are already aligned with Mensweardog for genuine, passion-driven campaigns for products that I love, use, and proud to recommend.
Put your followers first, win their trust, and always work to keep that trust because it's really what differentiates a brand with follower loyalty vs. a brand that just has a lot of followers.
Why is this important? Even in the last ten years, there have been powerful social platforms that have lost their relevance time and time again. It went from Facebook to Twitter to Tumblr to Instagram, then now there's Tiktok. When users migrate from one platform to another, there are so many other and fresh content creators on the new platform that it becomes very easy for them to neglect the old platform altogether.
The only way that you're going to win a follower across platforms is to give them the value that keeps them returning again and again. For our account, it is the feel-good factor of Bodhi's incredible charm. It's the men's styling tips. It’s the introduction to dog lifestyle products that we love and trust with our dogs. It's about giving respect and value where it's due because the followers become your brand’s lifeline.
I had times when I handled all the brand deals and sponsorships by myself- it proved to be challenging as it was competing with the time that I needed to spend on creative content creation and the execution of these ideas. I was fortunate enough to be approached by several excellent content agencies who handle the logistics of contracts, timing, compensation and help me free up time for my creative process.
The agency that I work with currently is called Whalar, and I work with two beautiful agents with a deep, intimate understanding of Mensweardog as a brand, as a creative studio, and as a dog-human team.