This Irvine dad created the superhero-inspired clothes line Hero Inside to offer again to the neighborhood – Orange County Register
By Beatriz E. Valenzuela
Tony B. Kim still remembers the doubt he felt in the pit of his stomach in 2016. It was July 4th, and Irvine’s father and husband had just taken a huge leap in confidence to start superhero-inspired humanitarian aid-minded clothing company, Hero Within.
“I remember visiting my family and working like crazy to do the (website) opening,” said Kim. “We had to get the website up and running before Comic-Con (San Diego).”
While the rest of his family happily waited for food and fireworks, Kim waited quietly, unsure if the superhero-inspired clothing designs he had created would find an audience of buyers. He remembers exactly when it happened.
“His name was Peter from San Diego,” Kim recalled. “He bought the Batman peacoat, the heavy peacoat. Then you sigh in relief. “The peacoat has a subtle bat design on the back, while the lining is in the yellow and black colors known for the Caped Crusader.
Three short years later, Hero Within has grown into a well-known geek clothing brand specializing in creating nerdy fashion with a bespoke and professional presentation. So much so that Kim was asked to create an exclusive hooded sweatshirt design for the 50th anniversary of Comic-Con International in San Diego.
“As a fan of Comic-Con, there hasn’t been anything I love more than Comic-Con since 2006. To have the opportunity to create a piece like this is just amazing and something I don’t take lightly.” he said.
The black, gray, and yellow hoodie with the iconic SDCC eye logo sold out quickly on pre-orders, but Kim said he will have rationed quantities of the exclusive garment available for purchase each day of the upcoming convention on Thursday, July 18 until Sunday July 21.
The Hero Within 50th Anniversary Comic-Con International jacket was created by Tony B. Kim of Irvine. (Courtesy)
A sense of belonging has always been important to Kim. Almost a decade ago, Kim and his wife, Erin Kim, decided to become foster parents. The family cared for dozens of young people in the Orange County’s foster system, and the Kims eventually adopted two children, making their family of four one family of six.
When he started Hero Within, he said he always knew it had to support local youth initiatives in Orange County.
Earlier this year, Kim teamed up with Framewerk Imaging to produce a line of vintage Avenger Endgame t-shirts. Proceeds from these shirts went directly to the Teen Leadership Foundation, a nonprofit established to establish youth prevention programs and temporary shelters for those who are no longer cared for or at risk of homelessness.
“The people who made these shirts are women who got out of the care system,” Kim said, adding that Framewerk Imaging has long been helping those out of the care system learn a trade.
Aside from the Avengers shirt line, a percentage of all Hero Within sales are used to fund programs for children in the Orange County’s care system, including providing inspiring and age-appropriate comics for foster children.
“My parents immigrated here from Korea about a year before I was born,” he said. “I grew up in the Texas area. My earliest memory in elementary school was feeling like I didn’t belong. I was chosen. I was bullied. As an escape, I turned to comics and science fiction. Everyone should feel like they belong. “
A place where everyone belongs
Kim said he was humble to have the opportunity to work with SDCC because he felt a personal connection to the world-famous pop culture event.
“It was the first time that I felt I belonged somewhere,” he said. “I felt accepted. Now the nerd dom has grown and it has become so much more popular, but there is still a feeling that when we are all together, even though we come from different backgrounds, we are all the same. If you feel like you never belong, Comic-Con is yours. “
Find the hero in you
The idea for the company began a few years ago when Kim, who had made a name for himself after creating his popular comic convention blog Crazy4ComicCon.com, was invited to present at various congresses or take part in a panel.
“I wanted to express my fandom, but there was nothing more sophisticated than t-shirts to show my fandom on. There’s really nothing out there to meet that need, ”Kim explained.
After talking to a good friend, Orange County designer Michael Lew, about the ins and outs of the fashion industry, Kim started thinking seriously about the geek chic line.
Kim introduced his first design in 2015, a Superman blazer. In a classic shade of blue, which hid the classic red and yellow “S” emblem in the inner lining, the jacket received a lot of positive feedback.
“I knew I had a great idea and I knew it could be something of value, but I had my day job, the mortgage, and the family,” he said.
As Kim methodically worked through the pros and cons of starting your own business, he said he received a cosmic boost in 2016.
“I was fired and said,” Universe, I hear you, “laughed Kim, who worked in marketing communications for several years.” It felt like the universe was pointing me towards Hero Within. “