By Beatriz E. Valenzuela
Tony B. Kim still remembers the doubt he had felt deep in his stomach in 2016. It was the July 4th party, and Irvine's father and husband had just performed a gigantic act of faith to launch the inspired humanitarian to superheroes – clothing company, Hero inside.
"I remember I was visiting the family, and I was working like crazy to open the (website)," said Kim. "We had to have the website launched before (San Diego) Comic-Con."
While the rest of his family happily anticipated food and fireworks, Kim waited quietly, uncertain whether the superhero-inspired designs he had created would find an audience of shoppers. He remembers very clearly when he did it.
"His name was Peter from San Diego," recalls Kim. "He bought the Batman peacoat, the heavy peacoat. This is when you have a sigh of relief. "The peacoat has a thin bat design on the back while the coating is in the familiar yellow and black colors for the Caped Crusader.
Three years later, Hero Within has grown to become a well-known geeky clothing brand that specializes in creating nerd fashion with a more personalized and professional presentation. So much so that Kim was asked to design an exclusive hooded sweatshirt design to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Comic-Con International in San Diego.
"As a Comic-Con fan, since 2006, there is nothing I love more than Comic-Con and having the opportunity to design a piece like this is nothing short of amazing and something I don't take to light "He said.
The black, gray and yellow hooded sweatshirt with the iconic SDCC eye logo, quickly sold out in pre-orders, but Kim said he would ration the amount of exclusive clothing available for the brand. purchase every day of the next convention Thursday 18 July until Sunday 21 July.
To give back
A sense of belonging has always been important for Kim. Almost a decade ago, Kim and his wife Erin Kim decided to become adoptive parents. The family promoted dozens of young people in the Orange County foster care system, and eventually the Kims adopted two children, turning the family of four into a family of six.
So when he started Hero Within, he said he always knew it would be necessary support local youth reception initiatives in Orange County.
At the beginning of this year, Kim worked with Framewerk Imaging to produce a "Avenger Endgame"Line of vintage shirts. The proceeds of those shirts went directly to the benefit of Teen Leadership Foundation, a non-profit organization created to create prevention programs for adoptive adolescents and transitional housing for those who have an age outside of the foster care or who are at risk of homelessness.
"The people who made these shirts are women who came out of the foster care system," said Kim, adding that Framewerk Imaging has long helped those who come out of the foster care system to learn a trade.
Aside from the Avengers shirt line, a percentage of all Hero Within sales go to fund programs for children in the Orange County custody system, including providing adopted children with age-appropriate and inspired comics.
"My parents immigrated here from Korea about a year before I was born," he explained. "I grew up in the Texas area. My first memory in elementary school seemed to me not to belong. I was chosen. I was bullied. I turned to comics and science fiction as an escape. Everyone should feel part of them. "
A place where everyone belongs
Kim said he was humiliated to have the opportunity to work with the SDCC, because he feels a personal connection with the world-famous pop culture event.
"It was the first time I felt I belonged to someone," he said. "I felt accepted. Now, the nerd-dom has grown and become much more popular, but there is still the feeling that when we are all together we are all the same, even if we come from different backgrounds. never belonged, you belong to the Comic-Con. "
Find the hero inside
The idea for the company began several years ago, when Kim – who made a name after creating his famous comic book convention, Crazy4ComicCon.com – has been invited to present or be present in a jury at various conventions.
"I wanted to express my fandom, but there was nothing more sophisticated than the T-shirts in which I could show my fandom. There is really nothing out there to satisfy that need," explained Kim.
After talking to a good friend, Orange County designer Michael Lew, about the details of the fashion industry, Kim began to think seriously about the geek's chic line.
Kim unveiled his first design, a Superman blazer, in 2015. Made in a classic blue tone, which hid the classic red and yellow "S" emblem in the inner lining, the jacket received many positive feedbacks.
"I knew I had a great idea, and I knew it could become something of value, but I had my day of work, my mortgage and my family," he said.
As Kim methodically worked through the pros and cons of starting his own business, he said he received a cosmic boost in 2016.
"I found myself fired and so I said," Universe, I hear you, "laughed Kim, who spent several years in the field of marketing communications. "It seemed that the universe had addressed me to Hero Within."