Meet the brains behind the bunny ears

Meet the brains behind the bunny ears

Rabito designer Mina Kwag is causing a flurry with her cell phone case designs

Introducing the Playboy bunny of iPhone cases.

When accessories designer Mina Kwag, 31, decided to include a whimsical cell phone case along with her ring designs at a London design fair last year, little did she imagine that she would soon be exporting her products to 15 different countries. 

Kwag, who officially launched her now-famous line of Rabito cases in December 2010, currently sells an average of 1000 cases per day, and has recorded a little less than US$1 million in sales in the few months since the company's launch.  

Creative beginnings

Kwag says she was always into fun and creative designs, having studied visual communication design at Seoul National University.

After graduation, she joined Samsung Electronics in 2005 and worked as a user interface designer for six years. In addition to her day job, she designed small accessories and clothing on the side, which she displayed at various design exhibitions around the world, including Tokyo, London and Denmark. 

Rabito CEO Mina Kwag is determined to crack down on imitations. Eventually, she quit her job at Samsung to pursue designing on her own, and she tried her hand at an iPhone case on a whim. 

“iPhones are great, but it's hard to customize them," says Kwag. "They all looked the same. Sleek and smart but still the same. I wanted to find a way to make mine different and fun." 

She made a single prototype case for her own phone and displayed it along with her other accessories at "100% Design London” the British contemporary design show.

Then -- to coin a phrase -- her phone started ringing off the hook. 

After holding a successful exhibition in Japan solely on the bunny ears design, she launched a company in Korea on Christmas Day, 2010. 

Style and function

Despite its relative simplicity, the Rabito design has inspired a mass following among iPhone and Samsung Galaxy users, who seem to love not only the cute exterior but also its functionality.

The bunny ears make it easy to locate and grab the phone out of a bag, and of course, there’s the adorable fluffy tail, which helps the phone stand on its own, letting the user watch films or other video content without having to physically hold it up. 

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

The cute design however, has naturally spawned hundreds of fake copycat designs, and Kwag says she has also received a number of bizarre complaints. 

“I received numerous complaints that it was so cruel for me to use rabbit fur for the tail," she says. "I was shocked and flattered at the same time. I didn’t think that anyone would believe the tail was made with real rabbit fur. But don’t worry, they are completely synthetic." 

Although she officially registered the name and design, she has not been able to stop countless imitators from flooding the local market. Most are from the United States and China. 

rabitoMore than 1,000 Rabito cases are sold every day. “There are so many imitations out there -- they look exactly the same,” the designer says, as she hands out an imitation of her original design. "It’s nearly impossible to track them all down. But I’m planning to take harsher measures. If I don't fight, who will?,” she said. 

Ironically, she also receives complaints from overseas about the bad quality of the imitations. “Today I got a call from Spain about what bad quality the cases were. But they were fakes. It's very frustrating."

Imitations are also a big reason why she does not sell via open markets such as Gmarket or 11st. “Personally, I don’t think open markets do a good job of distinguishing brands,” says Kwag. “I don’t like my products getting mixed in with the fakes, and I would rather distribute through other official channels.” 

Official Rabitos, which are available for iPhone and Samsung Galaxy phones, cost 34,000. Fakes can cost as little as ₩5,000 online. 

In Korea, the brand is sold at official Apple retailers such as A Shop as well as "home" stores including Kosney or 10 x 10. 

In the United States, Rabitos can be bought online at www.phonebuddha.com, and Kwag is currently negotiating with a number of offline retailers for American distribution. 

Brand recognition

In order to expand Rabito as a brand, Kwag is also planning to design and launch other household items. When asked what kind, she shakes her head with a smile. 

“I won’t let my competitors and those nasty imitators get a head start. I’m planning to launch late this year, so you’ll have to wait and see.”  

Rabito's official website: www.rabitoshop.com

Rachel Sang-hee Han is a freelance writer for CNN Travel. 

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