UCLA Student Mixes Popular Culture With Trendy Bead Designs

Hahna Song makes her way through Westwood.

With products ranging from phone charms to accessories, the freshman biology student said she started selling handmade beaded jewelry when she started attending UCLA. Song said she first experimented with beading at the start of the pandemic when Y2K jewelry became a summer trend. She then turned her hobby into a business through which she sells her products on Instagram and Etsy, she said.

“I think this style is very cute,” Song said. “It keeps you in touch with your younger self (and) reminds you (who) you were when you (were) little.”

From an early age, Song said she was drawn to business because of her experience at her family’s clothing store. She said she would accompany her father to downtown Los Angeles and help him select and label clothes for sale in his retail store. Although the store also sells jewelry, she said the company does not sell Y2K beads.

“I would ask if I can buy those things, like pearls that were in fashion,” Song said. “My parents always said, ‘No, we have jewelry in our store.’ And so, I just decided to do my own.

Song said she enjoys running a small business because the flexibility allows her to work at her own pace without interfering with her studies. It takes her about 10 to 15 minutes to create her necklaces, while the rings take up to five minutes, she said. Whenever she plans to launch a new collection, she says she designs prototypes of her products before she starts making copies to sell. Song’s business spread mainly by word of mouth. His friends would tell their friends about his products, Song said, which brought him clients from universities as far afield as UC Santa Barbara.

[Related: UCLA student tailors creative outlet into embroidery business]

Geraldine Perez, a first-year political science student, said Song often creates new pieces with her beads and gives them to friends. Perez, who is also Song’s roommate, said she often buys Song’s handmade accessories, including the phone charm she has on her phone. Over time, Song’s products have become more durable and long-lasting, Perez said.

Of several “Beads by Hahna” collections, Perez said the most eye-catching collection was the “Bruin Collection.” At the start of the fall term, Perez said she and Song wanted to show their school spirit, and she asked Song to create UCLA-themed pieces to wear on campus and to events. One of those pieces, Perez said, was a choker lined with blue, white and yellow beads to represent the school colors, accompanied by beads that spelled out “UCLA.”

Tania Tan, a first-year psychology student, said she also saw Song’s business grow. She said Song’s products are unisex, which makes her jewelry gender-neutral, as she has noticed her male friends wearing Song’s jewelry or attaching it to their bags or phones.

“It’s a good way to make sure everyone can enjoy (Song’s products),” Tan said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, only girls can enjoy ‘Beads by Hahna.’ It’s like…all genders, all genders.

Hahna Song shows off her rings, all with brightly colored beads and charms. Song said she takes inspiration from Y2K trends and hues when creating new pieces. (Megan Cai/Daily Bruin)

Tan said she found out about Song’s hobby when she received a phone charm from Song with Tan’s name spelled on it as a gift. She said she likes Song taking custom orders because it allows her customers to customize items to their liking. Song said most of her customers want personalized items, which make up the bulk of her orders.

[Related: Student-developed social media platform Cobble supports creative collaboration]

Recently, Song said she held her first pop-up booth at the Cobble Art Fair on May 10, where she dropped hints of her upcoming “Artist Collection” at Bruin Plaza. Inspired by popular mainstream artists, the “artist collection” is based on artists including BTS, Olivia Rodrigo, Harry Styles and others, Song said. As seen on her store’s Instagram page, the collection includes necklaces and phone charms spelled with these artists’ albums or songs, like Rodrigo’s “SOUR” and “Daeshwita” by Suga.

In the future, Song said she hopes to open a mental health-themed collection and plans to donate half of the revenue from the collection. In addition to expanding her audience, Song said she plans to maintain her company’s current style and continue selling beads, as it resonates with her mission to help others stay in touch with their youth. Song – who has always been interested in fashion – said she finds joy when she sees her customers incorporate her handmade accessories into their outfits.

“To see something that I have personally done being worn and used…is very rewarding to see,” she said.

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