Inter.viewed | Bok Choy Apparel

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So today I sat down and had a quick rap session with Brian Yee, Co-Founder of Bok Choy Apparel (http://www.bokchoyapparel.com), an up-and-coming clothing company with a focus on Asian-American-themed apparel. Brian was kind enough to give me his thoughts on the relevance of their apparel and how they plan on giving back to the community through them.

So, tell us a little bit about Bok Choy Apparel.
BRIAN YEE: Bok Choy Apparel was officially formed in February of 2008. At the time, we had one design that we produced for a shirt, and we envisioned seeing many more through the network of artists we know. We also wanted to help some of the Non-profits and causes we were involved with and found that there was a high level of overlap between the two communities.

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I noticed on the website that there is a focus on Asian-American artists and their work – was this a conscious choice on your part?
BRIAN: It was. We wanted to work with and provide for the Asian/Asian-American community to provide for the community and those who admire the culture. We have some great artists lined up whose designs strongly depict themes that people can identify with, as well as items and aspects unique to the Asian cultures.

You said that the designs would address themes that people identify with – does that mean you’re primarily targeting the Asian-American consumer?
BRIAN: Not exclusively, though I think people identify with things that are familiar to them.

What do you mean by familiar?
BRIAN: It’s hard to deny that our designs are specific to Asian culture. But Asian-Americans are individually dissimilar—we’re just providing images for which we can rally together for. Just the same, we want to our designs to be accessible to all groups. Our namesake Bok Choy is a vegetable that is supplied in grocery stores all across the United States. People regardless of race, ethnicity, or geographic location will recognize it.

There is another layer to it than its accessibility – there is also the meaning behind the name and the history of its recognition and prevalence in society that people can identify and appreciate. All of our designs exist like that; you don’t need to be from a specific group to enjoy the designs.

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Okay, let’s switch gears – I’m getting the feeling that the company does have some goals in terms of what it wants to achieve. Do you mind elaborating on them specifically?
BRIAN: Like any company we would like to succeed and have some market share! We do feel that the Asian-American community is neglected when it comes to apparel, and we do want to address that. We want to provide an outlet for artists to create designs that they and their peers can relate to and be empowered by. There have been, sadly, a fair amount of designs by major labels that depict Asians in an offensive or misconstrued manner, and it’s a shame that the most recognized Asian-themed apparel right now is that design featuring two Chinese laundry men striving to be white.

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A lot companies do promote “funny” tees, because they sell well. We see a lot of imagery making fun of things that are otherwise not politically correct in society. Would it different if Bok Choy were to sell tee-shirts with a similar type of humor targeted towards Asians?
BRIAN: It’s hard to say. It’s like comedians, who have to make jokes and make people laugh. You’re bound to upset people, no matter how good your intentions. What we do want is to have people be proud to wear our shirts, not just because they look good but also because it means something to them.

So your designs are meant to reflect a positive image of Asian-American culture, is that correct?
BRIAN: Definitely.

You spoke about helping out non-profits and causes earlier on – do you mind giving us an idea of what these are?
BRIAN: We currently work with Global Giving to provide earth quake relief for the Sichuan earthquake with sales from one of our shirts. The same goes for the Gay Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA), for whom we designed a shirt for their 20th anniversary. The Chinese Culture Foundation is a non-profit that I have a stake in – their mission statement resonates with me and what our goals are for Bok Choy.

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Thanks so much to Brian for taking time to answer my questions! For further inquiries, check out their website at http://www.bokchoyapparel.com, and vote on your favorite t-shirt designs.

If this topic interests you, please give a shout out in the comments section of https://nojuanhere.wordpress.com and tell me what you think as well as which Bok Choy shirt is your favorite! I will randomly pick one posters to receive their shirt of choice, and two others to receive an “I Heart China in American” shirt each. Promo ends on May 2, 2009. Multiple posts will be taken into consideration, so no spamming. Bonus karma points if “I Heart China in American” is your favorite!
Juan

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44 responses to “Inter.viewed | Bok Choy Apparel

  1. I really like the rainbow rice and what it represents. The I heart china shirt is cool too! It’s like dual identities, tied to two different nations. I’m learning bout related things in ethnic studies, it’s awesome. Too bad there aren’t any girl sizes 😦 you should ask them if they plan on getting girl sizes.

  2. Very cool! I absolutely love the boba shirt design in the green – I don’t know if I could survive without delicious boba! I think it’s great to have a clothing line Asian Americans can identify with.

  3. Hey Ching Ching,

    Just to clarify, Bok Choy does have girl sizes.

    Juan

  4. I looked through the site and i really like the boba shirt. I did notice that most of the shirts are in Chinese. Maybe as the site expands, you should consider adding other Asian countries and their languages on the shirts to cover other countries.

  5. My favorite t-shirt design is the rainbow rice as it shows diversity. It also reminds me of Theatre Rice because of all of the awesome people in it that make up its greatness. ^^;

  6. I instantly fell in love with the White Rabbit shirt. It’s cute and it makes me smile. Loved those candies so much as a child. Totally wanna rock that one-of-a-kind shirt.

  7. Great interview Juan. I forwarded this to a few friends. I think the bowl of rainbow will be popular come June. 🙂

  8. I loved the GAPA shirt! Really good idea!

  9. My favorite is Boba-Blue, if only because blue is my favorite color and I LOVE (!!!) boba 😀

  10. I LOooooooooooooooove the white rabbit one, but really, I’ll take anything that gives me arms like that model.

  11. I love the Melamine Free one because I do agree that it’s nostalgic, the rabbit is cute, and the whole idea reminds me of research I did on additives in Asia. Quite interesting and significant.

    Go Bok Choy Apparel! 😀

  12. Me gusta the one with the two male signs in black!

  13. I like the rainbow rice one! I think it’s a very clever concept.

  14. I love this company and everything it stands for. We need to support our own, and giving local API artists an opportunity to share their creativity through art really speaks to me. The rainbow rice shirt is so cleverly constructed, and it embodies so much meaning. I will wear mine with pride!

  15. I really like the Katipun Sun one but I don’t think I could pull it off… =(

  16. family line, such a strong statement with a cool design

  17. I love the shirts — they’re spicy, colorful, and seemingly tasty! YUM YUM YUM

  18. Mmm hmm, I second the double-male signs as being generally awesome. While they are just t-shirts, I still think what Bok Choy is doing is really important to help carve out a positive cultural space for us Asian Americans. Thumbs up!

    P.S. Juan you should try interviewing the guys at Giant Robot next–they’re super cool!

  19. Jeremy Gunawan

    i like the melamine free (nostalgia) t-shirt. i’m not a big fan of eating bokchoy the vegetable, but i like the company and its mission statement. 🙂

  20. I just want a Brown or Grey classic Bok Choy T-SHIRT!

    I think it has a great look. Also, I love eating Bok Choy!

  21. I love graphic Ts! I really like how the designs keep it simple. My favorites are the rainbow rice and tapioca ones. I would like to see the tapioca T in different colors (in addition). Bok Choy Apparel = cool.

  22. I like the red cherry blossom on white, because it reminds me of the Japanese flag. And props on the rainbow rice/family one – way to be inclusive!

  23. I love the rabbit candy t-shirt. I normally don’t wear white because I’m hella fat, but I know that when people are laughing at me, it’s because of my shirt! It’s about time we have an organization like Bok Choy Apparel!

  24. My favorite one is the balut shrt. It’s so adorable, it even has a little cute chick inside the egg. I’m sure every asian knows what balut is 🙂

  25. Nothing beats the original Boba Milk Tea!
    It’s definitely a great symbol of the emergence of Asian influence and ingenuity.
    Besides, who doesn’t love Boba Milk Tea!?
    我愛!

  26. I can’t get over how hilariously cute the balut shirt is. It’s my favorite, mostly because that poor little guy’s gonna get eaten.

  27. i like the boba shirt the best…and i can see what you’re doing here…but the t-shirts do generalize too much. i’m taiwanese and for political reasons…i dislike the “I heart china” tee…but to each their own…

  28. I went to the website and voted for the Balut shirt. I love it – It’s original! 8)

  29. I think so far I’m still for the pho shirt that looks like shaved ice with chopstix!:D

  30. I’m proud to be one reflection of Asian Americans here and am so glad that Bok Choy is promoting a way to outwardly express that! (^.^)

  31. P.S. I like the GAPA one quite a bit, as well as the Blue/Red Boba, and I love China in American! Sooo cute, and great messages.

  32. I really relaly love the bokchoy shirt..it’s totally awesome!!!

  33. Anthony Cheung

    I LOVE T-SHIRT. WILL BE OF GREATEST PLEASURE TO RECEIVE IT. MUCH THANKS AND APPRECIATION!

  34. I really like the Food Line one because I remember eating that stuff as a kid. I don’t care if melamine could potentially be poisonous, I LOVE IT TOO MUCH. Anyways, the shirts look awesome.

  35. Whatup Juan – I voted for the “I LOVE CHINA” shirt, mainly because 1) my heritage and 2) I think it can be marketed well to Chinese Americans that are passionate about their identity. Props to the good work! This is some real exciting stuff.

  36. The balut shirt is so cute. Very original and I love balut, so I voted for it.

  37. There are so many good ones that it’s hard to pick a favorite! I love the rabbit candy one and I just bought it.

  38. beautiful clean vector designs, love them all! Fav that jumped out at me was the black Katipun sun shirt – so vivid and urban. That said, I also love the cute lines of balut, boba, and the others. Great showing, good luck with the line!

  39. the rice one is kind of nice

  40. The white rabbit shirt is hands down the best design 😛 Totally reminds me of when I was a kid and my Taipo would give me White Rabbits and Haw flakes when we visited. Nomnom rice paper.

  41. The Blue Boba shirt is the best out of all! It is amazing and stands out without being tacky. Just looking at the shirt makes me want some Boba now :p I voted for the Blue Boba and told my friends to vote for it too!

  42. hey juan, i’m commenting like you wanted me to :P. The original Bok Choy shirt is definitely my favorite. The I heart china shirt is a close second.

  43. I’m all about the blue boba shirt. Who can say no to boba?! 😀

  44. I like the green shirt with the yellow pmt the most!! I wonder what flavor it is though…mango??

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