San Francisco-based Bok Choy Apparel is racking up some serious karma points. Not only have they been providing a platform for budding Asian American t-shirt designers since 2008, but they also assist nonprofit organizations via their designs. To top it off, they were one of three designers to outfit the Mr. Hyphen 2011 contestants last Saturday. Hyphen caught up with BCA's Antony Ho and Brian Yee to hear about their community focus and a very delicious description of their design aesthetic.
Why do you care about community so much?
Because it matters. Both of us have worked within the community for a number of years and we had found that many people do amazing things supporting and helping to nurture the community. We know you can’t always work in the front lines on issues, but you can always be there to help support and build a strong community.
In what ways do you support nonprofit groups?
For the most part we help facilitate the task of getting awesome apparel. Next year we are going to roll out a new way people can give back by having specific shirts aligned to different nonprofit organizations and help direct attention and funds to the org.
Mr. Hyphen 2011 finalists Colin Ehara (left) and Eugene Canotal wear Bok Choy Apparel designs during the Sleepwear portion of the night. Photo by Dianne DeGuzman.
I know that the artists have to have the same aesthetic appeal as BCA. What is BCA’s flavor?
Like all good Chinese cuisine we feel Bok Choy radiates all 8 flavors: Hom, Tom, Teem, Seen, Foo, Lot, Heong, Gum (salty, sweet, sour, bitter, hot, fragrant, and golden). No dish is strictly one flavor. We want a person to find something that speaks to their tastes. We want them to delight in its presentation, relish in it, and want to share it with others. They may not like all of the designs, and they may prefer one artist’s style over another, but overall the artists deliver quality dishes.
How often do the designers design shirts, and how many of these get chosen? I see that people can vote for the ones they want printed. Is that the case for all the shirts?
All of our shirts go through a designer; we very much want to support our artists and let their style shine through in the finished product. If you want more from an artist let us and the artist know. And then get out there and vote for them! There are actually a small number of shirts each year that are commissioned to coincide with specific events, organizations, or holidays -- that we will send directly to press.
Each and every artist draws inspiration from a wide variety. ... We do ask them to keep
the designed aligned within the “tribe.” That is -- great Asian designs,
from Asian artists, for everybody to enjoy on multiple levels.
I seriously want the Gobble Ji Mah shirt. Is the only way to get it truly by voting?
Only way. We really wanted to make sure the artist were able to fully express themselves and the fans can tell us which shirt they want.
The previous issue of Hyphen is available in its entirety for your perusing pleasure. Almost as good as having it right in your hands!