A Joyful Celebration of Chinatown’s Trendy Seniors

Picture: Andria Lo/Courtesy of Chinatown Fairly

Take a stroll by Chinatown, and you’ll’t assist however discover sure modern seniors nonchalantly strolling the streets in head-to-toe appears to be like. From grocery-shopping grandmas in matching units paired with wide-brimmed solar hats to dapper grandpas in freshly pressed fits and aviators, the outfits are a simple mixture of deeply private classic and trendy streetwear.

However who’re they? That’s the query two pals, photographer Andria Lo and author Valerie Luu, got down to reply of their ebook, Chinatown Fairly: Vogue and Knowledge from Chinatown’s Most Trendy Seniors. “We began out actually simply desirous to understand how they compose their outfits,” Luu informed the Lower. “However the garments grew to become a gateway to study extra about their immigration tales, their life histories, and their lively each day lives that they reside as seniors in Chinatown.”

Amid the surge of horrific anti-Asian hate crimes, Chinatown Fairly’s topics present much-needed solace — a robust reminder of the enjoyment in Asian American communities. For Lo and Luu, it’s a love letter to Chinatown. “We’re completely satisfied to supply some perception into the humanity of the neighborhood,” stated Lo. “If we will truly present these seen faces from the neighborhoods in a extremely caring and tender method, that could be a type of activism.”

With regards to supporting IRL, the duo recommends visiting your native Chinatown as a part of your weekly routine, consuming at eating places and shopping for your groceries. “That’s an effective way to assist Chinatowns and simply carry extra our bodies to the neighborhood, which implies extra security,” the 2 stated. “There are numerous methods — whether or not it’s donating cash, volunteering, or simply giving individuals a name — to point out love.”

Beneath are excerpts from Chinatown Fairly. Maintain scrolling to purchase the ebook; the 2 are donating 100% of the Bookshop proceeds to Chinatown nonprofits.

Picture: Andria Lo/Courtesy of Chinatown Fairly

“We first noticed Buck Chew sitting on a bench in Portsmouth Sq. sporting a fedora, go well with, and white gloves. He had a delicate, inviting smile.

Mr. Chew all the time carries a a little bit picture album with photos of his youthful self, wanting simply as fashionable in patterned pant fits, trench coats, and hats. However his neckties are the place he actually shines. In his picture album, he has an image of himself sporting a tie adorned with colourful parrots. It’s only one out of his assortment of 40 ties.

Earlier than he moved to the US in 1983, Mr. Chew labored as an accountant and abacus grasp in Macau, although he considers himself a poet and calligrapher. Most of his garments are from Hong Kong or Macau, and he has owned them for a really very long time.”

Picture: Andria Lo/Courtesy of Chinatown Fairly

“Dorothy G. C. Quock, higher referred to as Polka Dot, has proven us what it means to be community-minded. One afternoon, we have been at her condominium in Chinatown. Her entrance door was lined in posters and stickers that advocated for common well being care, ‘Impeach Bush and Cheney’ indicators, and a flyer that stated ‘Deliver the Troops Dwelling — Bay Space United Towards Conflict.’

Polka Dot thinks globally however acts domestically by caring for her neighbors. On Mondays, she receives a supply from the meals pantry. She retains a listing of her neighbors and ‘what they’ll eat or what they prefer to eat’ on her fridge and distributes her bounty to them accordingly. Just lately, Polka Dot’s constructing was bought by new landlords who elevated her lease to $3,000. As somebody with restricted revenue, she utilized for a hardship wavier and likewise shaped a bunch of residents, who dubbed themselves ‘The Gang of 5,’ to enchantment to the San Francisco Lease Board. She obtained her first lease enhance waived, however now not qualifies for a discount. These days, new tenants pay round $3,000 a month for a one-bedroom condominium, considerably greater than what she paid when she moved there 16 years in the past. She stated that there are solely ‘half of us’ left within the constructing.

Polka Dot is a portal to what Chinatown is and was. She was born in 1934 in Chinatown as one in every of eight children. They lived in single-room occupancy housing (SROs) and homes throughout Chinatown — at occasions with ten individuals in a single room. Her mom labored on the sweatshops that produced Levi’s, and typically she would carry Polka Dot and her siblings to work together with her. Polka Dot described it as a crowded, soiled, and dimly lit place the place the shades have been all the time drawn so that individuals couldn’t look in.

Through the years, Polka Dot has remained a job mannequin and a good friend. She got here to our picture exhibit at Legion, an artwork gallery in Nob Hill. The occasion on the gallery unfolded into an afterparty on the Tonga Room, a legendary tiki bar contained in the Fairmont Lodge and one in every of Polka Dot’s outdated haunts. She joined us on the dance ground, whereas a canopy band performed Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’ on a floating stage atop the bar’s indoor pool. When our good friend motioned to her that he was able to stroll her residence, she stated, ‘Are you able to wait 5 extra minutes?’ so she may squeeze in yet another track.”

Picture: Andria Lo/Courtesy of Chinatown Fairly

“Ms. Chen exuded a sure sort of cool and command — we instantly wished to name her ‘boss.’ We cherished her combine of colours topped off with a shiny embroidered cap, which she purchased in Thailand almost twenty years in the past and just lately found in her closet.

Initially from Jiangxi, Ms. Chen spent a few years shifting round China — Guangzhou, Nanking, and 4 different cities, ultimately ending up in Taiwan in 1949. Her last transfer was to the US, the place she labored at an immigration workplace in Oakland earlier than retiring. She picked up Cantonese and English on the job.”

Picture: Andria Lo/Courtesy of Chinatown Fairly

“Sui Chen Shen was glowing in her neon cap after visiting her husband at Villa Cathay, a senior care residence. When she got here to Vancouver at 55, Mrs. Shen obtained a job working at a clothes manufacturing unit. The shirt was made by a good friend, using leftover cloth. When she unzipped her jacket, we noticed the darker lead-resist print that delightfully contrasted with the entrance cloth.

For seven years, Mrs. Shen steamed garments to assist her 4 daughters, three of whom lived in the US. ‘I used to be actually drained and sweat lots,’ she stated. ‘It was actually scorching — no air-con.’ Finally, the bodily demanding job took its toll. ‘I needed to stand lots,’ she stated. ‘Later my physique wasn’t feeling good, so I retired.’

Mrs. Shen’s outfit taught us a lesson on learn how to steadiness boldness. She claims there isn’t a lot to it. ‘I don’t actually have a thought course of,’ she stated. ‘I put on no matter I really feel like.’”

Picture: Andria Lo/Courtesy of Chinatown Fairly

“We met the Jungs on the Alpine Recreation Heart, the place Mrs. Jung, 86, teaches Luk Tung Kuen, an train program consisting of 36 actions that promote blood circulation and muscle energy, at eight o’clock each morning. They each wore shiny yellow sweats fits, custom-made in Hong Kong, printed with ‘Luk Tung Kuen.’ Though they’d owned their sweatsuits for many years, it seemed like they simply obtained them yesterday. ‘When it’s a contented day or social gathering, I’ll put on it,’ stated Mrs. Jung.

Mr. Jung stated he met his spouse by his cousin. We requested how lengthy they dated earlier than they obtained married. ‘There was no courting again then,’ he stated. ‘You simply get married.’ He left Hong Kong to come back to the US first, and he or she joined him two years later in New York. We requested him about his 69 years of marriage to Mrs. Jung. ‘How usually do you guys have a good time?’ we requested. He laughed: ‘Each ten years.’”

Picture: Andria Lo/Courtesy of Chinatown Fairly

“We met Sidney Yuen as he was headed residence with full luggage of recent produce and groceries. He’s now retired after having labored for 36 years as a butcher at Berkeley Bowl, a well-liked East bay grocery retailer. He has all the time labored in markets — first on the Sheung Wan Market in Hong Kong, the place he grew up, after which in Hawaii the place he landed within the ’70s upon immigrating to the US.

We requested him about his distinctive hair, which he stated he solely started rising out a number of years in the past. ‘All over the place I’m going, individuals say they acknowledge me [from the grocery store],’ he stated.

Now in retirement, Mr. Yuen stays lively by tending to his yard backyard, practising tai chi, and studying Chinese language dance at native parks.”

Picture: Andria Lo/Courtesy of Chinatown Fairly

“Gui Zhi Li was ready exterior the Chinese language Neighborhood Heart on Mott Road. She had on a shiny purple orchid vest paired with a NY baseball cap — half grandma, half urbanite.

Previous to immigrating to the US, Ms. Li labored as a park gardener in Hong Kong. She’s been in the US for about 5 years however desires to return to Guangzhou. ‘The climate right here is chilly. It snows. Guangzhou doesn’t snow,’ she stated. ‘I don’t need to be in a chilly surroundings.’”

‘Chinatown Pretty: Fashion and Wisdom from Chinatown's Most Stylish Seniors' by Andria Lo and Valerie Luu


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