Fashion Designer Jasmine Chong on Aesthetics, Familial Influence and Hot Pink

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. But personally, as a designer, as an artist, you just keep making even if it’s bad to you. And that’s the thing, right? Something that’s bad to you may be beautiful to someone else. You don’t know that unless you put that into the world. And we’re often such harsh, awful critics for ourselves that I think it’s just important to keep making, even if it’s not in the medium that you are earning a living in.

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S2: Welcome back to working. I’m your host, Isaac Butler.

S3: And I’m your other host, Karen Hon.

S2: Karen, it is so nice to talk to you again. How was your holiday?

S3: It was pretty good. I mean, obviously the level of good is relative because the number of things that we can do right now safely is kind of limited.

S2: It’s like three things, right?

S3: Kind of. Yeah. And I my holiday was all. We didn’t see anybody. We didn’t do anything that required being around other people. So it was all right. How was your holiday?

S2: It was good. My mother in law came up to stay, and then we were pretty sure her flight would be canceled. So we drove with her back to Virginia and then spend like a week down there. So it was actually it was the first time that I actually really did not work for more than two days in a row in, like two years. I didn’t even check my email and it was like a wild, wild experience. It is. I actually relaxed and disconnected for once. And you know what? Well, we always talk about doing that on this show. So I finally took some of my own medicine and it was totally worth it.

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S3: Do you feel like you’re refreshed and rejuvenated?

S2: I do. Just in time to sit around my house. While this new variant closes down all the possibilities of life?

S3: Yeah, that’s kind of thing where it’s like, I definitely didn’t work for a few days, but the effect of that has felt almost non-existent. Now, on the other side of it, just like 2022, every single day has felt like a case of the Sunday Scaries. Do you know what I mean? Know where it’s like every day you’re like, Oh my God, like, I don’t want to like, I have to get up and do this again tomorrow. But anyway, yeah, that’s how the news started off for me.

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S2: Well, at least we have a fun work thing to do today, which is talk about this wonderful interview you did. Can you tell us whose voice we heard at the top of the podcast?

S3: Of course, this week’s interview subject is the illustrious Jasmine Chong. She’s a fashion designer with her own label based in New York. She is wonderful and I’m a huge admirer of her designs, and you should go check them out, whether or not you listen to the rest of this episode.

S2: And she was also recently on the reality show, making the cut right.

S3: Yeah, that’s correct. She was a contestant on a fashion reality show or a competition reality show.

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S2: Awesome. And I believe our slate plus listeners get a little something extra this week.

S3: Mm-Hmm. So the extra segment is something that I really find interesting and hopefully Slate Plus listeners will to. We talk a little bit about the sizing standards in the fashion industry, especially like how? For a long time and still right now, to a pretty large degree, fashion is centered around a very narrow subsection of body types and sizes.

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S2: All right. Let’s hear Karen’s conversation with fashion designer Jasmine Chong.

S3: So when did you first become interested in fashion?

S1: I think it was always there at a young age. My mother was a fashion designer. Oh, wow. Until she had kids and she would take me to the garment center of Malaysia. I grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and she would encourage me to pick out a few fabrics, which she would then turn into these dresses like just sun dresses and play dresses. So yeah, as a child, I saw that process and I always thought it was really cool. Like, I would pick these purple like purple buttons to go on my yellow sun dress. It was just it was just fun. And I think that was when I first opened my eyes to the sense of taking something and then turning it into something else that you can wear.

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S3: Mm-Hmm. On a sort of basic level, it almost sounds like the journey that I think a lot of us have with cooking, where it’s like we watch our mothers do it or our parents do it and get to do like small things in the kitchen to help out, we sort of learn that way. When did you first start? So you went to go pick out fabrics and buttons and like, look at all the materials that go into making clothing. At what point did you start making things on your own?

S1: Well, it sort of went on from sketching. I would like just sketch a lot like notebooks just filled with collections. I think it was probably, you know, the sound of music. Mm-Hmm. Yeah, I saw that and I was just like, Wow, you know, they’ve taken this these drapes and we’ve turned it into these incredible clothes. And then I would then make my own version of the Sound of Music. But me collection, I think I call it a collection as a kid. Just sketches. Yes. So that was pretty early on. And I sort of put it aside for a little bit. I didn’t. I think there was a point where I thought I could be an economics or English major, and it didn’t really work out for me. And then I went to art school. And treat it like my first piece, and we did a fashion show. And the the response is really good, and I think that was when I first started to see because that was my first step into like this formal education like formal fashion education where I learned the skills and I learned how to sew, and I could then take all these skills and create something that could be on a model to walk down the runway. So it’s sort of like a big gap, I guess, because childhood, like knowing that you’re into this thing, right? And then. Discovering other things about yourself along the way and then picking it back up again.

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S3: Yeah. Do you remember that first piece that you designed in school?

S1: Yeah, it was actually, I think, pretty bad. I think it was inspired by like an avalanche or something. Oh, and it was just objectively. A very I don’t know how to say this, because I was a sophomore in the fashion program and it was the first thing that really made to put on a model and send down the runway. And I just wanted to do all the things like there is like a little gathered puffy sleeve. It’s a one shoulder. Then there’s these like layers of giant pleats and it’s all white and it’s also hand painted gray. I don’t know. You’ll have to see it. Or maybe not.

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S3: I’m very curious, but I will press the topic. And as you were going to school for it, like, what did you? I mean, I think I only know this, know about my own experiences, my personal experiences, like as a creative like when I’m going to college and when I’m thinking like, I think it’s hard, at least for most people from like. Similar backgrounds as myself to think of pursuing a creative career as like a feasible path, like something that makes sense or like trying to always come up with like backup plans like I’m curious, I’m saying too much at once right now, but hopefully it makes sense. My basic question is like, when did you first while like going to school for fashion and learning about how to make your own designs into reality? Like at what point did you think this is what I want to pursue for the rest of my life, or at least for the foreseeable future? Because you mentioned there were a couple other paths that you looked into but decided that wasn’t for you?

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S1: I think it was the moment where I looked at a design and I wanted to make it for my mother. Mhm. And you know, my mother does not wear in industry record it the street signs. So she’s not a size zero, two or four. So I had to learn how to measure her and figure out how to make it for her, because in school, we’re really at the time, we were learning how to make pieces for a straight size model, right? And I think that was sort of the moment when I could see that there was a need for that for someone who is actively thinking about bodies beyond a size zero to four. And I mean, just a personal. It was very personally rewarding to make something for my mother and to see her wear it and love it. I’d say that was the beginning where I could really start to think about it as something I did for work, for for life, you know?

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S3: And do you remember like having a conversation with your mother when you decided that this was what you wanted to pursue, given that it was what she had also done in the past?

S1: Well, she was very encouraging about it. I think when I was, I was at UVA for my first year of college, where I was trying to be an economics major and my mother was the one person who would and my sister, I guess. Yeah, they were both saying, you know, Well, shouldn’t you apply to Parsons? What about Risto? Yeah. And I think I just had it in my head that I really want it to be. Both my siblings had gone to UVA. Mm-Hmm. So it was just. Yeah, I just got in my head and I want it to also do that. And. I think very quickly I realized after a semester or two that it wasn’t the right fit for me because it’s just a very different kind of education. And I took some time off, went back to Malaysia, worked on a portfolio and applied to art school.

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S3: Mm-Hmm. And I wanted to talk about, I guess, one step further down your initial path as well. You worked at other fashion houses as well prior to founding your own label. Can you describe a little bit of your career path, I guess. I’m not sure whether you started working at this fashion houses prior to graduating or after, but either way, your kind of entrance into the world.

S1: Yeah. So before graduating, I had spent a summer in New York, so I went to school in Chicago. I went to school, the Art Institute of Chicago, and I was in New York for the summer, and I was interning in the design department for Anna Sui. And that was one of the most eye opening experience for me. It was fashion industry because I think your first fashion experience really shapes you. And just seeing how Anna has a family business essentially and is at the pinnacle of her career as an Asian woman in the garment district, it was just really, really inspiring to see the business aspect of everything as well. And beyond that, after graduation, I also worked in Tuchman’s design team. I had a short freelance thing at Tory Burch, and I think from each experience, you kind of pick up these things right? And you decide like, Oh, that’s that works. And you know, I’m meeting all these contacts in the garment district. I know where to go for buttons and for links, and without even realizing it, you’re sort of garnering all these skills and contacts, and it really helps you in before in the future if you decide to start your own label. And that really wasn’t something that I had thought about. Mm-Hmm. There was always this element of Should I move back home to Malaysia? Should I do something there? But after graduation, I sold most of my senior collection. Mm-Hmm.

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S3: That’s amazing.

S1: Yeah, it was really validating. I remember getting the check and just crying like, Oh my gosh, people want to pay money for things. I make that, yeah, wild. And yeah, it gave me the confidence to try it out. Hmm. In New York.

S3: So what goes into starting your own label? Because at least from an outside perspective, that seems like a kind of a huge amount of work.

S1: It’s so much work because I mean, aside from all the logistics and the finances, I was lucky enough to have my family help and invest. And so there’s that the logistics finances. And then there’s this whole idea of who am I as a designer? What do I want to put out there? What’s my aesthetic? And for me, I think when I first started, I didn’t really have to think about it too much because from my past work. Even the avalanche dress that was that was something you can sort of see this common thread that. Ties your work together. And you don’t even really see it when you’re in it and creating the work, but you see it when you’re sort of surveying the work from, you know, a year or two of distance. Yeah. So I as I start to design that first collection, incorporate a lot of work that I had like sketches and draping and just ideas that I have put together even since my first year of fashion school. Mm-Hmm. So it ended up being this really, I don’t even have to try to tell the world like, Hey, this is me, this is what I do. You know, it just was. Just based on the elements of the design elements of the things that I was drawn to. Yeah, for that first collection,

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S3: for people who might be listening who aren’t as familiar with your work as I am, how would you now describe your aesthetic or your general design sense?

S1: I think everything is everything I work on is very much rooted on something personal, something that makes me feel. Sometimes it’s a place I have been to and how I felt when I was in that place. Mm-Hmm. It’s the silhouettes are very fluid, very drippy. And I think I also bring in this element of. Being half Malaysian and half Indonesian, this love for texture and soft glamour and embroidery and just really special fabrics that glib are and our metallic and beautiful. So yeah, it’s a combination of that. Yeah.

S3: I’m curious if you have a specific example that you can describe for us of a garment that you described with a specific place in mind and how you translate. One thing that I wouldn’t like, for example, I if I’m thinking of like my home, I wouldn’t necessarily know how to translate that into a garment. So I’m curious, like what elements you find important to pull in that sense?

S1: Yeah. So the last collection I showed at Fashion Week was called Celestia, and it really was based on. I was in Paris filming, making the cut. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

S3: We’re going to circle back. Yeah. Yeah.

S1: So this kind of yeah. And spoiler, I had just gotten booted and was feeling really small and really ugly and just really bad at what I do. Sort of. Not great. Mm-Hmm. And I remember being they had allowed me to stay in Paris after I was eliminated, so I wanted to go to Versailles because I’d never been. Mm-Hmm. So I went to Versailles, and I remember just feeling so small and so human and so ordinary in this grandiose palace. It’s just so luxurious and grand and. Just gorgeous. And I translated that into. A collection where, you know, there’s fabrics that feel like the tin ceilings of Paris, the cafes that you get, so there’s pieces that feel really a fluid and ethereal in this soft seafoam color, really heavenly looking at the frescoes in Versace. But I also pair that with pieces that were really heavy and velvety and dark, like Brown’s textured browns that really. I think portrayed at least to me, how I felt just small and not very good, ah yeah. Almost dumpy. You know what I mean? Yeah. So that’s where that came from. And. I think it’s almost collections and clothes and designs, it’s almost a way for me to cope with my own feelings about things. Yeah, and it’s a great way for me to. Find some sort of recovery from them. Yeah. By putting it out into the world and then having someone say, Oh my gosh, that quote reminds me of the tin ceilings of Paris. Perfect. Yeah, I love it. FMV wear it and they feel beautiful in it. And all of a sudden it’s like, Oh, I guess that whole experience was not in vain.

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S3: Yeah, yeah. I think that’s that’s definitely one of the kind of strange things I think about art in general, right? Where it’s like you. It is a space where you can explore kind of the more vulnerable sides of yourself or what you’re feeling at that time.

S1: Right?

S3: But yeah, I wanted to talk about your time on a reality show, and I’m curious what if they reach out to you or if you apply to an if it was the latter, what what made you want to put your hat in for that experience?

S1: So they reached out to me and I think I was just at a point in my career that was 2019. Yeah, a few years ago where I was just open to whatever. Mm-Hmm. You know, I was open. I was saying yes to a lot of things. I was open to experiences. So the idea was why not? Yeah. And, you know, coming from Malaysia and living in America, you never really think that you’re going to be. Sucked up by reality casting agents. So it’s kind of a whole exciting whirlwind. And it was a lot of fun.

S3: I also wanted to mention for our listeners, we are currently zooming with Jasmine in her atelier, which you opened fairly recently, I think if I’m not mistaken.

S1: Yeah, so we actually moved into this space. I want to say two months ago. Mm-Hmm. Before that, we were in the same building a few floors down in a smaller space. But this one just has more light. And you know, I can have clients come in for fittings and things, so that’s always nice.

S3: At what point did you start having like your own, I guess, separate studio? Like, was there ever a point where you were only just working out of your apartment? Or did you always have like a separate, dedicated space to focus on your design work?

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S1: So the first stress that I actually designed for the collection for the line was in my bedroom, in my apartment, and I had run out of muslin, which is this sort of cheaper fabric that you experiment with. So I just took my flat sheet because you need slept.

S3: Yeah, that’s true. Yeah.

S1: And I tore it up and I draped what is now the button? This dress one of our bestsellers? Wow. Yeah. So that actually happened in my apartment. And soon after that, I got my first studio, my first office space. But there was a lull in between where I was. I’m sure about the label, and I’m sure, but what I wanted to put out to the world and I didn’t renew a lease and I moved everything back to my apartment and just sort of sat with it.

S3: While you’re having like the kind of an existential crisis about what to do next, like, did you ever think about, I guess, going back into someone else’s design house? Like what were kind of the options that you thought about for yourself going forward as a designer?

S1: Yeah, I think the existential crisis really comes from being specifically in New York City. I think for a lot of us. Yes. Yeah. And there is never any doubt to me that I want to make clothes or make things in a way. And but with my family being in Malaysia and Indonesia, when things get hard, there’s always this moment of like, What am I doing? Like, I could be doing this back home with all these plants and I’m like, good fruit and family. So that’s where it really came from. Should I just bring this back home? Or should I fight it out here? And each time that happens, I think the essential, the existential crisis, it happens in waves. I think it happens maybe even once a week, right where you just like why? Why here? Like for white and something always happens that is a win. And then you get excited again, whether it’s being inspired by something at a museum or meeting someone who just falls in love with your work in such a personal way. You remember that, well, you know, this is where I want to be.

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S3: Yeah, you actually answered. My follow up question was going to be I was going to ask how you get over it or what you do to sort of recharge. But it seems like the city kind of takes care of that for you in a way.

S1: Yeah, the city takes care of that. And I think just personally as. Designer, as an artist, you just keep making even if it’s bad to you. And that’s the thing, right? Something that’s bad to you may be beautiful to someone else. You don’t know that unless you put that into the world, and we’re often such harsh, awful critics of ourselves. Yeah, but I think it’s just important to keep making, even if it’s not in the medium that you are earning a living in. Like I have a film camera. And sometimes when I had a rough day, you know, especially over the last year and a half during the pandemic, I would just take the film camera and go out and just take photos of flowers and plants and go to Central Park. Then I’d get them developed and I’d be inspired by the colors and the shapes. I think it’s just finding ways to be inspired, sounds so cliche, but

S3: it’s what you can hope that’s true.

S1: Yeah, right? Yeah. So I think that’s how I sort of maintain the love with the work.

S3: Mm hmm. And speaking of flowers, I also wanted to talk about your fifth and latest collection in bloom. I guess it may be a sort of self evident from its name, but where did the inspiration for that come from? What was the process of building that collection?

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S1: So that collection was born deep into lockdown where I, you know, I live in a little apartment in Hell’s Kitchen and I have a bunch of plants, but I don’t have outdoor space. Mm-Hmm. I wish. And I actually

S3: thought, that’s like impossible.

S1: Yeah, exactly. I actually got a flower, a subscription from Molly Olive or Flower School. And it was just to ensure that every week there was a bouquet from a farm upstate or something like flowers that I had never seen before on my mantle on myself. And it just was a way for me to have something constant to look forward to. Mm-Hmm. And something that brought life and color to the apartment when I wasn’t really leaving at all. Yeah. And the collection really comes from this place of just like these vibrant colors almost attacking your apartment. You know, that’s why I mean, I always swore to myself that I would never use like hot pink fuchsia. Oh yeah, the whole thing. Have you seen it?

S3: You had no idea why that color was taboo for you prior to this.

S1: I think I always had this idea of myself as a very neutral one of those neutral, elegant designers, you know, like you think of New York and you’re like, Well, I’m going to be that kind of designer. And then you realize you don’t have to be sure, some hot pink. And in a way, it was fun to play with a color that I had always sworn that I wouldn’t work with actually in my in my senior collection, I hadn’t used that color since my senior collection. Wow. Yeah. So I used it then because I was inspired by like pink guavas. Yeah. And I never touch it again. Now here it is everywhere.

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S3: Are there any gears if there any other sort of rules that you’ve set for yourself in that in fact, whether it’s colors or fabrics that you avoid or something that you always try to do, on the other hand.

S1: I think the last year, I’ve really let go of that.

S3: That’s great.

S1: Yeah, yeah, because I used to be very OK. Everything has to be this lustrous Sharma’s silk or velvet and with in bloom. With the latest collection, I used a silk cotton poplin because I wanted a more wearable everyday dress. And I’ve been more open to other things. So other than that, I don’t think I have any other roles.

S3: That’s great. But it seems like very freeing to come to as a realization.

S1: Yeah, to break out of this idea of who you need to be to be seen a certain way. Mm-Hmm. You can really start to let that go. Yeah. Over the last few years,

S3: I think that’s maybe the healthiest outcome to the pandemic, especially,

S1: right?

S3: Most of us are going the other way.

S1: Exactly. You can go the other way, you can go half way, you know, you can go wherever. Mm-Hmm. And it’s completely fine. Yeah.

S3: And this this portrays just how little I know about what goes into maintaining a fashion label. But once you settle on a design for a piece of clothing in producing that, how much of like is the design then sent to it? I don’t know of a factory to put together or do you hand make all these garments? What what is the process?

S1: So with a Bloomberg, I make and generally garments. I make a loose prototype, so I sketch, I drape up, I decide on fabrics, I experiment with fabrics, and it’s a very loose idea of what it looks like on the body. You kind of stitch it in there with your needle and thread, like a basting stitch to hold it all together. And then you start to figure out the shape and the proportions and what works and whether it works with a pair of pants or with a skirt or whatever. And then once we have that very good solidified idea of what the prototype is going to be. Well, I mean, I guess that’s a prototype prototype plan. And then we we patterned it. We make patterns out of it and then we create the first sample. Mm-Hmm. And then we fit the first sample on a model, sometimes on me. Sometimes we start typically in the industry, the sample sizes, you know, or on a for two or four. But sometimes because I am selfish, I want to make clothes for myself. We just don’t think that’s selfish at all. I like I want to make. I want to wear the prototype. Yeah, I want to wear the samples. And so I tested out or model will test it out. And then if it all works, we make our little adjustments and we send it to the seamstress and we’ll make however many units. It’s all still very small scale like small unit production. And everything’s based in New York City, like I know the names of everybody who works on the pieces. That’s incredible, which is really, really nice. Like, yeah, in many ways, I feel like it’s something that I didn’t think I would end up with, but it’s it’s just nice. And, you know, sometimes I struggle about like scaling and growth and what that looks like, because right now it’s just so comfortable. Like, I have someone sewing my accessories and I have. Another two people working on the clothing, and it’s just really lovely to know everybody’s name like it’s it’s such a buzz word, but it feels like slow fashion. Mm-Hmm. Knowing what exactly what goes into the pieces?

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S3: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s something especially for people like me who don’t know anything about how the fashion industry works. It seems like kind of the best possible moment where you know everyone that you work with and you have all these established relationships with these people, like early, you’re also talking about like finding knowing someone to go to for buttons or a particular kind of fabric or anything like that.

S1: Yeah, yeah. And I think that’s what really. Kept me in New York when things got hard, especially over the last like year and a half, there was this question of should I moved to L.A.? I have friends there. I could have a bigger apartment. And the weather’s better. It’s a little bit closer to Asia. And I remember the first time I went back to the garment district after everything was closed and it was it almost felt like a warm hug, like, Oh, I’m going to the trim man and counting buttons and being like, How are you? You know, how are you? You know, like, no one’s good right now. And it’s just really nice, like knowing that you have your people in your community. That sense of familiarity, I think I’m sure it’s not impossible to rebuild in a different city, but for me at this point in time, I I decided no New York is it for now.

S3: I wanted I want to talk about your eye for fashion as well. I know when I was a full time critic, a film critic, a lot of the time I would get asked, like, Oh, well, I like what movies are like. What are you watching right now? As a fashion designer looking at other people’s designs, looking at, I guess, outfits on the street, like, what do you look for? What do you find your eye most naturally drawn to? What do you find? What do you find attractive, like put in your own wardrobe that somebody else has designed?

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S1: Yeah, I think I’m really drawn to people who aren’t afraid of volume and especially those who achieve that with these light, voluminous kind of these poofy shapes, I think that’s always really cool to look at. I love a mix of texture, whether it’s like a really heavy tweed jacket with a chiffon skirt that semi-sheer. And I’m also really just drawn to just like 1930s glamour like the the bias cut dresses, the fluidity is movement away from the boyish silhouettes of the toes into the smoothed lines that skim the feminine form. And I think there’s just something about I think you can always tell when somebody loves what they’re wearing. Yeah, even if it’s really strange and quirky and they just love it and. They embody that confidence, and it just radiates.

S3: Yeah, you can always tell when it’s like being put on as opposed to being that person.

S1: Right, exactly. And I think you can also tell specifically when someone has decided that something is aspirational to them. Like, I hear this all the time about the Archer jacket, this velvet jacket that I have that has these drapey like sculptural pockets and is lined in silk and is very velvety and lovely where people say, Oh no, like, I love that jacket, but I I don’t know. I don’t know if I could wear a full green velvet jacket. Well, try it. Mm hmm. And then you see them put put it on and then they get it, and then you get tagged. Well, I get tied on Instagram and I see like how people are wearing these archer jackets out in the world, and it’s so cool to see them put something on. That was aspirational to them once, right? And it’s now a part of their everyday and continues to make them feel like they’re this. Incredible version of themselves.

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S3: Yeah. I’m curious if you have any garments that you feel that way about, so are you like, oh, like it has moment either. It’s like the moment has to be just right or it’s like, I need to get to X Point in order to be able to wear this properly.

S1: Yeah. So I I have this it’s actually like right here right now this oh right. It’s this floral brocade GS Van Noten jacket and its floor length. It has big colors. Yeah. And it’s it’s not printed. It’s like embroidered. Wow. So it’s very intense. It’s definitely a coat that commands attention. Yeah. And my friend sent it to me and my friend Matthew sent it to me. It was on eBay, which I love for, like designer. Yeah. And he’s like, You should get this. And I’m like, Oh, it’s not really. How like, how will I wear this? And then I got it, and I find ways now, Karen, like I find ways to wear it, like I’m wearing all black today with tights and I’m going to throw on

S3: my yeah, the state a state like floral.

S1: Exactly. So you have to send me a

S3: picture later of you wearing it.

S1: Yeah, I think everything. Can be aspirational until you make it your own. And then it still remains a little aspirational, but it also becomes so much a part of the fabric of how you are and what you love about yourself. And it becomes like your everyday coat, like I have completely warned that to target across the street. And it’s fine. Yes, New York, too. So like, you know, whatever.

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S3: I have one last question that sort of touches on the idea of like aspirational garments where as opposed to finding like existing garments, something aspirational, you’re like, Oh, I need to figure out how to wear this. Has there ever been an element like that that you have or have wanted to incorporate into your own designs, whether you were like, Oh, is this too big? Is this too flashy or is this too much? But making? How do you make that work? How do you overcome that kind of hurdle?

S1: I think the beauty about fashion, especially designer fashion, is that there’s this element of dreaming and fantasy. Mm hmm. So anything that you feel. You want and every season something different to me, sometimes it’s that velvet jacket, sometimes it’s a velvet gown that we made with 20 yards of velvet that nobody’s going to buy. But like people will take photos with, and that’s fine because, you know, like in a collection, some pieces are editorial and some are more easily commercial and sellable. But I think that it’s such a nice lesson to have this idea of like you reach for something or you create something that you’ve been dreaming of. And then you make it. And then other people are able to sort of subscribe to it in a way they can see themselves in it. So it’s still aspirational. But it becomes more accessible in a way. And for every collection, there’s a couple of pieces where I am pretty sure my team is like, Jasmine, you want to do what

S3: I

S1: like. I think this I’ve been obsessed with this idea of like a really, really cool velvet puffer coat. Oh, which I think I think there’s this element of just it’s like kind of ridiculous because puffer coats should be velvet, because there’s no doubt about but also what a statement.

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S3: Yeah. And I think the puffer is evolving.

S1: Yeah, it really is right. Like the puffer has. Yeah, it’s evolving. So I’ve been testing the idea of that. That’s a matter for the next. So we’ll see. We’ll see.

S3: I’m very excited to see if it if it makes it to fruition. Thank you so much for coming on to the show. It’s been such a delight to talk to you.

S1: Thank you so much for having me. This is really fun.

S3: And for people who want to own one of your designs for themselves after listening to our wonderful conversation, where should they go to find your work?

S1: Well, you can shop online at Jasmine Chong dot com. And if you’re in New York City, you can make an appointment to come into the Italia and meet me. Probably. I mean, you can me Jasmine and me, you know, I’ll make you a cup of tea. Maybe get you a multi-donor from across the street.

S3: Wow. That’s the Full-Service.

S2: Karen, that was such a delightful interview. It’s really fascinating to me that Jasmine moment of realizing she wanted to do fashion as a career came out of an experience that was so personal was just like deeply entwined with her family and with love for her mother. That definitely was not my experience with writing, which was just like a slow thing that I got more and more into over a decade. But it’s a good reminder that there’s no one size fits all way to figure out where you’re going or what you’re going to do with your life.

S3: Yeah, I think that’s totally true. I think about that a lot in relation to like what you think you want to do as an adult when you’re a child, for instance. Like for me, growing up, I was like, I loved drawing and illustrating. So it was like, what I really want to do is like, become an illustrator and animator. But obviously that’s not even close to what I do now. And then there’s even like the sense of like, how much does your college degree affect what you end up doing? Because I know a lot of people, especially like in media where it’s like what they majored in, has nothing to do with what they do now.

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S2: I think it’s like no one’s college major actually has to do with what they did. Almost no one. I know it’s like I was a philosophy major, and now I work for a anti-climate change think tank or, you know, like whatever it is, it’s just like everyone, everyone I talk to, it’s always very different.

S3: Yeah, it’s only like if you went to school for something like engineering or something where it’s like that has a pretty clear career track. But otherwise, I mean, even like getting into journalism, there’s no one way to get into the field or become successful in the field. Like the way that I got into journalism, for instance, is not something that I think is necessarily like, easily replicable or follow a. Some people were like, You have to go to journalism school. It’s like, that’s not true.

S2: And it’s you were in our history major, right?

S3: I was. That’s correct. But there’s just so much out there right now. And the field every field only keeps getting bigger and bigger because the way that we communicate with each other has become so much more. I want to say that it has also become bigger, but that’s not quite the right terminology. But you know what I mean? Yeah, total, where there’s so many ways to accomplish anything that I find stories like Jasmine like really impressive and to a certain extent, like really inspiring because it’s like you knew what you wanted to do and you made that happen, which like, I feel like I sort of wish I’d done, you

S2: know, it’s like, Oh, you actually had that epiphany moment that we read about in stories when it actually happened? It’s a real thing. Exactly. You know, one of the hardest things I think to talk about is the development of an aesthetic like it, like how you develop your aesthetic. And I was so I was so glad to hear you ask her about it, especially because we’re talking about something that’s not literal. You know what I mean? Like, like, how does a physical location become a garment? Not everyone buying the Celestia collection will know that it’s based on Voici, you know, for example. I mean, you know, do you think that matters? Do we need to know the inspiration for something to fully appreciated? Or is it just that it sort of connects to us on this almost dream logic level?

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S3: I’m very much a proponent of the latter, like, I think not to like. Not to invalidate my own point about like college degrees, not really translating. But I feel like one of the things that I really learned like as our history major is like, it’s not. The context of a piece of art is really important and will help put it into a bigger kind of framework for you. But at the same time, what is really important and generally what people tend to remember is the immediate kind of emotional reaction that you have to something like, for instance, like if there’s a painting that you see and you have an immediate, really visceral connection with it, the context and background is only really going to help your appreciation of that. But it’s not necessarily going to be the thing that makes or breaks how you feel about something you know, like it could eventually be like if you saw something that you didn’t really think was very good, and then you read the description and figure it found out something about the artist’s history or why that piece was made. It might help, but it’s not the one thing that’s going to define a piece of art.

S2: Totally. I also wanted to say that I just loved your discussion of hot pink, a color I do personally funny. But yeah, I mean, so many artists, myself included, we carry around this idea of like, this is the kind of work that I do, and it can be so clarifying to know who you are and to create some rules, because when you start at the beginning of a project like this could be anything. Is this a collage? Is it an essay? Is it a graphic novel? What is it? And creating some rules for yourself? You know, it helps you get over that, but it can also be a trap because you close yourself off from certain possibilities in your work. Like I am not a designer who uses hot pink or, you know, whatever. Did you identify with that of you struggle with that of sort of like how firmly to hold on to a specific identity?

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S3: Definitely. I mean, like even in like early on when I was drawing, like I definitely wanted to draw more like cool and like serious stuff like, I mean, the limit of cool is like. Pretty relative, because they were still drawing like mostly pretty anime babies like manga babies, things, so I thought that was really cool. But like I wanted to draw like cool and edgy characters as opposed to like girly or cute things, I guess. And I feel like that has also sort of translated in the kind of screenwriting that I do, where it’s like my focus tends to be more on more dramatic stories, I guess. Like, I lean more towards drama, whereas my writing partner definitely leans a little bit more into the comedic side, which has been, I think, one of the good things about having a writing partner where it’s like we can sort of balance each other out. But because my impulse is still like, I still really want to make like a cool, like serious work of art, which is, I mean, it’s a hang up that we all have to let go of, right? Yeah, it’s it’s a sort of pretentiousness where you want to be taken seriously or want to be thought of as cool. But there’s so much stuff out there that if you only think like that, you are restricting yourself from, for example, like, I love Paddington two, but I feel like with my current mindset, if I started to try to write a screenplay, I would never reach that kind of story. I would never reach that kind of height, even though it’s a fantastic movie.

S2: It’s so delightful.

S3: It’s so good. And it’s on streaming now, right?

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S2: I think I think I think it is. I have just received a note from our interim producer, Zak Rosen, that he wants to know what our aspirational garments are in response to the interview with Jasmine. I’m not 100 percent sure I have totally wrapped my brain around the aspirational garment as a concept. So why don’t you tell me some of your aspirational garments and then I will? I will respond.

S3: Definitely. I mean, for me, I think it leans towards like designers that I really like, whose price ranges tend to be out of my range by an astronomical amount. Like I really admire, like Jasmine designs also like it is a luxury brand. Like, it’s not something that’s necessarily I’m going to go out and buy off the shelf pretty easily like Jasmine work I really admire. I also love the designers Simon Rorschach, the Vampire’s Wife, like that kind of, I guess, more high end stuff. But all those dresses are definitely more formal and more ostentatious than what you would probably feel comfortable just going out and having a normal day wearing like they’re definitely a special occasion clothes. But I think, like what is useful for me to try to think about overcoming is like how? I was thinking about like one of these just the other day, for instance, whereas like if the stress is like so expensive, you can’t just wear it once, right? Like you have to figure out how to work it into your routine in a more frequent way to justify spending that much money on it. Which is maybe not quite what aspirational garment is supposed to be about, where it’s like it’s supposed to be a garment that you’re like, Wow, this is really something that I admire that I think is beautiful and that I want to wear, but might be tough to wear out to a certain degree. I feel like it is also just confidence, right? Right. Where like, I have a lot of clothing, for instance, that I really like, but I’m like, Oh, I got to where I got to save this for like an occasion where a cool outfit isn’t necessary or like warrants like looking good. But I have to get over that. Mm-Hmm.

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S2: I am very jealous of the sartorial sense of former working host and Washington Post editor Jacob Brogan, who has like he. He just has a very good, I don’t know, he just pulls off pants that I don’t feel like be able to what kind of leader like he’s like. He would do this like I did a reading with him once were his pants where he was wearing these trousers, but they were like a floral print. They almost look like old wallpaper, and I was like, I couldn’t do that. Could I just do that? Well, maybe I could. I don’t know. But the other aspirational

S3: call, dude, you could definitely do, shucks.

S2: The other thing I got to say, and I think I’m not alone on this is just the succession sweater collection. Yeah. I just want all of those sweaters and cardigans. I mean, in part because like, I teach, right? So like, I have a lot of opportunities to wear a cardigan and I feel like a really nice, you know, like when when Brian Cox shows up in thick gauge knit sweaters, I’m like, God damn man, I wish I could buy one of those. So you and they’re pu

S3: roots of aspiration to round one. I wish I could pull this off. And the other one is, I just wish I had this for my everyday life.

S2: Yes. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. Which is like nice, nice cardigans. Mm hmm. You know. Yes, because I have many of them. Many actually. Oh, OK. We’d like a nice one.

S3: So you have too many OK cardigans and you need one. I have

S2: too many. Okay, cardigans. Don’t listen. Don’t listen, cardigans. Don’t listen to this cardigans.

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S3: I’m not talking about you. It’s not not talking about you. It’s me.

S2: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

S3: Thank you so much to Jasmine Chong for being our guest this week and enormous thanks to our producer for this week. Zak Rosen and to our regular producer Cameron Jus, who recorded the interview. We’ll be back next week with a conversation between Isaac and Finola Murphy, who invented the alien languages for Apple TV’s Foundation. Until then, get back to work. Hello to our Slate Plus members, thank you so much for listening. Here is a little extra bit from our interview with Jasmine Chong from this week. I wasn’t familiar with the term straight sizing, which you mentioned at the top of the interview about how the fashion industry is still. Most of the time is centered around a very small subsection of sizes and body types. I’m curious how you think about that in approaching your own designs, because we’ve talked about a few of your clothing designs and how they do tend to be more kind of ethereal and fluid and flowy in terms of line around the body. What how how do you think about that? I guess as you approach designing and what silhouettes you’re going to use, what how a piece looks on different bodies.

S1: Yeah, I think that my take on fashion and my line and the aesthetics that I’m drawn to is really just so personal because as someone who wears like a 12 14, I have the experience of not being able to, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia, like go to a department store and find something that I wanted on the rack. So I think subconsciously, I want it to create these luxurious aspirational pieces that my mother and I, my sister, did not have access to my grandmother. And it wasn’t even it wasn’t something where I said, Well, I’m going to be this kind of designer and I’m going to make all these sizes. I actually my first collection, actually my first two collections at Fashion Week, I think. When I think about those things where they were only shown on models who are size zero to four. And there was this part of me, I think as a new designer where I didn’t want to stray too far from what was normal and accepted. Mm-Hmm. Because this was 2016 was just beginning this the movement of, you know, body diversity. And I didn’t want to say I was a little bit scared as a designer, even though, you know, like I told you, I’m selfish, like, I want pieces that fit me. I put my selfishness aside, you shouldn’t, I guess, like,

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S3: be more selfish,

S1: be more selfish. Exactly. And I think we’ll see only only the third collection where I said, No, I want to wear the samples. I have all these samples that I can’t wear. Yeah. And I want to wear them. I want to try them to you. And it started from there. And even now, it’s really important to me for the shows and the campaigns to have a range, you know? And at the same time, I think it’s about widening this idea of what is aspirational and what is luxurious and beautiful. Yeah, I think too long it’s been associated with one specific kind of luck or size. And I just don’t think that’s true because if you look around your own life right now, your friends like the people you think have style or cool, they all look really different.