New York City’s retail landscape today features a battle for consumer spending, a cutthroat real estate war dressed in pastels and pearls. and One Temper favorite brick and mortar niche gem. located on the cusp of Chinatown and the Lower East Side since 2016, we find Chop Suey Club. a safe haven for cutting edge Chinese style. step behind the retail with founder fatale Ruoyi Jiang.
Chop Suey Club on 81 Hester Street. Manhattan’s Chinatown playgrounds, printers and popular Hong Kong supermarket are all a mere roll of the $$$ golden dice away.
Also known as a safe haven for cutting edge Chinese design, lifestyle and art, Chop Suey provides the city’s more niche- and risqué– conforming clientele with a fresh breath of true newborn Made In China flair. Temper takes five with its founder fatale Ruoyi Jiang ( 江若仪| Jiāng Ruòyí in Chinese) as we wonder…
What turns on consumer and club alike?
Take 1. When it comes to Ruoyi and Chop Suey Club…What’s the 411?
Jiang: My background lies in photography. Given I never had any retail experience prior to Chop Suey Club, the store sort of became a lab allowing me to learn new things and experiment with ideas. When I graduated from college, I had two jobs: One in architecture and another one working for a private photo collector. Those two jobs exposed me to different parts of the design and art worlds.
My curiosity was piqued and I then started looking into Chinese designers and artists — from a consumer’s point of view. From curiosity it grew into a passion, I wanted to find a way to show people here (in the U.S.) the amazing creations coming in from China. That’s how Chop Suey Club came to physically be.
The idea has always been to use contemporary design – particularly lifestyle products – to showcase what runs deep in Chinese culture.
At the store, we try to incorporate local elements to our curation and decor since we are physically located on the cusp of Chinatown and LES, an area starring mixed immigrant heritage and culture. That’s why we set up a $$$ Dollar Store section to feature some of the fun stuff we found in our neighborhood. We love our little city section and want to show it off in the most authentic way possible.
Right now, it’s been almost two years since we officially opened and we have been receiving really positive responses from people. Which in turn is a big token of encouragement for me personally.
Take 2. When it comes to design…The Digital versus Artisanal Debate?
Jiang: I don’t think there’s any need for debate on this one., Both share the same design process, but bring different qualities to the product table. When machines are perfectly able to replicate certain repetitive technical handwork, then why don’t we save the designer some time so that they can design more? What people are looking for in artisanal products is this authenticity engrained in serendipity, time and tactility.
The combination of time and tactility creates a uniqueness in every artisanal product, making it much more personal and collectible.
Nonetheless, digital fabrication or technology facilitated craftsmanship is what most leading designers are practicing today already. It’s a combination of technology and handicraft. And results are stunning. If you take a look at Zhang Zhoujie’s digitally fabricated furnitures, you’ll see the artisanship in both the designer’s digital and manual creation.
Take 3. When it comes to the in-store brands and souls…What turns Chop Suey Club on?
Jiang: Whatever looks good, turns us on! [Enter major wink.] We definitely like to see unique inspirations, innovative use of material and thoughtful production. Storytelling is a big lure for us. I for one like pieces that add imaginative narratives to the wearer or the environment.
Take 4. When it comes to artistry… What is “provocation” according to you?
Jiang: Provocative design… Does it challenge our view? Does it give us a new perspective? Does it make us see things differently? This is how I determine what is good art, from my POV. The same train of thought applies to the clothing choices. I think the provocation usually lies in the styling, that’s what I pay attention to at fashion shows. And that’s why I like to work with stylists.
Stylists are the provocateurs. they are fashion curators who really bring clothing to life.
Having stated the above… In the end, who cares. You wear whatever you want. And just FYI, starting Spring 2019, we will be carrying a couple of new designers we love! [We are staying tuned — su fashionable love is nuestro trending love.]
Take 5. When it comes to “what we like is what we get” x “the New Made in China”: Inspiration, passion, shooting blanks, international fashion world vexation?
Jiang: The New Made in China label is about higher quality and innovative designs that suit both Asian and International lifestyles. We constantly look for designs that really modernize traditional living. That are making traditions more practical and relevant to our modern day lives. I think China in 2019 possesses all the very necessary resources to produce high quality products, Plus, the nation has a host of talented designers who can deliver the goods,
What China needs now are outlets to publicize the nation’s new art and design to the world. I consider Chop Suey Club a channel for doing just that.
Speaking in fashionable tongues, then… Two store-featured examples. Chop Suey carries two lines of lingerie — distinctively different from one another. To mix it up a little. Our first lingerie brand is called Pillowbook, a lingerie atelier run by Irene Lu. Pillowbook focuses on reinventing Chinese aesthetics and styles to accentuate the feline Asian physique. Irene thinks the world doesn’t give Asian girls enough credit for their sexiness. And we agree.
Pillowbook is the epitome of modern Chinese style translating through its use of luxurious silk and delicate embroidery. Every piece is handmade with incredible attention to detail. The dudou [肚兜| It is a piece of classic Chinese intimate wear which Lu has brought to life again. has been a Chop Suey best-seller since day one.
The other line we have, is called The End, This brand’s daring looks are designed by Taiwanese model Beikuo, a graduate from Parsons The New School For Design — majoring in fashion design. The End uses organic cotton only so the end results are sustainable, sporty and super urban pieces. Although some of the styles are a bit too much for me personally, Bei really does know what young edgy girls want. I just try to edit it down to my taste.
I think people are more sex positive and explorative these days. people seem to have accepted quirks, fetishes and dirty thoughts as part of being human. wearing lingerie is no longer just about looking sexy af, there’s a type of provocation hidden in this dirtiness and imperfection that clicks with everyone.
Bonus take #. Your collection of art books| zines is rather extensive. Given your background in photography, what makes your visual clock tick with these?
Jiang: My background in photography definitely influences my book choices. They certainly are very photography, design and curatorial driven. I try to pick what’s relevant to our world and customers today, instead of going by popularity rankings. Many of the books are my personal favorites — like the Ren Hang zines, Sophie Calle’s “True Stories” and Hiroshi Sugimoto’s movie theater book. I just want to share with my customers what I think is worth having.
Chop Suey and Temper share a love for judging a book by its cover. because it’s all about those visual instincts. and an appetite for new creative edge.
We leave you with that.
Featured Image: Ruoyi Jiang. Test shoot Hasselblad digital. Photography by David Urbanke, 2019. All rights reserved
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