AsiaStore Blog - Designers

The AsiaStore Designer Showcase


On Monday September 10th, AsiaStore held its annual designer showcase. Thirteen of our AsiaStore artists and designers were on hand to introduce their fall 2007 collections to Asia Society members. Beautiful new collections of jewelry, textiles, porcelain, stationery and accessories were showcased throughout the store. Designers mixed and mingled, discussing their design inspiration and creative process. We were able to catch this incredible evening on film and invite you to meet the faces behind AsiaStore’s amazing products!

AsiaStore presents a Han Feng Special Sale Event!


This week, AsiaStore presents designer Han Feng’s new “Shanghai Chic” Fall collection. Rich jewel tones and innovative pleating enhance her latest collection of outerwear and accessories. Acclaimed for her costume design for the Metropolitan Opera’s Madame Butterfly, Han Feng’s dramatic designs are true conversation pieces.

Han Feng describes the inspiration for her collection as Shanghai itself–the people, the city, and the energy. Shanghai today is a place of contrasts, says the designer. “You can walk down the street and on one side have an eighty floor building and then you turn down a lane and see a man riding a bike balancing two refrigerators.” It is this blend of “the old and the new–modernity outlined in tradition,” that has influenced her new collection. “Shanghai Chic is the way I see Shanghai,” she says, “It is modern yet distinct in that the traditional hand-made personal touch is apparent.”

Stop by AsiaStore to see this exciting collection!

Thursday, September 20th – Sunday, September 23rd
11:00 AM-6:00 PM, Friday until 9:00 PM

For more information about this talented designer visit AsiaStore.org

AsiaStore’s floor manager Melissa Gutierrez demonstrates the versatility of Han Feng’s designs.

New at AsiaStore: Yuh Okano


AsiaStore is thrilled to be carrying Textiles Yuh, a line of scarves and shawls by Japanese textile designer Yuh Okano. Okano, who is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design divides her time between her home in New York, and Kiryu Japan, where her fabrics are produced.

Okano’s one-of-a-kind fabrics reflect her attraction to the delicate patterns and textures found in nature; the scent of the air after a storm, the soft patter of raindrops on wet grass, falling leaves as they twirl through the sky. Okano’s collection of light-as-air shawls and scarves are perfect for cool summer evenings. Stop by AsiaStore to see her innovative line in person!

(photo by Theo Coulombe)

Asian American Designer Spotlight:Karen Ford

Karen Ford is a second generation Chinese American, whose goal as a ceramicist is to enhance the everyday ritual of eating, drinking, and living by making it a beautiful, calm and peaceful experience. Karen has been making her award-winning Asian-inspired porcelain and glass work in her Westport, CT studio since 1998. After graduation from the Fashion Institute of Technology, she initially pursued a career in advertising, but a pottery class at Parsons School of Design changed the course of her life…

When and how did you start making ceramics?

After working in advertising production for a few years I had just had my son and decided to take a course down the street at Parsons. I wasn’t very good at first but there was something really calming yet challenging about working in clay.

What made you decide to pursue ceramics as a full time career?

When we moved to CT from the city I signed up for a course at Silvermine, an art center in New Canaan. I think my teacher/mentor saw a dedication and interest in me that went beyond just taking class once a week. I spent my three hours in the studio but she got me involved in an outreach program teaching 1st graders in Norwalk. I really was open to learning all about clay and sharing what I had learned with other people. My teacher offered me a teaching job a year later and I then realized that this is something I want to learn more about. I was trying to get as much information as possible to keep one step ahead of my students but found that there are so many different ways to approach ceramics that I decided to just dive in and try everything.


Can you describe your current collection at AsiaStore and the techniques used to make your designs?

For this spring/summer I have chosen items from nature to create texture and interest in the porcelain. By using seasonal natural items as a source, this forces me to change designs and adapt to what it available at that time. It keeps the work fresh and allows me to limit my production. I press shells, sea urchins, palm fronds and other tropical leaves into each piece bringing a fresh look to my organic forms. The bamboo glaze breaks in the texture creating an earthy depth to the design. I melt pieces of glass on top of the glaze which forms an abstract pool of translucent color which fuses and forms a smooth glossy surface making the work functional.

Your designs are quite beautiful, but as you mentioned, they are also very functional. Are they dishwasher and microwave safe?

Yes, all my work is high fired porcelain so because of the strength of the material and the firing technique it is all dishwasher safe. I put cups and bowls in the microwave but would be cautious with any thin flatware.

How has your Chinese heritage influenced your designs?

My maternal Grandfather owned a restaurant in Arlington, VA. Holidays, celebrations of birth and marriage and even mourning evolved around a meal or banquet. Many courses of food having significant meaning (e.g. Noodles+ longevity, red eggs are considered auspicious) are served family style at a large round table. My work celebrates the union of family and friends in a communal fashion.

In my personal quest to connect with my heritage, I’ve always been drawn to historical Asian ceramics – porcelain in particular. These works of art are strikingly beautiful, yet their function plays a strong role in culture, community and ritual. When I create a piece, I honor this tradition.

What type of lessons do you try to instill in your students?

Our society is so goal oriented that if you approach clay with that same mind
set you are bound to be frustrated. Throwing on a wheel is not something that comes
easy, it takes a lot of practice to feel comfortable. At first I try and teach them to let go of the outcome. I teach technique and process and the actual making of pieces evolves once the student relaxes and becomes more comfortable with the material. After the 4th week or so things start coming together and they do make pieces that are really very good.


How did you come to sell your designs at AsiaStore, and what does it mean to you to have your designs sold at AsiaStore at Asia Society and Museum?

When Asia Society renovated 5 or 6 years ago I had attended a show at the museum and was so impressed with the store that I felt I had to have my work there. I sent AsiaStore’s buyer Anne some slides of my work and we met and the rest is history! We seem to be able to collaborate on ideas and I feel very lucky to be a part of AsiaStore’s vision.

As an artist it is important to have your work seen in the right place. AsiaStore encourages and promotes the work of Asian and Asian-American artists and designers. It’s wonderful to be in the company of quality work in a beautiful setting.

Asian American Designer Spotlight: Richard Tsao

Artist turned designer, Richard Tsao, has been attracting attention with his hand crafted Thai silk collection which debuted at AsiaStore in 2001. Tsao’s versatile cocoon fashions can now be spotted everywhere, from the streets of Manhattan to VIP galas. Dividing his time between New York and his native Bangkok, Tsao produces two collections a year, introducing new custom colors seasonally.

You are classically trained as an abstract painter. How did you end up designing clothing in addition to your artwork?

SIX YEARS AGO ON A TRIP HOME TO VISIT MY MOTHER AND SIBLINGS, I WENT TO MY TAILOR WITH THIS IDEA THAT I WANTED TO HAVE HIM SEW ELASTIC ONTO THIS BEAUTIFUL THAI SILK THAT I HAD, AND CREATE A COCOON LIKE JACKET. I LIKED THE IDEA THAT THE ELASTIC ALLOWED FOR A PIECE OF GARMENT (SUCH AS MY NIECE’S BATHING SUITS) TO BE “ONE SIZE FITS MANY.” AT FIRST HE RESISTED DOING IT AND SAID IT WASN’T POSSIBLE, BUT AFTER 5 WEEKS OF LOTS AND LOTS OF TRIAL AND ERROR AND TWEAKING, WE FINALLY SUCCEEDED WITH A FEW PROTOTYPES THAT I BROUGHT BACK TO NYC. I REALLY DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I WAS GOING TO DO WITH THEM ONCE I WAS BACK IN NYC SINCE I WAS RELUCTANT TO HAVE AN THING TO DO WITH THE RETAIL WORLD. PRIOR TO ASIASTORE I WOULD JUST SELL FOR FUN TO FRIENDS OUT OF MY APT.

Is there any correlation between your paintings and your clothing designs?

PEOPLE WHO KNOW BOTH MY CLOTHING AND MY ART WORK SAY THAT THE EXUBERANT SENSE OF COLOR AND THE TEXTURES ARE VERY MUCH LIKE MY PAINTINGS. ALSO THE ELEMENT OF TIME. MY PAINTINGS TAKE ABOUT TWO ARE MORE YEARS TO COMPLETE EACH ONE.

Our buyer, Anne Godshall loves to tell the story of how you came to sell your designs at AsiaStore. Can you tell us the story in your own words?

I CAME BACK TO NEW YORK CITY FROM THAILAND A WEEK BEFORE THE 9/11 TRAGEDY. WHEN 9/11 HAPPENED, SINCE I HAD BEEN FREELANCING, ALL OF MY PROJECTS – MY ONLY SOURCE OF INCOME FELL APART. AND I HAD SPENT ALL MY MONEY WHILE TRAVELLING IN THAILAND AND I THINK BURMA AT THAT TIME. I WAS A MEMBER OF THE ASIA SOCIETY, AND FRIEND ENCOURAGED ME TO BRING SOME DESIGNS TO SHOW TO ASIASTORE. I RESISTED FOR AWHILE, BUT THEN THOUGHT WHY NOT GIVE IT A TRY? I SHOWED UP WITH A BIG GARBAGE BAG OF THE COCOONS, WITH VERY FEW EXPECTATIONS AND ANNE OFFERED TO DISPLAY THEM ON THE PRESENT WALL (I BELIEVE ORIGINALLY THAT WALL WAS MEANT FOR ANTIQUES.) WELL, THE COCOONS FOUND AN AUDIENCE RIGHT AWAY IT SEEMS AND 6 YEARS LATER, SALES STILL SEEM TO BE GOING STRONG!

You have an interesting way of taking old world production techniques and design and using it in a very contemporary way. How has your Asian background influenced your designs?

I LIKE THE SIMPLICITY OF ASIAN GARMENTS. THE WRAP OR THE SIMPLE LINES, PARTICULARLY WHEN THEY ARE LAID OUT FLAT ON THE TABLE. THERE IS SOMETHING VERY BEAUTIFUL AND SERENE ABOUT THEM WHEN THEY ARE LAID OUT FLAT ALMOST LIKE FLOOR PLANS. I GREW UP AROUND THAI SILK SINCE MY MOTHER ALWAYS HAD BEAUTIFUL THAI SILK DRESSES MADE. I ALSO USE TO LOVE TO GO TO SILK STORES WITH HER. THE INDIAN MARKET IN BANGKOK WHERE THEY SELL FABRICS IS SUCH A FUN PLACE TO VISIT. WATCHING THE WEAVERS IN NORTHERN THAILAND WEAVE THE SILK THREAD BY THREAD ALWAYS FASCINATED ME! AND TO THINK THAT THIS BEAUTIFUL PRODUCT COMES FROM A RATHER UNATTRACTIVE CREATURE LIKE THE SILK WORM.

Your Mandarin Cocoon jackets are incredible. One size really does fit all and the colors are spectacular. Rumor has it that it takes one week to produce the 50 yards of silk for each jacket. Is this true? Can you tell us more about the production process that goes into your designs?

IT TAKES ONE WEEK TO WEAVE 50 YARDS OF SILK SINCE IT IS STILL WOVEN ON THE OLD FASHION HAND LOOM. HENCE THE LITTLE KNOTS FROM TIME TO TIME. IT TAKES ABOUT ONE WHOLE DAY TO CONSTRUCT ONE COCOON JACKET. THE ELASTIC IS ACTUALLY SEWN ONTO THE SILK AFTER IT IS WOVEN. IF THIS WAS HIGH TECH WEAVING THEN I GUESS IT WOULD BE A MUCH SIMPLER PROCESS, BUT I DO LIKE THE HANDS OWN AND VERY HANDMADE ASPECT OF THE COCOONS. PRODUCTION IS KEPT SMALL. LUCKILY SO FAR I HAVE A “RECOGNIZABLE PRODUCT THAT SELLS ITSELF”–AND I HOPE THEY CONTINUE TO SELL SINCE THE INCOME HAS BEEN MOST HELPFUL FOR ME AS AN ARTIST.

What does it mean to you to have your designs sold at AsiaStore at the Asia Society and Museum?

I AM VERY FLATTERED AND VERY HAPPY TO HAVE MY DESIGNS AT THE BEAUTIFUL AND UNIQUE ASIASTORE. (THANKS TO ANNE!) AND TO THINK THAT THIS IS YEAR NUMBER SIX MAKES IT ALL THE MORE UNREAL. I DID NOT THINK THAT THE COCOONS WOULD LAST THIS LONG BUT IT SEEMS LIKE THE INTEREST JUST CONTINUES TO GROW.

Thanks Richard!
Be sure to visit AsiaStore at Asia Society and Museum to view and purchase Richard Tsao’s designs. Check back at the AsiaStore Blog where we will be posting interviews with our Asian American Designers throughout the month of May.

May is Asian American Heritage Month


Throughout the month of May, we will be bringing you interviews with some of AsiaStore’s most exciting Asian American designers. In addition, be sure to stop by AsiaStore at Asia Society and Museum to view and purchase the work of these very talented individuals.

Han Feng Event at AsiaStore

AsiaStore welcomed designer Han Feng for an in store appearance on March 23rd and 24th. Feng presented her Spring line of accessories including pearl necklaces, butterfly wraps, and gorgeous silk shawls. The designer greeted customers (many of whom collect her designs) and demonstrated the many ways to wear her versatile pieces. If you missed the event, Han Feng will be making another appearance in the Fall!
Learn more about this talented designer here