“I may be bias but I think New York really is the hub for the creative industry.” Sophia Chang on Streetwear and Design
Sophia Chang has been an established name in the streetwear industry for quite some time. Residing in Queens, NY, she blogs and illustrates for one of our favourite streetwear brands, Staple Design, where she rubs shoulders with fashion influencers such as Jeff Staple. She has also created freelance work for the likes of Nike, Puma, Karmaloop and MadeMe amongst others and was even named as one of Complex Magazine’s ‘Hottest Women in Streetwear’. We caught up with her to chat about the ins-and-outs of the industry and to find out more about her daily grind.
TLG: You’ve been long assosciated with the streetwear scene in the US. What is your favourite thing about the streetwear industry and which brands do you follow?
S: I’m a native New Yorker born and raised in Queens. The streetwear scene is more of a lifestyle for me and something I grew up with. There are so many great brands out now and they are all very inspiring. MADE ME Clothing by Erin Magee is definitely an all time favorite. I mix and match a lot with sportswear, streetwear and fashion brands.
TLG: You’re a blogger for Staple Design and have designed for the brand. How did you become assosciated with the brand?
S: I became involved with the brand by randomly bumping into the owner, Jeffstaple on the train in New York back in college. I was just a sophomore student in design school with hopes and dreams. I found out he was teaching a course at my school, enrolled and started the relationship there. I was given freelance opportunities to contribute to the graphic tee line and then started helping with various design jobs within the company.
TLG: There are very few credible womens streetwear lines with a high quality design aesthetic. Are women less likely to buy graphic tees?
S: As we all know, fashion moves in trends. Personally I’ve always been a fan of graphic tees. But as we know, women have so many different tops to choose from .. tank, halter, spaghetti strap, crop top, v-neck, hi-low… the list goes on and on! Graphic tees definitely arent the most feminine/appealing tops for a female but we make it work! Some girls like the loose tom-boy look and some like to show what their mama gave them! It’s all about taste at the end of the day. No right answer really.
TLG: What do you think has caused this ‘boys club’ mentality that is very prominent in the streetwear industry?
S: Oh absolutely. Streetwear is highly influenced by hip-hop music, the arts, sneakers and pop culture. The influencers themselves are mostly male so it’s not a surprise that there’s little room for women. I don’t think its a bad thing, it’s just more cultural/social. It’s not lady-like to pop squats, “rap” (if I may) and be obsessed with sneaker footwear.
TLG: It’s this kind of attitude which really puts me off reading blogs such as Hypebeast and Complex. I know you’ve worked with both media companies. How do you think they could change to become more open to female followers?
S:I dont think they need to become more open to female followers. For years women are used as embellishments with male-oriented content. We are featured with cars, clothes, bikes and sneakers. We see that happening today with half-naked babes modeling streetwear clothing. It’s not something that bothers me at all.
Just because women are portrayed as such in media doesn’t mean a female has to carry herself that way. Both of those two media outlets (Hypebeast and Complex) are geared towards a male audience. That is their business. At the end of the day, catering to women is not their goal.
On the other hand, I think it would be great to see more media outlets that are driven by women along the same topics as music, rap/hiphop, sneakers, and the arts. I think we just havent had the right group of girls doing it just yet. It’s always been pretty corny so far. Highsnobette was doing well, MissBehave was awesome. It just takes time, it’ll happen. It’s a very small subculture/audience to target because let’s face it – most women care more about Louboutins and Celines than air force ones or jordans. And also less women spend money in sneaker footwear versus high-fashion.
TLG: Which streetwear brands do you represent yourself?
S: I’m a mixure of fitness and streetwear. *Let me look at my outfit now. And it’s not always about brands, its about how you style yourself. That is key.
TLG: Can you talk me through your design process? What inspires you? Where do you document your ideas?
S:I am fortunate enough to be in New York city my whole life. There is just so much inspiration around me. I also have a great network of friends and creatives who continue to inspire me, challenge me and support me with my work. I document my ideas in many ways. I’ll take photos or save images in various reference folders on my computer. I’m always looking for inspiration.
TLG: What materials do you prefer to work with in design and with fabrics?
S: I draw a lot of ideas from my own personal style. With fabrics I love looking at high-fashion materials and sportswear technology. I work with a lot of line drawing with marker/pens for my illustrations.
TLG: Which designers should we be keeping an eye on?
S:Definitely MADEME! Chromat Party is really amazing. Bedford Street Laundry is totally different from anything you’ve ever seen.
TLG: Streetwear is becoming more and more mainstream with the increase in popularity of instagram and tumblr among other factors. What aspects of design and marketing can help make brands stand out?
S:Hmm not sure how to answer that. Yes it is becoming more mainstream but that’s just the general fashion wave that comes and goes. It was popular in the late 90s with Marc Ecko, Baby Phat, Rocawear etc, and it’s coming back again with newer brands. I think the design and marketing is fine the way it is. It’s marketed the same way any brand any company should.
TLG: Would you ever consider starting your own line?
S:I love the idea but I just don’t have the funding for it. I would love to be given an opportunity with full creative control to create a line with a company. I have so many ideas and CADs drawn up just for fun, just waiting for the right opportunity
TLG: What were your thoughts on the MOB x Supreme case and who’s side were you on (if any?)
S:I think that Streetwear is all about play of graphics and parodies so Im on MOB’s side.
TLG: You’re from Queens and while most people would claim that NY was the place to make it in the creative industries, have their been any other major cities which have had an impact on your work?
S:Not really. I may be bias but I think New York is really the hub for the creative industry.
TLG: What’s your next big collaboration project?
S: Secret! You’ll have to stay tuned via Instagram @esymai
(Images courtesy of Hypebeast)