I’m so excited to unveil this Asian Heritage Month clothing collection I collaborated with Edmonton business Zen Lion Design on, that celebrates Asian culture while taking a stand against Anti-Asian Racism (and all Race Based Hate).
Zen Lion Design is an Edmonton-based, Black, woman-owned business focused on “Clothes that create a Conversation” (or “comfy statement apparel”) that’s diverse and inclusive.
With May being Asian Heritage Month in Canada and AAPI (Asian Pacific American / Pacific Islander) Month in the United States, and with the significant rise in Anti-Asian hate crimes in North America since the pandemic began in 2020, Sherrell (of Zen Lion Design) and I came together to create 10 clothing designs in a collection that not only celebrates the Asian community but also highlights for allies the need to push back against racism.
For the rest of May 2022, we will be donating 20% of proceeds from this Asian Heritage Month collection to Represent Asian Project, a Canadian platform I love that is dedicated to celebrating, advocating and elevating Asian representation and voices in media and beyond.
There are 10 statements/designs to choose from and they all have a special meaning to me (which I elaborate on below). The majority of statements are meant to be worn by Asian people, however I did intentionally include statements that anyone / anti-racist allies could wear as well!
Sherrell did an amazing job bringing the statements to life with her designs and I’m also so thrilled she launched two new hot pink and yellow colours to go with this collection (readers will know—I’m a big fan of the bright and vibrant colours!)
It was an absolute pleasure to collaborate with Sherrell on this collection. She is a dream to work with—so smart and talented, and I just love how she’s creating a more inclusive, diverse and anti-racist community through her statement apparel. It is truly ‘clothes that create a conversation’ and I’m happy that some of the pieces in this collection will start some important conversations—or be important reminders—for those who wear and see it.
My mother told me from a young age (and still reminds me of it to this very day), that if you don’t have rice with your meal, you won’t be full. lol. This is engrained (lol grain) in me!!
This is also now an inside joke with friends and family who I’ve shared this too—if we’re eating something and it doesn’t include rice, someone inevitably says—well, I guess we’re not going to be full then. Ha ha!
Growing up, my parents would get home from work late and we would always gather for a really late dinner. Every dinner included rice (this is just a general Vietnamese family rule lol).
I have some pretty fond memories of these late night meals over rice with my family, so not only is the Rice is Life design a nod to my mother and her very true statement that you need rice to fill your tummy, but it also is an ode to all the Asian family dinners that would be incomplete without that bowl of rice.
I think this sentiment is relatable for so many people of colour. Too often, the first thing a stranger asks us, is “where are you from?” Now, for almost everyone who asks this, they don’t mean it in a nefarious way. They want to know about our culture and heritage. But there is a time and place to ask this question, and it shouldn’t be when you first meet someone.
As explained in this Stop Race Based Hate entry, asking where someone is from makes the assumption that the person isn’t actually Canadian, based on the question-askers idea of what a Canadian should look or sound like. It can make people feel like they don’t belong, or that they have to prove they are in fact Canadian.
Personally, I am from Canada. I was born and raised in Canada. My family came to Canada as refugees fleeing Vietnam, but they’re Canadian too. In fact my mom and dad have lived in Canada longer than they lived in Vietnam. Please don’t ask me where I’m from, I’m from here.
I have always loved the look of those sweaters that say “BLONDE” or “BRUNETTE”—you know the ones I’m talking about, lol. But both of those do not apply to me. I guess as an Asian woman, I don’t get a sweater that says.. Black Hair? lol not quite the same.
After this“Very Asian” racist incident with television journalist Michelle Li, a sweater that said “Very Asian” was created to support anti-racism initiatives in the United States. I quickly bought one and anytime I wore it since, I got compliments (and requests from others about where they can get it too). (You can shop official Very Asian merch here).
But the whole thing did have me thinking about how proud I am to be an Asian woman, and so—because I’m not just going to steal the Very Asian term for this clothing collection lol—the Proud to be Asian is sort of my Very Asian-inspired spinoff.
This statement is really the thing that propelled me into taking action against anti-Asian racism, specifically, but really the commitment to be vocal about and eliminate all race-based hate.
After the horrific Atlanta spa shootings, where eight people including six Asian women were murdered, my friends and I felt compelled to *do something.*
At the time, it was a social media solidarity message among Asian Albertans in the food community—Stop Asian Hate. Stop All Race Based Hate.
Since that time, even more attacks on Asian people have occurred across North America. Hate crimes on Asians of all ages—young to old. This statement rings true even when there isn’t an attack that has made the news. It’s something that (apparently) needs to be reminded.
Hi mom, no I don’t want to put my head down and be quiet while terrible people stomp all over us. We are not doing that anymore.
Not Your Model Minority really speaks to the cariacture of the type of Asian person that would be allowed to exist in North America—a meek, quiet Asian person, who will roll over whatever you do or say to them. It’s the, keep your head down and don’t cause a fuss in order to stay alive mantra that parents instilled in so many of us. In some ways it protected us and in many other ways it harmed us. Being a model minority perpetuates a racist stereotype.
But not anymore. Sorry (but not sorry).
I am not your model minority.
We are not your model minority.
And we will not stay quiet to the injustices and harm put on our community.
This statement builds on the Not Your Model Minority idea.
There are many racist stereotypes and expectations around Asian women and they are summarized in this pice.
I am not your:
- Asian Fetish
There is a myth that men who marry Asian women cannot be racist because—they married an Asian woman. But actually, so many very gross people align themselves with Asian people because of their veiled (and maybe not so veiled) racism. We are not your doll. We are not your good little cooks. We are not your freaks in bed. I am literally grossed out thinking about this, lol.
There’s a lot of parallels here with just sexism and the patriarchy too—let’s just smash all of it.
Okay, it’s not *all* intense statements lol although there is nothing casual about my passion for bubble tea. Ha! I wanted to include a few statements in this collection that are truly universal and what’s closer to that than loving bubble tea? lol
If you are a bubble tea lover, this was made for you. I love the adorable little faces Sherrell added to her bubble tea cup designs!!
This piece is another one intended to celebrate some of the best things about Asian culture and heritage—our food! In hindsight, I probably should have done a standalone Vietnamese pho statement lol but I love these dishes Sherrell captured to illustrate that constant craving of Asian food, whether it’s any number of soups to of course bubble tea and drinks, sushi or dumplings—I’d be a happy camper eating this every day (I basically do already lol). I think my love of Asian food especially stems from the fact that I grew up at my parents Vietnamese restaurant (King Noodle House Pho Hoang if you’d like to give our three-generations old soup recipe a try!)
Show your love of Asian food with this design!
Hello, saying you don’t “see colour” is not the anti-racist statement you think it is.
As explained in this Stop Race Based Hate entry, by saying you don’t see colour, you are denying that a problem even exists. You cannot fix a problem if you don’t acknowledge that there is a problem. By saying you don’t see colour, you’re rejecting the real, lived experiences of Indigenous, Black and People of Colour.
The goal is to acknowledge that people are different, and look different, but these differences should not negatively affect someone and it absolutely should not cause them harm or increases their risk of harm (which—in reality, it does).
We want you to see colour we just don’t want to be harmed, judged, discriminated, put at a disadvantage, or killed for it.
I’ve referenced the anti-racist education tool Stop Race Based Hate a few times now while explaining some of the meanings behind these statements.
The idea behind the tool is that if we are able to give people the words and confidence to properly articulate why something is wrong / racist, they’d be more likely to call it out in their everyday life and within their networks, ultimately working to reduce and eliminate racism in our communities.
I’ve been using my platform increasingly to speak out on social issues and highlight racial injustices, and it really was feedback from others on how they appreciated when anti-racist education was articulated in simple ways, that drove the idea behind this tool.
While most of this collection is Asian-specific, ultimately, we want to Stop All Race Based Hatred.
Personally, I’ve never experienced more overt racism than I have since I started using social media to call it out. It’s been a truly disgusting experience. But my entire life I’ve dealt with subtle racism and harmful stereotypes, and for too long I’ve been quiet about it.
But ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away.
So I hope you’ll join me in being loud about anti-racism in all areas of your life—but with a little extra help from this statement apparel too.
Thanks again to Sherrell of Zen Lion Design for collaborating with me on this collection!
- Follow @lindork on Twitter
- Follow @lindork on Instagram
- Like Lindork – Linda Hoang on Facebook
- Follow @lindork on TikTok
- Subscribe to my YouTube Channel
If you live or work in the Edmonton, Alberta area, or care about Edmonton content, sign up for my hyperlocal newsletter to get weekly recommendations on things to do, eat, and know this week (in the Edmonton area), plus more exclusive content. You can sign up for a free or paid subscription.
(You’ll get the option to select free or paid after you enter your email).