The arrival of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May comes at a time when we need it most. As we celebrate a wide breadth of Asian and Pacific Islander cultures, the U.S. is experiencing a dramatic rise in anti-Asian assaults, hate crimes, and harassment as the coronavirus spreads across the country. (Meanwhile, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black and Latinx American communities due to a broken healthcare system and poor leadership from our government.)
Turning towards others for comfort and solidarity can help, and creative forces like Banana Magazine co-founders Vicki Ho and Kathleen Tso are a prime example. In 2014, the two launched the publication to highlight their community and explore the Asian-American identity, from analyzing the psychological and sociological implications behind becoming a bleach-bottle blonde to grappling with an "Asian glow" after consuming alcohol. They've also showcased individuals doing big things in their respective industries, whether that's music, fashion, cannabis, or restaurant and food services.
In May, Banana Magazine will officially release its sixth issue, chock full of content to keep you entertained in quarantine. There's an inside look at the Asian comedy scene featuring Saturday Night Live's Bowen Yang, The Daily Show's Ronny Chieng, and more; a food tour with musician Japanese Breakfast; and a delightful original photoshoot inspired by the equally delightful Instagram account Tiny Gentle Asians.
"We feel lucky that we were able to get our issue printed this year given the current situation, and can't wait to share the stories we have been working on with you," shared Ho and Tso on Instagram with their upcoming issue's Editors' Letter. "During this time when our community is getting brought down, we hope that our magazine can continue to bring pride and positivity to our readers."
To celebrate APAHM, we asked the co-founders behind Banana Magazine to share their favorite fashion businesses, from their go-to jeweler in New York's Chinatown to a brand that finds style inspiration from cannabis. Read on for more, below, and visit Banana's website to pre-order its upcoming issue now.
"We are obsessed with Commission — the New York-based brand from newcomers Huy Luong, Dylan Cao, and Jin Kay — right now. The fashion label was inspired by their mothers and fashion from the '90s in Vietnam and Korea. Their collections remind us of looking through old photos of our own moms and admiring their clothes."
"Co-founded by Henry Bae and Shaobo Han, Syro is makes 'Femme Footwear 4 Everyone.' The shoe brand makes heels up to size men's 14 for men and gender-nonconforming people. We love that they create heels for the everyday occasion, not just for performances, and have built such an incredible, strong community of queer creatives."
"We are huge fans of Haoran Li and Siying Qu, the founders behind Private Policy. We first connected for Banana Issue 003 when we did an editorial spotlight on the brand. They're all about using their global presence to bring the Asian community together and to open up conversation around our collective identity and support one another. For example, Private Policy is currently doing a #HeartTheWorld Instagram livestream where they introduce viewers to Asian creatives and their work and passions. It gives us so much energy and excitement for our shared community."
"Sundae School's Dae Lim and Mia Park are two of the most innovative individuals we know. They've managed to create the perfect marriage between fashion and cannabis. We love how much they lean into their Korean heritage when it comes to design, too — their aesthetic, even down to the packaging, is best in class. And at the end of the day, they are all about having fun, staying creative, and giving us the means to express that. We are really feeling the "Don't Be an Ass, Just Pass" tee — so on point!"
Oro Latino Jewelry Inc.
"Our favorite Chinatown jeweler is Oro Latino Jewelry located on Bowery and when you go, ask for Tommy. The family-owned shop started in the Lower East Side where Tommy's dad used to run the shop and sell to rappers like members of the Wu-Tang Clan. Now, Tommy has continued the legacy and is the only person (in our opinion) to go to for 24-karat gold chains and jade pendants."
Chop Suey Club
"Chop Suey Club is our go-to shop in Chinatown/LES for Asian inspiration and goods. There, and online, is where you can discover some of the best Asian-owned come-up brands from around the world. The founder, Ruoyi Jiang, has such a great eye and does an incredible job curating her shop. She also throws some of the best parties in the city to celebrate our heritage, and we can't wait for those to come back when we're out of social distancing."
"We stan for DA WANG. Daisy Wang, the founder, modernizes conventional chinoiserie textiles into everyday wear for an accessible price point. It's so refreshing to have a brand put a contemporary take on traditional garments. Chinoiserie has been appropriated so much throughout the '90s and into today, and with DA WANG, it gives us new perspective and pride to wear these beautiful textiles any chance we get."