Q & A With Chinatown Pretty

Angelina: Who is behind Chinatown Pretty, one of my favorite local Instagram feeds, where the prints, pairings, and general vibe, is, as my teen would say, "goals." 

Chinatown Pretty was started by Andria Lo, a photographer, and Valerie Luu, a writer. We're two friends who shared a love of Chinatown fashion and wanted to learn more about where these seniors got their clothes.  

A: Do you have lots of prints and color in your own wardrobe?

AL: I wear a lot of of neutrals, but have a growing collection of vintage patterns and prints. Each piece feels special and I choose to wear them based on mood. I think there's a lot of emotion in patterns.  

VL: I had an all-black wardrobe for the longest time. The project has influenced me to include color and patterns (particularly florals) in my closet. Nowadays I often ask myself, "Would a Chinese grandma wear this?" If the answer is yes, I usually go for it. 

A: Do your posts and observations influence the way you dress? What’s your own morning dress routine?

VL: We've noticed that many of the seniors wear clothes they brought over from Hong Kong when they immigrated 30 years ago. It speaks to their values of resourcefulness and preservation. I grew up in the age of Forever 21 and disposable fashion. After meeting these seniors, it's inspired me to buy more quality pieces and be more mindful of how I care for my clothes. There's no reason why it can't last a lifetime. As for my morning routine, it's a no-brainer since I'm often working at my restaurant which requires a uniform of t-shirt and jeans. On the rare day off, I will try to wear a dress!

AL: Definitely. I try not to overthink my outfits too much. I think some of the magic we observe in the Chinatown style is that it's quite effortless and unexpected. Pieces that shouldn't really work together, that clash or are from different eras, end up having their own unique harmony. Day to day I'm often found wearing something pajama-like. When I have a meeting or an event, I like to start with a special patterned piece and build my outfit around that.

A: Do you have any other creative outlets or projects you’re working on?

VL: My business partner Katie Kwan and I have been operating a pop-up restaurant called Rice Paper Scissors for six years. We're opening our first brick-and-mortar location in the Mission later winter/spring 2018.

AL: I've been fixing up a little cabin in the Sierra Foothills and it's satisfying to have a project and retreat space that is connected to nature.

A: What’s your favorite, or go-to, restaurant in Chinatown?

VL: Andria and I had a photo exhibit called Eat Chinatown that documented the legendary, old-school restaurants in Chinatown. New Lun Ting Cafe (better known as Porkchop House) was one of my favorites because of its old-school decor, and hybrid cuisine that's part Hong Kong, American and Chinese. Their Marinated Pork Chop with a side of Brown Gravy is a must. As part of the show, we created a restaurant guide called Spotlight Chinatown.

AL: We also highlighted Hon's Wun Tun House on Kearny for the exhibit. It's another quick lunch spot with an interior that hasn't changed for about 30 years. I like their wonton noodle soup. Be sure to use their homemade chili oil sauce! If you're really into it, you can purchase a pint to-go.

A: Do you have advice for others who want to take photos of people in public?

AL: A big smile goes a long way...and a compliment to start, but try not to be too creepy.

VL: Add a quote. Including a narrative can make a photo blossom. Context is significant. 

A: What are 3 favorite Instagram feeds?

AL: @17.21women highlights extraordinary Asian females throughout history that you probably didn't learn about in school.

VL: @1000wave (her grandma brings me the upmost joy)

A: What are some favorite Beklina "Chinatown Pretty approved" styles?

AL: Beklina Quilted Jacket Leaf Print

VL: Rachel Comey Delirium Dress

For more, follow Chinatown Pretty on Instagram.