Co-founder of Emotionally Unavailable, actor, musician, producer, fashion designer and entrepreneur, 37
Yeah, that guy.
The name EU (Emotionally Unavailable) speaks volumes and resonates with the youth. There are moments when you need some alone time. It’s also a reflection of relationships too. People jump in and out of relationships, or even if they are in one, they’re not really in it. That’s how EU started.
EU [for us] is a narrative on culture, driven by art and conversation. It’s about how we feel. It’s more than fashion.
After breaking up with a girlfriend, I remember telling [KB Lee, former designer of UNDFTD], “I am emotionally unavailable right now.” But I said I was physically present too.
It’s all about the feelings that we experience daily. It comes organically and may end up as the inspiration for our next T-shirt.
We have to think ahead when working in the fashion industry. It’s refreshing for us to drop something next week or even tomorrow. It’s a different way of making clothes. Why wait for the future?
Hip-hop dominated the early years of our [Lee and Chen] lives. But now, art is the dominant inspiring factor for us. We go to art museums, gallery shows and studio visits, and that’s where we draw most of our creative energy from. It’s a different perspective from hip-hop.
The label is not on the fashion calendar. That’s the most glaring aspect for me. With the calendar, there’s stress and it comes with deadlines [leading to rushed work]. When you rush something, the end product isn’t always the desired outcome. The satisfaction and the enjoyment of working a project that takes two years? We’re fine with that as it’s open and free.
I have ADHD [attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder] and there was an instance where I opened a book [at the Readymade showroom] and saw The Creation of Adam. I asked [the store crew] if they knew the meaning behind the painting. They said it’s divine intervention, where God gave man knowledge. If you look at this painting carefully, you’ll see God, and he’s enveloped by a shape, and that shape is supposedly a brain. My interpretation of it is that your inner self already has the upper being, which is in the brain.
There’s something deeper within the art form that’s trying to speak to you. We’re trying to deliver that message. That’s why I’ve been pushing arts and culture in the past five years because I want the youth to not only be influenced by club life or hip-hop culture. There has to be a moment when we break away from that and move forward. And I feel art is that message.
Having art printed on a postcard is devaluating. There’s a creative mind and force behind every artwork. So, if a gift shop can have a keychain or a pencil or a postcard box of it, why can’t we do something similar too? We’re paying ode to the art; we’re not defiling it. We’re trying to push art and help promote it. My style has definitely changed over the years. I wear women’s clothes now. Not in a weird way. I like to wear Acne women’s pieces and Céline. I like to look at some Chanel pieces and be able to wear them. My sense of fashion has broadened by attending different fashion shows and speaking to designers. Design in fashion is a craft. Although there are gender-specific pieces, this [stereotype] is over now. It’s about cross-gender and fluidity.
I used to help a brand [Hood by Air], and its aesthetic is androgynous. Working with them actually opened my eyes. People, especially now in the 2000s, have opened their minds to accepting different types of people in many ways. I too have opened my mind in the process. When I go to Céline, I can find something that I like and wear it. People in LA, who are more conservative about fashion, say that I have a lesbian style. I think that’s cool, I don’t mind.
The world has become smaller so finding something that you can call your own is important. Something that you can take ownership of and say, this represents me.
Everybody has a different interpretation of [our logo tee]. The girls think it’s cute and amazing, and the guys can feel that pain from the heart. Some people come up to me and say it’s a ball sac. In a way, it does look like a ball sac. I think when a logo evokes an emotion, it’s strong and powerful. To me, that has to be the one. Bleeding heart? It’s open to anyone’s interpretation.