On the same day London Fashion Week closes and Milan Fashion Week kicks off, a new coffee table book has rolled onto shelves featuring the elderly fashion elite of perhaps lesser-known runways – Chinatown streets across North America.
Chinatown Pretty is the brainchild of blogger Valerie Luu and photographer Andria Lo who visited various Chinatowns, including Vancouver, and photographed seniors who understood what they saw the rocking style they admired.
The San Francisco-based duo started off by posting street-style pictures at a blog, but the images have now been compiled into a coffee table book released September 22.
“The outfit is really a patchwork of different eras, textures, and it really tells the story of where it came from,” Luu said Tuesday. Early Edition. “We just want to know where they got their clothes from and who is the person who made these clothes.”
This book blends the formats of street fashion photography and social documentary photography, both capturing clothing but also sharing a bit of the subject’s personal story.
Luu said that he and Lo would visit each Chinatown for about three hours, go shopping for groceries for the elderly or gather with friends in the park.
When the couple spies on someone they want to photograph, they will shout, “Pòh poh lay ho lang ah!” which is translated in English as “Grandma, you look so beautiful!” (Gùng gungs for grandfather.)
Luu said the tactic gave them an idea about 10 percent of the time.
The two of them emulated this approach in their hometowns of San Francisco and in Los Angeles, Oakland, Chicago, Manhattan and Vancouver. They said they were most successful in Vancouver, where about 90 percent of the people they approach happily participate.
“People are very friendly and very open to their lives and stories,” Luu said of the only Canadian city featured in the book.
She said it was very inspiring for her and Lo to see in Vancouver how often the elderly and young people spend time together in the city’s Chinatown, from local mahjong socials to lobbying together for affordable housing in the neighborhood.
“They’re working together to create the future of their Chinatown and that’s one of the things we want people to take away from this book, which is you can make the Chinatown you want,” added Luu.
The 200-page book is a compilation of material captured by Luu and Lo over the past few years and is now available through the Chronicle Book.
Watch Valerie Luu and Andria Lo celebrate people and fashion in San Francisco’s Chinatown:
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