Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Singing and brambling

Francis and I spent a long weekend in Newcastle, reuniting with beautiful Hannah. On Monday afternoon, we took a long walk through Jesmond Dene, searching for blackberries. We picked, and walked, for several hours, singing with each step. I had written an autobiography in verse last year whilst living in Stockholm, and enjoyed singing it together with Hannah very much. Here's us, above, singing whilst picking; and below, just before taking a recording of what we managed to learn.

And here's what it sounded like. Beginnings are where we start. As life continues to take a snakey path round decisions and happenings, I try to embrace what's revealed at each corner.


Monday, 28 August 2017

Deconstructing Fashion episode 5 clothing in Africa, the Carribbean, and South East Asia...

Have you listened yet to episode 5 of Deconstructing Fashion? This edition of the monthly podcast I co-host is my favourite yet. Click here to listen to it.

You'll hear from the director of the Costume Institute of the African Diaspora speak about her work tracing dress histories around the world. My co-hosts and I chat about the Costume Society conference, and Sian interviews me about my work researching Chinese dress in south-east Asia. And we discuss the state of fashion research, agreeing that what we all find the most intriguing is stories about people rather than catalogues of expensive garments.

If you enjoy this episode, please recommend us to your friends! 

Friday, 11 August 2017

Melting pot

We rehearse on Sundays, first in an abandoned office block turned into a home on the Grand Union Canal, then in a bedroom turned music studio in a flat above a fried chicken shop. Appearances deceive us, and a ballerina from Paris by way of Guadeloupe thinks that a blonde caucasian flautist is English because of her cut-glass intonation gained at a British school in Holland. We also have a rapping Londoner who arrived by way of Algeria, and a composer who cut his teeth on a true mash up of heavy metal, electronic dance music, Bach, organs, Afrobeats and Spanish classical guitar, who is here thanks to imperial interventions in Nigeria and Guyana, that last one being Guyanese by way of India, Africa and Portugal.

We'll look back on this period in thirty or so years time and feel incredibly bohemian, but I hope that my future self is still growing and learning and humble.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Automatic writing

The best kind of writing I feel is automatic writing. This is something which I am trying to do now, an outpouring of thoughts which form directly in my mind and reach the blank page or white screen immediately. My fingers holding pen or pressing the computer keyboard becomes an extension of my brain's inner narrative. The best work, I find, comes from this kind of automatic writing - that elusive, slippery zone which produces concepts and thoughts that are somehow pure, and somehow perfect in their difficult natural flow. My fingers press away like the veritable wind, backtracking every so often to correct errors in the order of characters, for I've forgotten my touch typing lessons of so many years ago.

I feel that there are two types of automatic writing, which to my mind is characterised by a need strong and irrepressible to form words in the world, to form concrete and even tangible words, you could say, out there on the other side of your cranium. A desperation, a longing, a possibility which is not questionable but simply realised. Firstly there is the pursuit of an idea, an obsession, a concept that sparks something within and therefore with out. And secondly there is the autobiographical narrative, the confessional, the diary. Both are wonderful, but one in particular lifts. I speak the words inside and outside, on my tongue and off my finger tips. Whisper. Lips.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Mixed-up, Mixed Race; or, 20+ Years of Eurasian Angst

Me and my nose, Ho Chi Minh City, February 2014

"Perhaps intermarriage is the solution of the great racial problem," suggested the Professor. 
"Never," said the old administrator. "Keep the breed pure, be it white, black, or yellow. Bastard races cannot flourish. They are a waste of nature."  

-from 'Kimono' by John Paris (1921). 
Published by Penguin Books, 1947, pp.12-13

Eurasians are alternatively demonised and fetishised in colonial-era literature; and post-colonial literature continues to uphold the shaky ground upon which so-called 'half-castes' tread. Commonly depicted as being unwelcome in white and 'native' communities alike, it is only recently that the positive stereotypes - but stereotypes all the same - of Eurasians being beautiful has won out. In our current image-obsessed culture, we live out the archaic assumption that to be beautiful equals to be good, and therefore good-looking Eurasians are good things too. White communities like us because we represent the allure of the exotic, but with some familiar features that remind them of Caucasians. Asian communities like us because we are often fair-skinned, with lighter hair, and may display the strong jawline and more pointed nose which is characteristic of Westerners; basically because we have Western physical traits which they themselves find desirable. It's the timeless appeal of the Other, a type of beauty in sight but just out of grasp.

Out of grasp, that is, until beauty standards met the cosmetic surgery industry and they exploded in a huge, fast, scary way. When I spent two weeks travelling around Vietnam in 2014, it was assumed that I was North Vietnamese, and I was constantly asked if I had had my nose job done in Korea. The same thing has happened with Indonesian tourists in Bali.

People were not trying to determine if I was Eurasian, half white. I was stopped by multiple groups of adoring women who simply said to me, "You're so beautiful! Did you get your nose job done in Korea?"

The famous Nose in profile, Ho Chi Minh City, February 2014

Hanh, Nelly and me, HCMC, Feb '14. All real noses: two Vietnamese, one Eurasian


I am reminiscing about this trip, and longing to see old friends. I wrote the majority of this text two years ago, and have just found it languishing in the 'drafts' folder of this blog. I am publishing it now because I have recently come to realise that although I am constantly interested and intrigued by people's experiences of race and empire, I have done very little to interrogate my own relationships and understandings of these concepts. I hope to do more of this over the coming year, and aim to document those mental wonderings and wanderings in this space, online. I feel that this is an especially relevant activity in light of my [upcoming] PhD research methodology.

As always, I would love to hear back from any of my readers, particularly those from a multi-ethnic background. Please feel free to comment on any blog posts, or contact me at chinesefashion @


Monday, 3 July 2017

Deconstructing Fashion Podcast

Deconstructing Fashion, a podcast.
Thoughts on fashion and culture, present and past.
I have started recording a fashion history podcast together with fellow MA Fashion Cultures alumni Si├ón and Lindsay. We are three smart women talking about fun things, so if you're looking for new podcasts and are fans of the talk show format, do give us a listen! 

You can find us on iTunes and Soundcloud. Click here for our website, which has a list of episodes with full descriptions and show notes. 

If you enjoy the podcast, please consider giving us a review on iTunes! It would really help us improve our ratings and reach other listeners. 

Find us online at and contact us at hello[at]

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Upcoming Talk: The Samfu Suit, 1920-1979

Image copyright: Anushka Tay

I will be presenting my Masters thesis The Samfu Suit, 1920-1979. Diaspora, Identity, Representation at the Costume Society Conference on Saturday 1 July 2017.

This research proved to be a journey across both time and land, taking me deep into library archives as well as into the memories of family and friends. I carried out this research in London, Singapore and Hong Kong in summer 2016 for my dissertation for MA Fashion Cultures at the London College of Fashion (passed with distinction).

This research was supported by several grants: Costume Society Yarwood Award 2016; Pasold Textiles MA Research Grant; London College of Fashion: Fashion Matters Project Bursary.

Tickets are still available. Click here for more information & booking.