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AAPI Month

AAPI Month

It’s Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and I was thinking about what it means to me . . . It takes me back to a moment when I was walking through the Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles and I read a quote that said, “We are our ancestors' wildest dreams” - I got chicken skin reading it. It was on a huge board of quotes and for some reason my eyes went straight to this one and it’s stayed with me ever since . . . 

This month and that quote makes me think about my grandparents - did they have dreams and aspirations? And if they did, could I somehow help to fulfill the ones they didn’t achieve in my lifetime? 

My grandpa was a fine artist and made his living as a graphic artist - back in the day when typography and logos were drawn by hand. My grandpa could write and draw anything. At our Christmas parties, we’d always play a game where he would draw famous logos (without the names) and we’d all have to guess the company. I remember how he could recreate any logo - Pepsi, Coke, Hawaiian Airlines, anything. My sister and I would sit for hours trying to re-create and copy what grandpa did.

While my sister went on to become an art teacher and artist herself, I wasn’t as gifted with pen and paper. I didn't find my creative passion until later when I decided to go to school for fashion design. I was fortunate enough to have shared this part of my life with my grandpa before he passed away. There were some crossing over points in our lives that brought us closer in the last chapters of his life. I went to design school in New York City and I think this made him very proud as he also went to NYC to go to design school. 

He never got to experience or know the brand that I eventually created - Allison Izu. But he was around when I started and was dabbling with vintage obi belts, kimono fabric, and muumuus. He saw one of my designs where I put a Tsuru (crane in Japanese) on the back of a tank top. It must’ve stirred something within him. Soon after, he handed me a few papers of his art. It had sketches of clothing designs with kanji and drawings of his art. 

I still have these papers, it’s a direct connection to the impact he’s had on my life. It was like a personal letter that he wrote just to me, for only me, filled with love. This memory still brings tears to my eyes. I’m literally bawling as I’m typing this. And whenever I feel like I want to give up or I can't find it within me to muster up the strength - I pull these papers out to remind myself that his spirit is always with me. 

The groundwork that our ancestors laid down for us is important to remember. Not because we need to give up our lives to live theirs, but because we should honor the struggles and sacrifices they went through to give us the opportunities we have today. I realize that it’s a way of connecting his legacy of graphic art to my passion for fashion design. Those drawings, my memories with him - I keep close to my heart. Keeping his creative spirit alive through me.

As we celebrate AAPI month, I honor my grandparents on both sides of my family, for their strength, for their resiliency and for their bravery to live their lives. I can only hope to fulfill their wildest dreams . . .



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