Who said the elderly are not stylish? Chinatown Pretty has combed the alleyways of San Francisco’s Chinatown (and beyond) to interview the unseeingly dapper and classy elder individuals of this famous district.
The brain behind the belly, Andria Lo and Valerie Luu, are two friends who share their love for dim sum and chasing after pretty po-pos (grandmas) and now grandpa’s in one of San Francisco’s oldest districts. Now, the duo have launched a book around their favorite style icons in collaboration with Chronicle Books. “Sounds like a window display at Urban Outfitters,” reads the foreword to Chinatown Pretty.
They together started the blog after their personal project was featured as a story, Chinatown Sartorialist, on The Bold Italic. From that article however, the project seemed to hit critical mass with people tuning in everyday to their website to see the chicest elder of the day. “We’re here to celebrate the ingenuity, flair, and beauty of San Francisco Chinatown and its longtime residents. Chinatown Pretty brings us joy and we hope it will put a smile on your face too,” their first photobook — titled Chinatown Pretty: Fashion and Wisdom From Chinatown’s Most Stylish Seniors — is a testament to a distinct aesthetic that is as functional as it is fashionable.
The first iterations of Chinatown sartorialist and pretty were “when we hung out in San Francisco Chinatown, we noticed that the seniors wore layers of florals, clashing patterns and bright colors, which made for an unexpected and effortless look,” says the duo, “Where can you find bright jade sneakers, a puffy jacket, and a Supreme hat all expertly paired together in one outfit? So we hit the streets to learn more about their fashion and life philosophies.”
Both Luu and Lo understand the significance of releasing a book during a time where elder immigrants and non-immigrants alike are targets for unjustified hate. During the COVID-19 pandemic, “Since as early as February, racist acts against Asian Americans directly related to the COVID-10 pandemic have been recorded and shared on social media to raise awareness of the growing problem.” Says the Phys.org on the subject of Asian hate crimes, “these acts of violence include both physical and mental abuse of Asian Americans of all ages and genders.”
And the book doesn’t just capture San Francisco, in fact, it’s bringing style of elders from all corners of North America, “Chinatown Pretty captures the street-style of seniors citizens across six North American Chinatowns: San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Vancouver. This book (six years in the making) chronicles their creative style and their life wisdoms, along with histories of each regional Chinatown.”
For the duo, it’s about humanizing elders—bringing the subject away from the intense surge of anti-Asian rhetoric. “Not only are the seniors’ style effortless and unexpected, but it’s also a gateway to their immigration stories and cultural values. We want our readers to leave not only with new fashion ideas but with the wisdoms of our elders.”
// Pre-order your book at chinatownpretty.com/book; Want to see more elder fashion, follow Chinatown Pretty’s website. Photography and book interior pages courtesy of Andria Lo, Chinatown Pretty, and Chronicle Books.