A Conversation With: Rachel Nguyen

Three months is possibly the lengthiest hiatus I've been on with regards to posting- I don't have any (good) excuses, but I do have some ideas and content lined up for upcoming posts, so look out for attempts for redemption ASAP. In the meantime, I had a FaceTime chat with Rachel of That's Chic chic-ness and here are a few nuggets from what we talked about when we weren't going off on tangents, which I can either attribute to A) me being a bad interviewer/ conversationalist, or B) Raych  being too fun and easy to talk to. We met in person for the first time when I visited LA two years ago and have had but brief reunions in Paris and London, and yet she's one of those personable yet irrefutably cool girls who can make you feel like you've known her forever. Plus, she has YouTube skills and style like nobody's business. Hope you enjoy the following fragmented bits of our catch-up!

Z: What is your favourite breakfast? Unless you're one of those people that doesn't eat breakfast. 
R: I eat like a bird- I'm not one of those people that likes to eat real food during breakfast- I like to eat chia seed puddings and smoothies. If not that, then I like to do overnight oats. 
Z: You can try putting matcha or cocoa powder in your oats or chia seed pudding- its like a dessert. 

Z: What do you have planned for this week, month, year? What are you looking forward to?
R: I might be going to New Orleans and New York, but I've just been looking forward to coming home after travelling since I was in Tulum for a bit. 

Z: What's one thing that you've learnt from working on your YouTube channel?
R: I've realised that our younger generation- it sounds weird because I'm not that much older- is still pretty regimented in A + B + C in the sense that you have to go to school, do this and this, and not a lot of people know that its possible to get out there and do what you want to do by manifesting it. People think that there are all these necessary steps to take in order to be happy, and at the same time I'm in my own little bubble, so having YouTube as a communication line with my viewers gives me a perspective on what everyone else does and how I can help them overcome these obstacles that they have, to show that life doesn't have to be A, B and C. 
Z: I get that- I have a lot of people email me for advice on college/ university applications. Most of these messages have shown me that people make a really big deal out of what university they go to as if all their future happiness depends upon it. 
R: Exactly- in a way, society telling us we need to have a regimented approach to happiness means that a lot of people are discouraged from 'the hustle' when it is outside the conventional format, say climbing the corporate ladder. 
Z: In that sense it shows that what you're doing is so much more than capturing a style or aesthetic, but a lifestyle in the sense that you have your own avenues to contentment, which is pretty great. 

Z: What was the latest movie/ photo/ song/ art piece (etc.) that you were inspired by?

R: Hmm...the last place that really inspired me was Tulum. It's not an art piece or anything but the entire ecosystem of it- it was definitely a place that I felt immersed in, it's seriously so magical and an environment of purity that is aesthetically pleasing and thought-out. 
Z: I really want to go there. One of my next questions was going to be 'When was the last time you were most content?', would you say it was when you were in Tulum?
R: Yes, definitely. Especially with everything political going on, I didn't realise I had crazy media fatigue, and on top of that a sense of commercialism fatigue- being advertised at all the time and having something that you want. Being detached from social media and news was true contentment. 
Z: I know what you mean about the media being super overwhelming at the moment, and I imagine its worse in the US. 
R: It's just hard because everyone has their very specific viewpoint about what's going on right now. I forget what the phrase is...."an opinion is like an asshole, but everyone thinks that everyone else's stinks"
Z: Haven't heard that before- I like it. 

Z: Are you someone that cries easily in movies? Are you an emotional person in general?

R: When I'm on my period I can get very emotional, but other than that, no. But I will cry in movies- the one movie that gets me sobbing in everytime is The Notebook and Artificial Intelligence
Z: I usually cry a lot in movies and I cry a lot in general- not a huge horoscope person but I'm a Cancer and we're meant to be super emotional and into crying, so I can say that my horoscope rings true in that aspect. 
R: Cancer's are meant to be really really loyal too. 
Z: We're meant to be maternal, but I don't consider myself a maternal person.
R: Maybe maternal isn't really the right word, because you're quite young, but you're very nurturing and thoughtful, which I think are maternal traits. 
Z: That's a very nice compliment, thank you.

(15 minutes later, back to the subject of movies)
Z: One of my favourite movies that I've seen recently is Arrival, if you're into Sci-fi and aliens. 
R: I want to see that- last year I saw The Handmaiden, and I also really want to see A Cure for Wellness, the trailer looks really cool. 
Z: I love Park Chan-Wook's movies (Edit: I've seen The Handmaiden since and it was beautiful). Right now especially since it's award season (Edit: this was a few months ago) I always feel a bit anxious as I'm unable to watch everything. My ex Ran introduced me to film video essays on Youtube and I've been really into those channels, you should check them out (Edit: Here are a couple of my favourites: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4

Z: Whats a thing that always reminds you of home?

R: I always feel at home if I can get really good asian food. I can have amazing food when I'm travelling, but I won't feel at home unless I have good asian food. 
Z: Same- my favourite thing to do back home in Hong Kong is getting 'set breakfasts' like fluffy egg sandwiches and iced lemon tea. It's really junky food but it always feels nostalgic- there's a place my mum brings me to, and my mum used to go there when she was a little girl when her grandparents would bring her there, and they do amazing instant noodles and pineapple buns. 

Z: Do you get asked a lot about living in LA?
R: I love LA and it will always be home base- its an hour away from my parents, it has the beach and great weather, and a thriving creative world right now. It's finally building into its own aesthetic, and I think the food here is amazing. 
Z: I never ended up going to that restaurant you told me about, Sqirl, but I follow them on Instagram now and I really regret it. 
R: It's my favourite. Yeah, I think its really cool that LA has its own creative field so it has its own look now, even for the food which we can say is 'Californian cuisine'.
Z: Out of the restaurants I ate at in LA, I really loved Gjusta....did we go there together?
R: Did we go to Venice? No (a few minutes of re-tracing hang-outs later) that was Republique. I remember it was Halloween and we went to the fabric store to buy stuff for my costume. 
Z: I think this is actually my favourite part of blogging and Instagram- how crazy it is to meet people around the world you meet online. 
R: Yeah its crazy- blogging has really changed so much of my life through sculpting the landscape of the people I've met. Since starting it, having met key people has had such a ripple effect on the people in my life, I have no idea where I'd be at otherwise. I mean I got a job at Paige because someone saw my blog and wanted to hire me, and then someone at Shoedazzle was friends with someone at Paige and hired me, and then at Shoedazzle I met all my best friends and now we have our circle of friends. If someone didn't read my blog and hire me at Paige, none of that would have happened. 

Z: Speaking of that, and the butterfly effect, have you seen (the movie) Mr. Nobody?
R: No, but my friend was telling about it recently. 
Z: I've seen it three times and its blown my mind every time. 
R: Fuck, I have to add it to my list. Is it like Inception in that way?
Z: I think its better...it slowly plays with your mind as the movie goes on. 

Z: Another random question, but last time we were in Paris we went perfume-shopping, so what is your current favourite scent?
R: Right now I'm wearing Wood Sage and Sea Salt by Jo Malone, but my favourite scent....I'm really heavily tied to scents associated with places I travel to, as a way to try and bring something back with me. We talked about Tulum just now, and there were a ton of mosquitos, and they had this incense (Copal) that they burned everywhere, and it smelled so beautiful. 
Z: When I went to Morocco I bought some jasmine oil, and now I think of Marrakech whenever I smell it. 

Z: Alright, I have one last question: You can think of a question, and I'll ask it to the next person I interview. 
R: I love that- my question would be 'What do you like to collect?'
Z: And what do you like to collect? I'm a hoarder, so...
R: I like to collect a little bit of everything...patches, stamps, perfume samples.
Z: I always keep my museum tickets and train tickets...and hotel shampoos. 

Make sure you check out her amazing Youtube Channel and Instagram for more. (Video/photos courtesy of Raych)

Who would you guys like for me to have a conversation with next time?



Budapest Photo Diary and Guide

And here are some of my favourite photos from our trip to Budapest. Audrey and I had an amazing time pruning in the thermal baths, pigging out on paprika chicken whenever we had the chance, and admiring the city's beauty- Budapest hasn't seen the best of times as far as its history is concerned but everyone was amazingly warm and hospitable, and its worth a visit for the chimney cake alone. See the end of the post for some of our recommendations, and I hope you enjoy the photos.

Shot on a Pentax Spotmatic with (expired...oops) Portra 400 film and Ilford BW film.

Our favourite spots: 

Széchenyi Thermal baths / Gellert spa: We went to Széchenyi but I wish we had time to go to both. Pretty much a must-do if you're in the city- to relax, or to marvel at the cute elderly Hungarians going about their daily soak. 

Fisherman's Bastion and Buda Castle: Touristy but also a must-do, and a good way to walk off all the schnitzel you'll be eating. 

Eat at...
Barack and Szilva: One of our favourite meals- tradition Hungarian fare with a warm but modern atmosphere. Don't miss the paprika chicken and cabbage noodles. 

Beszálló Foodbar: a Vietnamese-Hungarian spot we didn't get to try but was highly recommended by a friend (thank you, Sári!)

Molnar's chimney cake: So good we went back for more- go for breakfast, and share it with two americano coffees from the coffee bar (dipping is highly recommended). We loved the cinnamon and plain (vanilla) flavours. 

Big Fish Bistro: If you get a little tired of eating beef and pork with potatoes and feel like seafood (we also had to come back, as we loved it so much the first time). You can choose your catch at the front of the restaurant, and don't miss the fries. 

Comme Chez Soi: The food in Budapest is generally very affordable, but this Italian restaurant especially, considering how big the portions are and its slightly fancier setting. The staff were super nice, and everyone gets a free dessert. 

Shop at: 
Nanushka: I would wear everything from Nanushka....that's all. 

We stayed at an Airbnb (here) which was lovely but I didn't get many photos of it. If you're travelling this summer and are thinking of booking an Airbnb, you can get a discount off your first stay here


Video Diary: Chanel Métiers d’Art, Paris 2016

I told myself I'd have to get my shit together and upload this before my next trip to Paris in March, so here it is (only two months late, or something...). This was by far my favourite show of Chanel's that I've had the pleasure of seeing in person (P.S. Cara Delevingne looked straight at me for a few seconds and I was left blushing for 10 minutes). You guys have probably read all my posts gushing about Paris so I'll spare you the rambling and let the video speak for itself.

Thank you Melody for filming, and Chanel (especially Olga) for having us, plus making sure we were never short of red wine, macarons and eye candy.


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A Conversation With: Alyssa Lau

A while ago I came up with an idea to incorporate more content into this site through conversations with people I know that inspire me. I guess I've been frustrated for a while with trying to figure out what I can bring to this space, and got excited when I realised that it doesn't necessarily have to be me who 'creates' the content; rather, I can be the one who facilitates it. Of course, it helps that I happen to know a lot of really talented, kind and motivated people and want to do my part to sprinkle their charm over as many crevices of the internet as I can. So here it is, my first conversation (hopefully, of many) with the lovely Alyssa of Ordinary People and New Classics Studio.  I've always been amazed by her work, from her quirky style and really good video content to her focus on sustainability and ethical retail, and it doesn't hurt that Alyssa and her boyfriend Eric (co-founder of NCS) are two genuinely lovely people. I hope you enjoy this conversation and please let me know what you think and would like to see more of, I'd really appreciate it.

Z: So…how would you describe what you do?

A: It’s hard, because a lot of people ask me what I do for a living…the short story is that I own my own small business and do a lot of random projects. The long story would be that….I would call myself a creator; New Classics is my number 1 priority and we still do some work on [the blog], but that’s still a creative outlet for me- more like an online journal. It’s hard to categorise or simplify it to one term. 

Z: I know what you mean- its so funny hearing the terms people call bloggers nowadays. In Hong Kong people use the term KOL (Key Opinion Leader) which kind of makes you sound like a cult leader and there are so many different labels now. 

A: At the end of the day what we’re doing is still blogging, but I feel like blogging has transformed so much, and a lot of people who started out as bloggers are so much more than bloggers- you can call it whatever you want but its never going to encompass everything. 

Z: What do you hate the most about social media?

A: Well, I talk about this quite often (laughs), I think its become a lot less authentic and genuine because its all being sponsored. I don’t think its really anybody’s problem because people are trying to make a living and I understand that, but at the same time the whole thing with social media and what made it amazing was the ability to make creative, raw and organic content which people could relate to, and I can’t really relate to a sponsored message. Everyone’s reaching out to bloggers and it’s become another way for people to shove ads at people, and the fact that a lot of people have the same content over and over again. I don’t really believe in the idea of ‘original content’ but some people don’t try to create anything original. 

Z: I know what you mean- I feel like we could talk about that for ages but just so we don’t go off on a tangent for too long…where do you feel most at home?

A: Actually, my room (laughs), as long as there’s my dog and Eric with me I feel at home. It depends on what you think of as home- some artists find ‘home’ where they’re most creative but for me its where I can lie down and relax and stop thinking about work. If you’re self-employed you’re in charge of your entire lifestyle and not thinking about it can be really hard. 

Z: I get that. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose to live?

A: It changes pretty often…I really do love Edmonton because its growing at such a fast pace, but if I could live anywhere, I really like Tokyo. 

Z: I’ve heard its a really great place to live in terms of education and cultural values. Moving on to more work-related topics, how long ago did New Classics start and is this how you imagine it’d end up?

A: I was on LinkedIn for the first time in a year (laughs) and it said that New Classics is two years old in two months. We started in October 2014, I guess it started with me not really being happy with where I was going. I’ve always loved the sciences and thats why I chose my chemistry major and thought I wanted to go to med school. I’d been blogging for two years by the time I graduated, and at that time blogging wasn't quite as over-saturated as it is now, and a lot of different opportunities and cool things started happening. I think in May 2014 I had already been accepted into a chemistry grad program and had started on my project and wasn't really liking it so I decided to put it aside. I just realised one day that I didn’t want to do this anymore, so I was messaging Eric on Facebook and he suggested opening an online store, but so many bloggers were doing the same thing so I felt it was too expected, and that’s where sustainable fashion came in. The previous Christmas I had received a book about sustainable fashion called ‘Naked Fashion’, and it really opened my eyes, and I saw that Canada didn’t have a market for sustainable fashion, and thats when we started thinking of ideas for the store. When we first opened, we didn’t know what was going to happen so we just hoped for the best. 

Z: I’m really curious as to how you balance fashion consciousness with regards to projects you do as a blogger?

A: From the get-go I knew I wanted to keep them very separate- I didn’t want to make New Classics about me, as I wanted it to be inclusive and for people to join in with sustainability. So I still try to talk about New Classics and sustainability as much as possible without getting on the nerves of people, as I don’t want to come across as preachy but a lot of people are still unaware of issues to do with fast fashion. 

Z: I know what you mean- I’m waiting on the day my friends get sick of me talking about it, but I’ve been telling everyone to watch ‘The True Cost’ and I made my parents watch it as well. I think its something that no one really talks about because there’s so much going on politically and otherwise, its sort of put on the back-burner. 

A: It’s true, right? Well, when you’re buying a piece of clothing its easier not to think about it. It all comes down to what you believe in- on Ordinary People its hard you still want to be working on projects, but I would never accept a project that would go against my ideals. 

Z: That makes sense. What are some of your favourite websites and brands for ethical and sustainable fashion?

A: Rafa makes the best strappy sandals; another really good website that curates some awesome brands would be wellmadeclothes.com; Study New York is amazing; Pansy does underwear and is really good; there’s Zady. At the end of the day it all comes down to transparency, and as we all know fast fashion brands like H&M aren’t transparent. 

Z: And what are your favourite pieces in your wardrobe?

A: My favourite pieces are the ones with the most versatility. My Acne Jensen boots are amazing, the quality is amazing and the style is timeless.

Z: I got the pistol boots recently and I’ve been wanting them for years, they’re the best and so comfortable. 

A: The Converse CDG Play sneakers also go with everything.

Z: Now for more miscellaneous questions; what was the last thing that inspired you?

A: Usually its music- If i find a cool song I’ll think of videos I can make to the song. Don’t get me wrong, I listen to a lot of Kpop and really bad Top 40s (laughs), but I also like to listen to ambient indie music. Right now I’m loving Never be your man by Tom Lark.

Z: Next- what do you have set as your home page on your internet browser?
A: Google, its always been Google- its my best friend. 

Z: Favourite artists, visual or musical or otherwise?

A: One of my favourite fashion designers is Chitose Abe; everything from Sacai is so cool and different, she’s a genius. 

Z: I saw their show in Paris and seeing her pieces move is amazing. I’ve actually run through all my questions…thank you so much for talking to me. You’re the guinea pig so you’re gonna be the first one (laughs). 

A: Thank you for thinking of me! 

Check out Alyssa's blog here, and her Instagram here. Shop New Classics Studios here.