Monique Lhuillier Mixes Naughty And Nice With ‘Alice In Wonderland’ Inspired Wedding Dresses

The weather is warmer, the birds are chirping and the flowers are blooming. Sure, these are signs that it’s spring time, but it also means wedding season is here! Are you a bride-to-be looking for inspiration (or simply dreaming of your ideal Pinterest-worthy wedding)? Look no further! Monique Lhullier is never short of impressive and at this year’s bridal fashion week, she has done it again. The Filipina American designer’s Spring 2016 dresses are inspired by something familiarly whimsical, but with a darker twist.

Feminine, figure-hugging silhouettes, deeper necklines, cutouts and intricate, flowery detailing is just the beginning of Lhuillier’s Alice in Wonderland inspired collection. But don’t let these sparkling elements distract you from the other side of the collection. In her interview with The Knot, Lhuillier says she drew inspiration from the darker elements of the story:

“My collection is very sensual and elegant, really pushing the limits. I researched Alice in Wonderland references– specifically the fantasy of it and darker elements. There’s a lot of darkness, but also a lot of light. The gowns are extremely sensual, sultry and close to the body. These gowns look at the naughty and nice side of the bride.”

monique_theknot1 monique_theknot2 monique_theknot3 monique_theknot4 monique_theknot5 monique_theknot6 monique_theknot7

These are only some of the gorgeous gowns from her Spring 2016 collection and although there are sexier and bolder elements, Lhuillier still produced beautiful dresses that literally made the inner hopeless romantic in me gasp. Subtly naughty to appeal to the bride, but all over nice for a family friendly wedding dress? Sounds like my kind of dress!

Which one is your favorite? What would your ideal wedding dress look like?

 

Feature image courtesy of Michael Weschler and Monique Lhuillier.
Images of gowns courtesy of theknot.com.

Japan’s Desire To Preserve Youth Continues With Anti-Aging Beer

The desire to preserve one’s youth or to achieve one’s ideal of physical perfection is now in full swing more than ever. Although plastic surgery is more common in Asia, I can see our fair share in my own backyard. After all, this is Los Angeles. With the recent viral Kylie Jenner lip challenge, it makes me think how much more obsessed society is becoming to look like the celebrities they admire (even though many of them are anything but admirable).

Recently, we showed you Japan and Korea’s beauty trends to achieve a younger look. However, makeup and beauty products are simply not enough. It seems that Japan is quite adamant about maintaining a youthful appearance because now, you can find anti-aging properties in their beer.

Japanese brewery, Suntory, produced a new beer called “Precious.” It contains collagen, a protein that is believed to contain anti-aging properties. This protein is what gives skin elasticity and it decreases as we get older; this is why we get wrinkles and our skin isn’t as… perky (yikes). Japanese women believe that using and ingesting collagen products will make their wrinkles magically disappear. Quite a smart move there, Suntory brewery.

There has yet to be studies that prove this beer’s anti-aging claims are true, but it’s certainly a smart marketing gimmick to attract women. I’m not sure if I buy into Suntory’s claims, but since it’s beer, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try.

Courtesy of fooddiggity.com.

Courtesy of fooddiggity.com.

 

Feature image courtesy of YouBeauty.com.

Millennial Love Column: #RomanceIsNotDead

 

Nearly 10 years ago, my very first boyfriend asked me out by recording a message on a mix CD that instructed me to meet him on the school stage the next morning. There, in front of the whole world (and by “the whole world” I actually just mean the kids in high school), he gave me my first kiss and handed me a box containing 143 folded paper hearts — which he had made during the nights we stayed up talking on the phone. Was I swooning? Yup. Was I turning a dangerous shade of red that only looks appealing on tomatoes and stop signs? You bet I was.

By the time I got home that night, I was practically exploding in giddiness as I told the story to my family. Now, I was prepared for my mom’s teasing, and I even expected my brother to throw up a little, but who could’ve foreseen my grandma’s reaction? She sighed in disapproval and mumbled something about romance being dead.

Have you ever seen a balloon deflate? That’s about the best description I have of how I felt in that moment. How could my grandma — my wise, sage grandma — think that romance was dead after the incredible day I just had?

After much prying, she finally explained that she was upset because the “rude boy” didn’t pick me up at the door on our first date, and those “scraps of paper” could never compare to roses.

I cracked a smile of relief. Of course she felt that way. This wasn’t the first time I’d been told Millennials didn’t know a thing about romance. You see, in my grandmother’s eyes, as well as many Boomers and Gen X’ers, boys these days lack chivalry, serious relationships are traded for casual “hook-ups,” and communication is only done through a computer or phone screen. Given that perspective, I completely understand why people think romance is dead.

But I’m here to let you in on a secret: Romance is alive and well. The naysayers simply don’t recognize it because they’re looking for the wrong things. Romance changes, grows and adapts. The way we show and perceive romance now may not look like it used to, but has it disappeared? Of course not. Here’s why.

 

Myth #1: Chivalry Is Dead
According to the old-school definition, the quintessential romantic gentleman should pay for my meal on dates, spoil me weekly with flowers and pick me up at my front door. But there’s a problem with that theory. First of all, I quite frankly don’t care how much a man spends on me. I know from firsthand experience that being a college grad drowning in student loans is no joke. So I have no intention of putting anyone through the extra pressure of paying for two if he simply can’t. Second and most importantly, it’s the 21st century. Who says I need a guy to pay for my meals?

And sure, not every guy knocks on my door to pick me up for a date, but I’m actually quite relieved when someone shoots me a text instead. Not only is texting a faster and more efficient way to get me, there’s also no need to freak out about that mess in the living room and I have time for my last touch-up in the mirror.

Believe me, I appreciate chivalry just as much as the next girl, but this does not equate to romance in my book. I know plenty of men who are still working towards financial stability and can’t afford flowers on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be romantic. On the other side of the spectrum, I know even more men who know everything about holding doors open and nothing about the kind of romance that gives you butterflies.

 

Myth #2: It’s All About Hooking Up
I won’t deny it. Our generation has mastered the art of keeping things casual, especially in college. And don’t get me wrong — I’m not trying to argue that hookup culture is romantic. I do, however, believe that fully understanding hookup culture (and why we partake in it) is important to seeing why romance is sometimes put on hold.

Hookup culture is one that encourages casual relationships and sexual encounters, while generally staying away from serious relationships. What some people don’t realize is that we keep our love life casual during the times that we need to take our career life seriously.

Decades ago, it wasn’t rare for a couple to get married right out of high school or college. Nowadays, ask someone in their mid-20s about marriage and many will say they’re nowhere near that stage of life. We live in a world of low employment opportunities, high competition and even higher stress and depression rates. Getting into college has become harder than ever and becoming financially stable after graduating is even worse. Do you really think our focus is on marriage right now?

We have not, by any means, traded romance for a culture of hookups. We’re simply making sure we mold the best versions of ourselves until we’re ready for a serious, romantic relationship.

 

Myth #3: Technology Killed Romance
This is simultaneously the most valid argument and yet the biggest misconception here. I say that because I can completely understand why older generations think texting, online dating and the Internet in general gets in the way of proper romance. After all, I’m sure they shake their heads at couples who spend dinner dates scrolling through Instagram instead of talking.

But I would argue that technology has actually helped make us openly romantic and sometimes extravagantly so. What are texts if not instant love letters? What is online dating if not the romantic pursuit of finding someone you may have otherwise never met? Yes, we are obsessed with taking pictures of our dates, but isn’t that just an effort to physically preserve our memories?

Men no longer are limited to dropping an engagement ring into a champagne glass. YouTube has allowed us all to see extravagant proposals using flashmobs, scavenger hunts and hidden cameras. We’re publicly displaying our love and doing so creatively and loudly. Yes, our methods are showy — another criticism we often receive — but spend an hour looking up wedding proposals online, and you’ll take back everything you said about romance being dead.

Want to learn how to play your crush’s favorite song on the guitar to serenade her? Go find a tutorial online. Want to tell her how you’re feeling but can’t find the words? Find the perfect song on YouTube. Want to get the perfect Valentine’s Day present? Check her pins on Pinterest. Want to reassure her that there’s no one else? Let everyone on your social media platforms know your heart is taken.

Flashmobs, texting and social media may not be included in the traditional definition of romance, but if my guy posts that embarrassing picture of us just because he knows I love it, then that sure counts for me.
Feature image courtesy of dailybruin.com
This story was originally published in our Spring 2015 issue. Get your copy here

Wong Fu Debuts First Feature Film ‘Everything Before Us’

 

In 2006, Wong Fu Productions released a comical YouTube short Yellow Fever, which became their very first viral video. Now, nearly a decade later, Wong Fu Productions has expanded far beyond what they ever expected.

“We never had the intention of making Wong Fu what it is today, but we know we’re very lucky and will do our best to deserve it,” they humbly state on their website.

Watching Wong Fu grow over the years in the industry, we have witnessed them develop their craft as well as delve deeper into their stories and characters, especially with Just A Nice GuyStrangers Again, and The Last to name a few. Their shorts have made us smile, laugh, cry, and even cry from laughing too hard. They’ve taken us on an emotional roller coaster and we’re excited to continue the ride as Wong Fu releases their first feature-length movie, Everything Before Us.

We already know that Wong Fu has gift for being able to capture our emotions perfectly when we go through the highs of love and the lows of loss. (I’m guilty of crying a couple times after watching Strangers Again, but who didn’t?) This time around, Everything Before Us explores the challenges of two couples: high schoolers Seth (Brandon Soo Hoo) and Haley (Victoria Park), and thirty-something professionals Ben (Aaron Yoo) and Sara (Brittany Ishibashi). But when their relationship activities are documented by the Department of Emotional Integrity (DEI), a DMV-styled agency that issues a relationship score for the public to see in order to keep individuals accountable for their relationship choices, it changes the couples’ dynamics. As the world-weary DEI case worker (Randall Park) monitors each couples activities to issue their relationship score, it begins to affect various aspects of the couples’ daily lives and darker secrets begin to unravel.

 

Everything Before Us will be premiering at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival Thursday, April 23rd, 2015. You can purchase your tickets here.

 

Featured Image courtesy of Everything Before Us.

The Correct Way To Do Yoga Push-Ups

A chaturanga dandasana, the Sanskrit term for “four-limbed staff pose,” is typically done 15 to 20 times in a classic 60-minute Vinyasa class. It’s a pose that energizes and strengthens the entire body, especially the arms, legs and core. This half push-up is one of the most frequently practiced poses in class, and yet it is commonly done incorrectly. As a yoga instructor, I’ve witnessed this all too often, and as a practitioner, I too fall prey to misalignment on occasion. But with proper guidance and practice, your body should be able to feel the difference between improper alignment and proper alignment.

 


 

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 4.00.04 PM

Incorrect Chaturanga Dandasana
Example A:
In this misaligned pose, the arms are wide apart and the elbows are facing outwards. The shoulders are tense. You can see that the core isn’t engaged because the lower back is sinking down, which will eventually cause pain in your lower back. The glutes are not engaged, and the tailbone is sticking up. The heels are shifting the body and flow of energy backward and down instead of forward.

 


 

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 4.01.57 PM

Incorrect Chaturanga Dandasana
Example B:
Here, the core is sinking way too low and isn’t supporting the lower back, which affects the alignment of the entire body. You can see the legs are drooping down towards the ground. The torso, quads and hamstrings are not fully engaged. Also, the shoulders should be back away from the ears, and the upper body should be in line with the hips.

 


 

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 4.02.12 PM

A Proper Chaturanga Dandasana:
Start at plank position. Lower the body halfway only with the tailbone tucked under. There should be a long line of energy flowing straight forward from the heels of the feet all the way up to the crown of the head. The elbows are at a 90-degree angle and hugging in towards the ribcage. The fingers are wide open, knuckles pushing down towards the ground. Your gaze should be relaxed, keeping the cervical spine long. You will know if you are doing it incorrectly if your body doesn’t feel engaged. While in the pose, squeeze the inner thighs, the glutes and the core to get the full expression of the chaturanga dandasana.

 


 

STORY BY SUNINA YOUNG
Sunina Young (sunina.com) is a yoga + SLT pilates instructor in New York City
Photos by Andy Hur, andyhur.com

This story was originally published in our Spring 2015 issue. Get your copy here

Celebrate Earth Day With 5 of Asia’s Most Beautiful Spots

One of Buzzfeed’s top posts is a list called “27 Surreal Places To Visit Before You Die.” Since it’s release in 2013, the list has gained over 10 million views and for good reason! All of the locations are absolutely breathtaking.

In honor of Earth Day, we’re taking a closer look at the five locations in Asia that made it onto this list to remind everyone that the earth is capable of such beauty. Lets work to keep it that way.

 

1. Zhangye Danxia landform in Gansu, China

location 1

The Danxia landforms are sandstone formations most known for (you guessed it) their vibrant color patterns. They are located in a remote region in northern central China. The mountains and hills retain such color because Danxia landforms are composed of red sandstone. Mineral deposits were compressed into rock for 24 million years, thus gaining colors ranging from deep red to yellow and green.

location 2 location 3

location 4

 

 

 

2. The Hang Son Doong cave in Quang Binh Province, Vietnam

location 6

The Sơn Đoòng cave is currently the largest known cave in the world and is located near the border of Laos and Vietnam. It is five times larger than the Phong Nha Cave which previously held the record for being the biggest cave in Vietnam. Although it was created 2-5 million years ago, the cave did not become public knowledge until 2009. Inside, there is a fast flowing underground river as well as cave pearls the size of baseballs.

location 7 Camp inside Hang Son Doong location 9

 

 3. Hitachi Seaside Park in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki, Japan

location 10

This popular tourist destination has been given the nickname “flower paradise” because the 32,000 square meters of flowers look amazing all year long. With each passing season, a different variety of flower will blossom throughout the Hitachi Seaside park such as the Nemophilas. The popular blue flower blossoms annually during springtime.

location 11 location 12 location 13

 

 

 

 

4. Bamboo groves of Arashiyama in Kyoto, Japan

location 14

 

These Japanese bamboo groves, located in Northwest Kyoto, are a tourist favorite. The gorgeous line of bamboo not only looks beautiful, apparently it sounds beautiful too. Amusing Planet notes, “The sound of the wind in this bamboo forest has been voted as one of ‘one hundred must-be-preserved sounds of Japan’ by the Japanese government.” The bamboo in this grove is still used to manufacture various products such as cups, boxes, baskets and mats in the area.

location 15 location 16 location 17

 

 

5. Kelimutu crater lakes in Flores Island, Indonesia

location 18

 

Kelimutu is a small volcano in the central Flores Island of Indonesia. It has gained popularity because the volcano has three craters which each contain a lake with a different color. The lakes periodically change colors from red and brown to turquoise and green, independent of each other. The lakes are named Tiwi Ata Mbupu (Lake of Old People), Tiwu Nua Muri Kooh Tai (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) and Tiwu Ata Polo (Lake of Evil Sprits, or Enchanted Lake). The scientific explanation behind the colorful lakes? Chemical reactions from the minerals in the lake are triggered by the volcano’s gas activity.

location 19 location 20 location 21

 

(Source 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
(Audrey Source)

 

This story was originally published in 2014. It has been republished in honor of National Earth Day. 

Top 10 Most Outrageous Asian Superstitions

I had only been out of the shower for five minutes before my mom walked into my room to give me the same warning she’s repeated to me a hundred times before. “Don’t go to bed with hair wet, ” she casually reminded me. “And stop cutting your nails at night. Someone in the family will die if you do that.”

Morbid? You bet. Oddly enough, after a lifetime of hearing Filipino superstitions, these dark warnings were nothing out of the ordinary. After all, during the night we’re also told not to whistle, pound on doors, or comb our hair. I would tell you the reason behind each superstition, but it gets a little difficult to keep track of all the ways one can apparently cause death and disease.

While every culture has their share of crazy superstitions, it’s safe to say that Asian cultures have some of the craziest. We’ve decided to round them up for you. Here are 10 of the most bizarre and outrageous Asian superstitions:

 


 

Photo courtesy of pixgood.com

Photo courtesy of pixgood.com

1) Clipping nails at night.
While Filipinos believe that cutting your nails or toenails at night will bring a death in the family, Chinese superstition claims that cutting nails at night will bring ghosts and evil spirits. Do I believe in these superstitions? Nah. Will I avoid the nail clipper anyway because I’d rather not have an evil spirit show up? Yup.

 


 

Photo courtesy of creativefan.com

Photo courtesy of creativefan.com

2) Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.
Who doesn’t love being a bridesmaid? You get to doll up and celebrate the happiness of a dear friend or family member. But according to Chinese culture, you don’t want to be a bridesmaid more than three times. If you do, you won’t be able to find a husband for yourself. Goodluck telling your BFF you can’t be her bridesmaid because she got married too late.

 


 

butterfly-world

Photo courtesy of www.tripadvisor.co.uk

3) Blinding butterfly.
Ahh, the butterfly. Even those who don’t like insects can appreciate the beauty of the butterfly. However, according to Korean superstition, these dainty creatures have quite an evil to them. Apparently, if you touch a butterfly (or moth) then touch your eyes, you will go blind. So much for butterflies being the safe insect.

 


 

Photo courtesy of gameofthrones.wikia.com

Photo courtesy of gameofthrones.wikia.com

4) There can only be one.
It’s not uncommon to find a mirror somewhere on the front door of an Asian establishment or home, but as it turns out, there’s a very specific reason for this. According to Vietnamese superstition, mirrors are placed on the front of doors to ward off dragons. That’s right. Dragons. Apparently, if a dragon tries to get in, he will see his reflection in the mirror and assume that there is already a dragon inside. And of course every dragon knows there can’t be more than one in a room. Duh.

 


 

Photo courtesy of www.gatheryourparty.com

Photo courtesy of www.gatheryourparty.com

5) The Moon doesn’t appreciate your pointing.
Imagine being on romantic date and looking up at the stars. Suddenly, the clouds shift and a full moon comes into view. You point up at it to show your beautiful date, but then you realize you can’t hear her response. Oh yeah, that’s because your ears have fallen off. According to Chinese superstition, that’s what happens to you if you point at the moon with your finger. Who comes up with this stuff?

 


 

spider

Photo courtesy of www.clipartpanda.com

6) To kill or not to kill?
If we couldn’t get you to trust butterflies, then there’s no hope for spiders, right? Well according to Japanese superstition, a spider can bring good luck if you catch it at the right time. If you see a spider in the morning, don’t kill it! Morning spiders are said to bring goodluck. However, if you see a spider at night, squish it as fast as you can because night spiders are bad luck. So what about afternoon spiders?

 


 

pregnant belly_5

7)The birds and the bees.
Not ready for children? Then you better avoid stepping over a woman’s stretched legs. Sure there’s many more… technicalities to getting a woman pregnant, but Cambodian superstition says that stepping over a woman’s legs will definitely increase your chances. Similarly, Filipino superstition says that if a pregnant woman hops over her husband, he will take on the discomforts of pregnancy such as morning sickness. Looks like the birds and bees talk is much more complicated than we thought.

 


 

ca

Photo courtesy of www.fitnflexed.com

8) Shots, please?
If your husband stepped over your legs and you find yourself pregnant, you ought to start managing what you eat for the sake of the baby. Cambodian superstition takes this idea one step further. Apparently, if you drink coffee, your baby will have darker skin. On the other hand, if you drink alcohol, your baby will have lighter skin. Call me crazy, but I’m going to go ahead and say you should probably ignore that last suggestion about drinking alcohol while pregnant. That’s just my two cents.

 


 

Photo courtesy of galleryhip.com

Photo courtesy of galleryhip.com

9) Ugly baby.
To every new parent, their baby is the cutest, most precious tiny human in existence. But according to Vietnamese, Thai and Indian superstition, you better not say that out loud because showing too much admiration for a baby will get the devil’s attention and he will take the desirable child away. In fact, some cultures suggest you call a baby ugly just to trick the devil. Talk about messing up someone’s self-esteem early. Mothers in India even put kohl on their baby’s face to make the baby look “imperfect.”

 


 

Photo courtesy of lxedit.com

Photo courtesy of lxedit.com

10) Cat nap or snake nap?
Our final outrageous Asian superstition is one from Southeast Asia that warns you not to lie down after eating. Why? You will turn into a snake. That’s it. No explanation and no account of it ever happening, but this superstition still insists that you will literally turn into a snake. Japanese superstition says the same thing about lying down to nap after eating, but this time you turn into a cow, pig or elephant.

 

 

Feature image courtesy of www.pgeveryday.com

The Label Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story: Powerful Campaign Shines Light on Sweatshop Horrors

Earlier this year, we got a glimpse of the miniseries Sweatshop: Dead Cheap Fashion, where three Norwegian fashion bloggers were sent to Cambodia to live as sweatshop workers for a few days. It didn’t take long for the bloggers to be moved to tears over the horrifying treatment of the sweatshop workers.

But since many of us have not actually experienced the harsh conditions of a sweatshop factory, the advocacy group Canadian Fair Trade Network and ReThink Communications have created a powerful campaign called “The Label Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story.” The campaign aims to shine light on these atrocious conditions, get people talking and encourage everyone to shop more consciously.

How will the campaign achieve this consciousness? Well, we may not know what the inside of a sweatshop factory looks like, but we certainly know the finished product. As such, the campaign utilizes what we don’t ignore– the clothes we purchase.

Each photograph in the campaign shows an article of clothing, but it’s not the actual clothes that’s eye-catching. Instead, it’s the abnormally long clothing label attached on the inside. Instead of merely listing what the garment is made of, the label describes what someone had to endure to create that piece of clothing.

1

 

“100% cotton. Made in Cambodia by Behnly, 9 years old. He gets up at 5:00 am every morning to make his way to the garment factory where he works. It will be dark when he arrives and dark when he leaves. He dresses lightly because the temperature in the room he works reaches 30 degrees. The dust in the room fills his nose and mouth. He will make less than a dollar, for a day spent slowly suffocating. A mask would cost the company ten cents. The label doesn’t tell the whole story.

 

2

 

“100% cotton. Made in Bangladesh by Joya who left school at the age of 12 to help support her two brothers and newly widowed mother. Her father was killed when a fire ripped through the cotton factory where he works. She now works in the building across the street from the burned down factory. A constant reminder of the risk she takes every day. The label doesn’t tell the whole story.”

 

 

3

“Made in Sierra Leone by Tejan. The first few times he coughed up blood he hid it from his family. They couldn’t afford medical treatment and he couldn’t risk losing his long-time job at the cotton plantation. When he fell into a seizure one day it could no longer be ignored. The diagnosis was pesticide poisoning. The lack of proper protective clothing has left him with leukemia at the age of 34. He has two daughters. One of them starts work at the factory next year. The label doesn’t tell the whole story.”

 

According to Clean Clothes Campaign, despite the fact that Cambodia shipped over $4 billion worth of products to the US and Europe in 2012 alone, Cambodian garment workers currently earn only around $100 a month. That’s not even enough to cover the basic needs of a family.

As the labels prove, even worse than the unbelievably low salaries are the conditions of the factories and the treatment of the workers. Some companies use Duromine to suppress their workers’ appetite. Others enforce unthinkable hours of labor, have unsanitary working conditions, and simply create a hazardous environment for workers.

Find out how you can get involved.

 

All photos courtesy of The Canadian Fair Trade Network

Controversial K-pop Boyband Turns Out To Be A Thesis Project

Story by James S. Kim

When fans of K-pop boy group EXO recently heard about a non-Korean boy band debuting in Korea as “EXP,” they weren’t having it. Especially when they found out that this EXP group would be using the tagline “EXP Planet,” just one letter off from EXO’s “EXO Planet.”

The group was no joke. EXP’s Instagram claimed a week ago that the “first and only NYC-born K-pop band” would be dropping their new single, “LUV/WRONG,” on iTunes very soon. The boy band also announced that it would make its debut at the Columbia University MFA Thesis Show in NYC on April 26. Wait, what?

As it turns out, EXP is the product of a thesis project by a Columbia graduate student, Bora Kim, an interdisciplinary artist and sociologist from Seoul. Kim began the project, titled “I’m Making a Boy Band” (IMMABB), in October 2014 as an “ongoing collective experience, in-depth research, experimentation, filmmaking as well as business endeavor.”

EXP-2

The ideas had already been running through her mind since the success of PSY’s “Gangnam Style” back in 2012. Kim said she was interested in researching how K-pop had finally “made it” in the Western world.

“The Korean pop industry has always appropriated its concepts from the West, and also the West through Japan, until not, and the reverse was a shock for the Korean public,” Kim explains in an interview with Columbia University. “‘Idol Groups’ became national heroes and K-pop became part of a proud national identity. But there is a double standard at play here. … K-pop had been looked down upon until outsiders started to consume it and its related products as well.”

Kim found that K-pop exports were directly tied to an increase in profit for Korean IT products, such as mobile phones–in fact, she says the biggest beneficiaries of the Korean Wave are companies like Samsung and LG.

But why make a boy band?

“I was interested in K-pop and idol groups on this level initially as I was thinking about cultural flow, or the relationship of dominant culture and peripheral culture, and how that is interwoven with one’s identity or one’s national identity,” Kim says. “I wanted to see what would happen if I made American boys into K-pop performers, by teaching them how to sing in Korean and act like Korean boys, and complicate this flow/appropriation even more.”

“Complicating the flow” also meant exploring how masculinity is portrayed in boy groups.

“These boys are tailored to attract straight young females, originally,” Kim says. “but the presentation of their sexuality is very complicated. … For example, a young group of pretty boys with great skin start rapping in a hip-hop music video while wearing a lot of make-up. What does this mean? Who is the target audience? It is totally gender-bending and experimental, but, at the same time, it is very typical, mainstream K-pop.

“And the acceptance of this strangeness (in the eyes of Western audiences) started to happen when Korean economic prosperity reached a point where it was enough for the entertainment industry to produce high-quality pop culture products,” she adds. “Cultural barriers or mistranslation are overcome by the shiny framing/packaging of K-pop.”

EXP-3

Kim’s partners, Karin Kuroda and Samantha Shao, each brought their own expertise and perspectives to the project. Kuroda’s studies focused primarily on art criticism, photography, sculpture and fashion, while Shao studied arts administration and cultural theory at Maastricht University, Netherlands.

“The ‘I’m Making a Boy Band’ project aims to examine critical aspects of pop/business culture through the lens of an artist,” explains Kuroda, who first befriended Kim at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “By asking oneself what it means to assimilate or twist the rudimentary formula in K-pop ‘idol’ culture, this project highlights social issues on a global and personal level.”

Shao and Kim discussed the differences between Asian pop culture–particularly Taiwanese and Korean–with American pop culture, as well as the connection between popular culture and fine arts.

“By changing the working process (of making ‘art’), we intend to re-think and re-define what it means to communicate with the art world and its audience,” Shao says. “Since the main characters of this work are people–not only band members, but also collaborators–we try to challenge ourselves by giving up authorship from time to time.”

Shao adds that she believes IMMABB focuses more on communicating with the audience throughout the process rather than the outcome of the band. The project “welcomes interactions, encourages questions and provokes confrontations.”

You can read more of Bora Kim’s interview with the Columbia University School of the Arts here. You can also follow EXP’s exploits at their Instagram, exp_theband.

 

All images courtesy of Columbia University School of the Arts
This story was originally published on iamkoream.com

 

Studio Ghibli Releases ‘When Marnie Was There’ U.S. Trailer

 

Late last year, Studio Ghibli released the long-awaited animated film, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. And if you thought you had to wait long before the next Studio Ghibli film, we have some exciting news. It’s just a little over a month before the release of Studio Ghibli’s latest feature animation, When Marnie Was There. Best part of all? You can now watch the official US trailer.

Based on the novel When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson, the story of twelve-year-old Anna comes to life in this animated feature. The protagonist, Anna, believes she’s an outcast from the “invisible magic circle” where most people belong, and shuts herself from those around her. During one summer Anna is sent away from her foster home to a town by the sea in Hokkaido.

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Whilst playing among the marshes by the town, Anna finds herself strangely drawn to an enigmatic house along the edge. Inside the house, Anna finds Marnie, an energetic young girl who seems to appear from nowhere, and the two become inseparable. Anna quickly discovers there’s more to Marnie than what meets the eye.

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Many are anticipating Studio Ghibli’s plans following the release of When Marnie Was There. On top of Hayao Miyazaki’s recent retirement after releasing The Wind Rises, there’s speculation that this may be Studio Ghibli’s last film considering there are no other films in production. Say it isn’t so, Ghibli! We hope to see only more imaginative animation from the powerhouse studios.

 

When Marnie Was There hits U.S. theaters on May 22nd.