BY HONG VAN
Walking through downtown Seattle, or any neighborhood at that, it wouldn’t be surprising to see someone wearing a Sean Jean or Rocawear shirt.
For James Chan, Elmer Dela Cruz, Jovi Legaspi and Jim Leung, the lack of diversity in the streetwear market didn’t satisfy them, and they wanted to do something about it.
The four partners, two of which are Chinese and two of Filipino descent, found a niche that needed to be filled — streetwear for the young Asian American market. They launched Soy Clothing in 2001.
“[What was available] related more towards a black market,” said Legaspi, marketing manager of Soy Clothing. “We wanted to wear stuff that’s more unique.”
With the ever-growing presence of Asian Americans within the hip-hop community, some of Soy’s designs fused Asian culture with hip-hop culture.
What they try to do with their products is “reflect the many segments of the urban/street culture for today’s youth: music, dance, sport and heritage.”
“We’re influenced by everything, food, sports, [etc.],” said Legaspi about the concepts of the designs.
One of Legaspi’s favorite shirt designs, which the company no longer carries, is of Korean leader Kim Jung-Il with the word “illen” next to him. He laughs as he says “illen” because the word plays off of the Korean leader’s name, who Legaspi says, “is a bad guy.”
Even the company’s name is an ode to the Asian culture. Soy is a staple ingredient universal to different Asian cultures and is something the company feels that Asian Americans can relate to.
“We’re trying to tie everything together,” said Jim Leung, business development/sales manager for Soy. “Soy represents everything.”
Now that Soy has expanded into other non-Asian markets, there has been some confusion about the company name and designs.
“We get mixed responses (about our name),” Leung said. “When we talk to [people in the] mainstream, they ask if the clothes are made out of Soy.”
(And just in case you’re wondering, the answer is no.)
Legaspi says that Soy Clothing can be found at independent retailers up and down the West Coast. He adds that the highest volumes of their products are being sold in California and that they’re “selling very well in San Francisco.”
Their clothing can even be found all the way in Tokyo, Japan.
Locally, their products can be found at local retailers, such as Reputation in Wallingford and Sweatshop on Capital Hill.
Soy Clothing is also available at three Macy’s locations; downtown, Westfield Shopping Center (Southcenter) and the Tacoma Mall.
Currently, Soy is working on new designs and although Legaspi doesn’t want to reveal secrets on what they’re working on, he hinted that they’ll continue working within the street culture and put out a line of custom sneakers. www.soyclothing.com.