This NYC Clothing Brand is Fighting Against Asian American Hate During COVID-19

October 01, 2020

Photo: APAC

The founder wishes to remain anonymous and is speaking on behalf of the brand.

COVID-19 has struck many communities and given rise to much more noticeable racism around the United States — among it, the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.

Notably called sinophobia, the rise in hate crimes (such as the burning of the 89-year-old Cantonese woman in Brooklyn) left many Asian Americans fearing for their lives. 

APAC Apparel, an up-and-coming clothing brand, has decided to bring Asian American communities together through the power of clothing. Based in New York, APAC Apparel tells the story of Asian American pride and celebration. The apparel focuses on the stories Asian Americans experience through childhood —  not feeling good enough, feeling like an outlier, being bullied for being Asian, etc. — and seeks to empower Asian Americans through their statement clothing.

“We feel that clothing was a good avenue just because what people wear is an expression of what they believe in and what they think about,” says APAC, “The sort of ideas and morals that they stand for.” While the members came up with the idea at the start of quarantine, the company itself only launched a couple of weeks ago. The brand has a New York-style streetwear vibe, donning themselves with hoodies and shirts with clear messages: “Join the Movement” and “Join the Pack.”

Earlier this year around late March, President Trump called COVID-19 (also known as Sars-CoV-2) the “Chinese virus.” More than 2,100 anti-Asian American hate incidents related to COVID-19 were reported across the country over a three-month time span between March and June, according to CBS News.

One of the more prominent anti-Asian hate crimes that have surfaced occurred on July 14, when an 89-year-old Cantonese woman was set on fire in Brooklyn, New York. China Mac, a Chinese American rapper, entertainer and activist, organized a rally to march against this hate. 

Marchers began at Seth Low Park in Brooklyn and trekked up to the 62nd Precinct. “We’re glad to see the Asian community band together and fight against that,” says APAC.

Even though APAC’s website asserts they stand for empowerment and celebration, there have been a few skeptical onlookers. Some have maintained that the clothing brand is using COVID-19 as a marketing ploy to make more money. 

“Now is the best time [to launch] because of all the racist things that we’ve been seeing,” the brand posits. “Now we need this pride. We need this connection. We need this community now more than ever.

Historically, Asian Americans were hardly seen on screen. If an Asian American or a person of Asian descent appeared on screen, they would likely be playing the nerdy scholar or be pushed around to get a few cheap laughs from the audience (see Breakfast at Tiffany’s Mr. Yunioshi, “Ancient One” in 2016’s Doctor Strange).

“When you’re seeing that stuff constantly — day in and day out — I think it sets that mindset that they don’t want to be that person,” says the founder of APAC, who wished to stay anonymous. “[Asian Americans] stray away from their culture as a defence mechanism.”

Having gone through a similar phase himself, he dishes out advice for those who are lost: “A lot of that shame comes internally as they see this and they don’t want to be that. What are some things that they are ashamed about,” he says. “And oftentimes, it has nothing to do with their race or ethnicity. I would encourage people to accept their culture and learn about it. There’s a lot of beauty in every culture so a lot of it feels like a lack of embracing that.”

The branding and mission statement for APAC hits close to home for the company’s founder, which is why the brand adds a personal touch to every shipment. For all of their orders to date, APAC has been writing handwritten notes to thank the customers for their support. 

“We’ve received a pretty good reception from that. The people who purchase from us are people who resonate with the brand and our messaging.”

Currently, the brand is looking for models. “Our DMs are super open,” the brand announces. “I would venture anyone who is in modeling and who sort of vibes with that brand to reach out to us.”

Looking towards the future, APAC will be releasing new styles of hoodies, some zip ups, some beanies and sweatpants “to fall in line with the changing weather.”

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