July 9, 2012


A stormy day in a temple in Nara, where the ancient capital of japan was located at, squirrel was standing with her arms crossing and staring at a series of Buddha statues very carefully and thinking of her own collection.  Fashion and Buddha statues.  It looks like there's no connection between them but she was definitely feeling that the old statues from ancient japan were telling her something very important about what she had to do.

And Caveman and squirrel don't know at this point who they will run into later this day...
you guys wanna know who we met???  You will be literally blown away if you know who we met!!

Hey guys, it's squirrel.

So, right now, You must come up with this question,  "Japan??  Are you guys not in San Francisco?"    nope!  Caveman and squirrel are everywhere.   We are worldwide and world famous caveman and squirrel.

We visited in Japan from the late April to the early May.
During caveman and squirrel's stay in japan, my mom planned a short trip to Nara and Kyoto.

Nara and Kyoto are old capitals of japan .  There are still a lot of temples and shrines remain in there since 5th century or so. I was believing that my mom and my aunties would come with us but the trip was planned only for caveman and me.  It was actually a gift from my mom.   Caveman and I had (have) been so busy that we didn't have time to have a honeymoon so my mom gave us a honeymoon trip as a gift.  My mom always spoils me like this.

Anyways,  Caveman and the spoiled daughter, squirrel visited the beautiful ancient capitals.  The trip was way beyond awesome.   Caveman and I were especially impressed by the old Buddha statues.   You might think Buddha statues look all the same.  (Don't worry, I was actually one of you guys.) but they do not.   What I found during this trip was that it is just so fun to know the deep and unique back ground stories each Buddha statue has.   Once we start researching one of those statues in there,  the researches would be extended to the histories and Buddhisms  in China and Korea,  and sometimes we even have to extend the research to the ancient myth in India.  And again, each of the statues has different stories and there are tons of more statues in there, which means the research would never end.   Eventually they made me feel like we had to live in there for a while to understand them more.  Obviously a short stay like for only  a couple of days was way too short.  

Fortunately we could see an amazing tour guide who speaks English at Horyuji temple where we visited very first in the trip.  He does this guide job as a volunteer.  His knowledge was so profound and his explanation was very easy to understand for the people like us ( like "don't know anything about Buddhism, even basics")  I can tell he really loves the history in this area and enjoying his volunteering job after his retirement.   It just made me happy to see the guy with thick books in his hand telling us lots of details because obviously he looked he loved what he was doing.  I couldn't help saying we were so lucky that we could see him because, after we said good bye to him and walked around the other temples, we noticed that it became so easy to understand and figure out which Buddha statue was who......like,  "oh, he's 'Asura'! he used to be an enemy of Buddha, right?" or "hey, he's' Maitreya'!  He's training to be the next Buddha, right?"    The Buddha statues suddenly started telling us their stories vigorously! 

1. what the old statues told the squirrel.
However I should avoid just listing up those knowledge I got from him here.
That would make this post a lil too long and boring but let me tell you about this special series of statues and my most favorite ones, which are The 12 divine generals in Kofukuji temple. 
They are the guardians of the Buddha of healing and medicine.

Can you see their face expressions?


Let's get a lil closer...

Besides these cartoony, bold and round forms and humorous face expressions, what made me impressed the most was each of the statues is very strong but still twelve statues make one harmony all together, which reminded me of the definition of "collection" in fashion design.  

When I was a fashion design student squirrel,  our design teachers always told us how "a collection"  had to be.  Each of the outfits in a collection has to have a strong statement like these statues do but  they also have to express whole one concept and end up in having an impact with all together,..just like these 12 divine gods.  You know what I mean??

 I am still planning to create 2 more outfits for my st. caveman collection and hope my st. caveman collection will come out like this series of statues...these 12 statues are, for me, nothing but a solid, dense and tight tiny collection created by a carver in 12th century!

2. encounter
Caveman and squirrel moved to the next section.   
They have no idea what they will encounter next at this moment...

"The eight watchmen...hmmm...There should be the famous statue in this section, I remember.
There he is.  'Asura'.  He used to be the enemy of Buddha but Buddha turned him into a good guy!"  

We remembered what the guide guy told us.

ファイル:ASURA Kohfukuji.jpg

 This asura guy is really popular and famous because of his cute face like an innocent boy with the strange form which is a lil creepy unlike his cute face(s). how delicate the beauty this statue has!
We went forward..."Asura",  "Gandharva", "Mahoraga"....and when I saw a statue standing all the way back, I couldn't believe my eyes.   There he was. 

The chicken guy!!!

Do you guys remember the chicken ghost story I wrote in this blog?
check this out if you haven't read it.
click here. → ghosts

This is him.

I couldn't believe I could see him again here.  He looked exactly same as the guys I met in our bedroom.  For those of my friends who got creeped out with my ghost story, I would analyse him that he might be a visualized image of collective unconscious by Jung or something.  (whatever.)

Caveman was so impressed by the statues and bought a book written about this temple even though it was written in Japanese.  So I immediately looked up about this chicken guy.  I found out his name was "Karura" in Japanese ("Garuda" in English or Sanskrit) and the book said he had a chicken head and human body but most of the books I read later describe he must be a kind of falcon. He used to be a god in Indian myth and eventually the Buddhism started to spread out and the gods in Indian myth are involved in Buddhism and he was one of them.  He became one of the eight watchmen on that process.

The funny thing was that the book said "it is said that his favorite food is Dragon."   What was funny about it was just the way the book describes it was so casual like "it is said that caveman's favorite food is pizza."  Let me think about it....finding dragon is so hard.... right??  (correct me if I am wrong but we believe that they exist in legends, right?)  It must be a kind of surprising if we run into a dragon and moreover, he actually even "eats" dragons as his staple food.  (How many dragons out there?)   I also started imagining the view of him eating dragon...the view must be "holy cow ( i mean, holy chicken!)".   but anyway, something like this.  It is so fun to check out the back ground each statue has... reading the adventures this chicken guy had in Indian myth were just so fun to read... According to those stories of his adventures, it looks like He was (and probably is) quite a cool guy.  Like this Karura, each of these statues have this kind of interesting and fun stories on their back grounds and Nara must be the perfect place to enjoy those stories...

In Nara, we can see a lot of statues which were made in around 5th and 6th century and my mom analyses that the reason why we feel some kind of primitive warm feeling in there is because we can actually get close to those ancient japan through the old statues.  Although the statues I mentioned above were all from around 12th century, I see the simplicity in ancient Nara combined with the aethstetic "simplicity and sturdiness (shitsujitsu-gouken in Japanese)" which people established in 12th century and the statues got more life-like (even humorous.) taking over the simplicity which old statues already had.

3. "very interesting" bus tour
It was still raining hard outside so we finally gave up visiting other temples in Nara and just decided to move to Kyoto which is less than 1 hour away by express from Nara.  

My mom's plan for us in Kyoto was really, really funny...She put us into a bus tour.  I don't know if you guys also had the classic bus tour style which have a tour guide in an uniform with a flag in her hand back in 60's or 70's.  We still have those bus tours in japan.  Although it got more sophisticated and modernized, it was still so funny for me to take participate in that kind of bus tour.  Caveman was even horrified because he was the only American (and also a caveman!!) in the tour...He was worried if people made fun of him with the eyes like "what is this caveman doing here??".   I just kept encouraging him like "come on! it's old-school! we love old-school all the time, don't we??"  The tour was awesome.  The young lady who guided us was very professional and kind.  The only problem was the day was the day  Golden Week (early May holiday season in japan) started. So there were so many people everywhere like this picture...

 How could we enjoy "wabi-sabi" in this situation?  We couldn't get out from these crowds in Kyoto because of this holiday season.  No matter how hard we tried to feel a quiet moment in the old temple, a loud voice with a western accent from a lady who dressed like a cheesy 80's look saying "wow! is this the thing called wabi sabi??" was almost like chasing us and ruined everything.  So I just gave up.  Fuck wabi sabi.  Whatever.   The thing that made the situation worse was that it was the boundary for caveman to start missing "American life".  It was too much "ancient japan" stuff going on at once in a couple of days.  It was time to miss pizza, fried chicken and hamburgers for him.  So we decided to be just laid-back.  We were the most laziest tourists in the bus tour, I guess.

At the last spot we visited, which you guys can see in the picture above, we were just tired and went back to the bus a lil earlier than the other tourists and just sit back in the seats and waiting in the quiet and empty bus.  I was watching the view from the window and noticed the mountains were always in my view all the time in this Kyoto trip. I looked up the sky over the mountains. It wasn't raining any more but some gray rain clouds were still remaining in the blue sky and I was thinking. There's no such thing called wabi sabi we can feel any more, (you can try but I assure you that a lady with an annoying high toned voice would come up to you and ruin your effort.) . There are a lot of tourists like caveman and squirrel, who are a lil too laid back and aren't very enthusiastic everywhere. The old ancient capital became just a sightseeing place. People who come here might expect some divine thing in there but there's no such thing exists any more. it is actually empty... I was just tired and squinting my eyes to try to look at the beautiful mountains and wondering how quiet the tops of the mountains were. The mountains just sit over there and looked like they care nothing about what was going on down here...even from ancient history.  I was just keep looking at the trees on the top of the mountains as if I am absorbed in the quietness there and somehow I felt like I could still see some kind of super power spinning slowly and deliberately in the sky right above those mountains.  Was it just my imagination?

epilogue: sanctuary

When I was still living in Japan, I kinda liked to watch TV shows which told us a lot of scary ghost stories. I was always scared of watching those stuff but my curiosity always beat my fear and I just watched it. 
In one of those TV shows, there was a guy who insisted he could see spirits which people cant see.  (of course, that is what the show all about.)  So the TV show planned a trip to go to a "spiritual spot" with him. It was a deep inside of a mountain in japan and they reached some kind of a secret sacred lake or something. Then he started saying, " hey, I can see a dragon god is spinning above the lake!!" Obviously it was a scam. I was drinking beer (as usual)watching the show and just laughing like "oh man, this guy's brain is fucked up...a dragon??? the creature like that is living only in a legend or something." but I had to admit that the other side of me kinda wanted to believe him for some reason. (that is the reason why this kind of TV show can get high rating, right?)

If there is a super power a creature like a dragon emerges still protecting the nature, how cool is it? Unfortunately we never believe those stuff any more. We just believe what we see. especially we "saw" A LOT last year in japan.

But the view of the mountains surrounding this old capital, I saw from the window of the tour bus, somehow, made me feel like there must be "something" which doesn't really care if we believe or not (because they are "super") and it is still spinning rising above us.

And that's how it went in this caveman and squirrel's ancient capital trip....Maybe it was just my imagination but I felt like this...

"the sanctuary is still there."


June 18, 2012

on the road

Hey guys,
It's squirrel. :oB

Damn, it's been long time since the last post, which means I have so much stuff to share with you.  Where should I start??
I finished 2 new jackets and had a photo shoot for the new ones including those embroidered items (you don't know what I am talking about? well why don't you check out the previous post! ) and then went to japan from late April to early May and met cool guys from leather sewing/dying factories.  They provided me a tremendous inspiration.  I definitely gotta talk about this to you but it would be a long story and I still have to fix the sleeves of my bomber jacket tonite, so for tonight, I should just tell you a kind of good short story of my husband, Caveman. 

"How did the Caveman come to California?"

It was 16 years ago.  Caveman was standing on the muddy alley staring at young hippie guys getting in an old bus which traveled from east coast to the west coast.   Its old engine was humming and about to hit the road.      Caveman was mad.  What was caveman mad about?  I don't really know.  Even the caveman must haven't known why.  He was just mad with no reason or maybe this young caveman was just bored.  He starts walking towards the bus and got in.  he does quick greetings to the hippie dudes and sits back on the back seat.   Then the bus starts moving slowly on the muddy alley and it gets faster and faster.
He never looked back.  He just sat back watching the passing view and that was it.  That's how caveman said good bye to his hometown and came to san francisco.

He's been here for 16 years straight since then.   I wonder what he was thinking when the landscape of his hometown greensboro passing the window of the bus and his story reminded me of a story about a rooster which was living in the park nearby my parents' house long time ago.    The rooster showed up suddenly out of nowhere.  Nobody knew how he got there.  He made a  cook doodle doo noise in early morning like 4 am or 5 am as a decent rooster.  You guys must think neighbors tried to get rid of him but my parents and their neighbors, surprisingly, loved him even though he woke them up so early.  Maybe he brought them some kind of nostalgia of old country life in Japan or something.  He was living in the park and kept performing his duty as a rooster every  morning.   One day, My mom saw a construction truck was parking right close to the tree which the rooster was using as a nest (he built his bed on the tree to, maybe, avoid attacks from stray cats.).    Then she saw the rooster flew down to the bed of the truck.  Soon later the truck started moving quietly  with the rooster on its bed and that was it...everything happened in a moment quietly and that was the last time my mom saw the rooster.  Somehow he decided to hit the road again.  There was no reason.  I guess he just missed the smell of wind....or something... and nobody saw him since then.

This is the story of Caveman and the traveling rooster and the video I put below is the song for the story.  "head full of doubts and road full of promises" by avett brothers.  The title fits quite well on these stories, doesnt it?  enjoy.
--- squirrel :oB

January 8, 2012


So far, so good!  The patterns were done!  The embroidery samples looked cute!  The organic fabric I got was great!

I just needed to tell them where to embroider on the pants and the jacket and I didn't know this part would be the most pain in the ass part at this moment!!

Printing out st. caveman and his fellows....

What I had to do was to put the creatures on the patterns.  Each pants has front and back.  The jacket is more complicated..it has front and back, then side panels, collar and 2 pieces of sleeves. 

Laying out the characters and wiping them off and starting it over,  I repeated this routine like a hundred times.  sometimes I went back to my computer and even changed the colors and the sizes of the details.    A lot of researches of woven patterns helped me.  I was even checking embroideries on curtains I could see from a cab without noticing.  Brain storming!!

Once I could figure out the trick to make it look good, the rest went smooth.  It's always like this.  It takes long time to figure out the trick but once we figured it out, everything goes so smooth and quick.  It's hard at the beginning but we should not give up there.  Just keep struggling and getting some hints from everywhere and eventually we see the tinny light at the end of the tunnel and once we can see the light the exit is so close!  This is squirrel's wisdom. :oB

Anyway, this small fight with tiny creatures took me for a week...
In other words, I must have been experiencing the same feeling as the people who did that illuminated manuscript in the medieval era.  I was experiencing the "devotion" I sensed from their works...

(I know.  I hear you are saying mine is a lil more easier comparing with their works...but still check the pics down here!)

↓ I put the characters on the samples and check the position of the characters...

then lay them out on the patterns.

jacket pieces...

Piles of the patterns.

It was hell of a work. 

I sent out the patterns and fabric and waited for 2 weeks or so...then they sent me this picture to let me check if it was OK to go ahead.

These are all done by hand. 
This IS a real devotion. 

Sadly, in this capitalist modern life, the devotion must be for money...Still, we could call it the devotion for art but you know, we are the generation after Andy Warhol...we all know there's no such devotion motivated by one pure love.  But it is too sad to say it out loud here in the squirrel's blog, so let's just say this is a pure love to "PIZZA"!! 
St. caveman would definitely say that!

The trial embroidery looked great and I told them to go ahead. 
After 1 month or so,
One sunny Monday afternoon, I got a package from India.

In the package.... here you go!


They wrapped each pieces in this thin soft papers.  They even smelled foreign county smell! ha ha!  Both Caveman and I smiled and even laugh out loud when we saw the st. caveman through this thin paper.

The jacket back.

The next step is sending these embroidered parts of jacket and pants out to a seamstress who has 20 year experience.

The good thing is the sewing factory she is working at is close by the leather wholesale place where I always get leathers from.  So I took Muni train and Bart and walked down to the sewing factory.  This part is the best I like.  My works are done by the squirrel actually walking around in San Francisco. 

Waited for another 1 month...and these are what I got.

It is super duper wide but I carefully chose the interfacing so it has a crispy shape, which I wanted to get!

The rabbit pants with my new jacket!
The first outfit is finally done.

cute, huh?

 Even inside looks great! 

The jacket!

There was nothing but an idea first and I made it from the scratch.  No one knows if it goes well or fails. No guide book, of course.  And I got this result.  How cool this whole thing I am fascinated with is! 


January 7, 2012


So my cute brand label (click here for the article about my brand label) made me start thinking I wanted to make a fabric like a tapestry which has st. caveman and his fellows were woven in.  I needed to make a couple of a pair of pants to style with my leather jackets for my new collection.   Models cant walk runway with only leather jackets, you know.  It would be too "ooh la la", if they walk without any bottoms.  And I didn't wanna use the items which I didn't design. 
It would be cool to make those pants out of the original fabric I designed.  So I decided to make an original fabric with st. caveman woven in.

I started to google the weavers.  alibaba.com!  even though we have these convenient tools, they never work without a correct keyword.  I couldn't find anything I needed.  At that time I was still working for a local couture designer's place and the designer had done tons of fancy Indian embroidery stuff.  So I contacted the embroidery guy in India to ask for a help!  and thank god...the embroidery guy replied me and told me what I needed would be a "hand loom".  He didn't know any hand loom mills but still, knowing the correct keyword was a big step for the squirrel.  I went back to alibaba.com and started looking for the hand loom mill and easily could get one! 

However, man, there are so many hardships to get over once we decided to do something new and original.

The next hardship was a "minimum order". 

The minimum order was 1000 meters.  So I negotiated and reduced it to 250 meters....Still 250 meters of fabric are about enough for 125 pants.  It is way too many pants for the tiny lil squirrel brand.  But I really didn't wanna miss this chance....so what this squirrel did was to ask around people if there were someones who wanted to share the loom.  Fortunately this squirrel has a lot of cool artist friends and she could get more responses than she expected!!...but still, while I was calculating the shipping cost and custom stuff, I started being scared because too much money flows.  It was too risky and too complicated.  And I didn't wanna involve my friends in this risky situation.  Being too stubborn and sticking to our first ideas would provide nothing.  Could be even dangelous...but still it was too quick to give it up.  We don't really need to give it up as long as we prepare alternative plans... I remembered the hand loom person told me what I wanted to make might also work with embroidery...so I got back to the embroidery guy.  It is more safer because the minimum order is less than hand loom...Thus my plan B started....

Meanwhile my illuminated manuscript was getting done...This is the one.

But this pattern was too complicated to be embroidered.
So I made a lil more simple version and sent the image to them.

This is the first sample they did.

How cute!!

St. caveman looks great in the embroidery!

Acorn bug looks even cuter in the embroidery!

My best favorite part is this.  Hedgehog!  She came out very profound.  Looks like a dark star!! This reminded me of my favorite song which title is "dark star" by Grateful Dead.  "Daaark star crusshing...♪"

They told me if the background has a texture like twill, it will get more "woven" look.

So the squirrel ran to the organic fabric whole sale place in my town.
This is their website if you are interested...they have tons of cool organic fabric in reasonable price.  (10 yards minimum)


This is the one I got.

A beautiful hemp fabric with a beautiful texture and color.

The next step I had to do was finishing up the design of the pants I had been working on to send the patterns of those to the embroidery guys so they can mark on the fabric with my patterns for positioning where they should embroider.

I made two pants, and guess what?  I even made a jacket, too!  I was so excited these would be an awesome st. caveman suit!!

This is the sample.  I always make a sample in cheap canvas fabric.

As you can see, the jacket looked a lil too heavy so I made it shorter but still I didn't wanna make it too short considering when people wear it with jeans.  We the designers always gotta imagine various situations. 

Also made the pants a lil narrower and made the shape like a streamline shape to avoid to get a wasted part of the fabric.  The fabric is 60" width and when we cut pattern pieces out, we have to layout the pattern pieces effectively within the 60" width to keep  it low cost.   This is a very professional detail so it would be a lil hard to understand for you guys but  this pants were too wide and that could be the cause of providing a lot of wasted space on fabric.  So I had to reduce the pants width but still needed the pants to look super duper wide...reduced it lil by lil, and stopped at the point I think this is the most I could reduce to keep it look super wide!! 

you know, fashion designers always struggle in between their budgets and design ideas.  We gotta work effectively in those restrictions.  Being a fashion designer is like this.  Not fabulous as you guys think..... 

And at this moment, I didnt know the next step would be more pain in the ass!

oops, it is time to get back to work....I will tell you the rest of the story tomorrow nite!  

"Can the squirrel get over the hardships and get this projcet done?!"  
Wait until tomorrow!