Sorry Mom, you had your day. Now it’s Dad’s turn. After years of moving you in college apartments and taking you out to fancy dinners after weeks of ramen, there’s no one who deserves a holiday more than your dad. The best way to celebrate it? A luxury…
The first time I came across a Susan Alexandra bag, I did a double take. I hadn’t seen it before, but I recognized it: A purse encrusted with thoughtfully chosen colorful pastel stripes, like a disco ball-turned-box. They looked uncannily similar to those tissue-box covers that my Chinese grandma used to make from her glass coffee table that I ate fried rice cakes off of when I went to visit her in Shanghai.
My grandma wasn’t limited to just Kleenex boxes (which we displayed on top of our piano at home). She would send me and my brother all kinds of beaded characters: a palm-sized sneaker with a slightly wonky swoosh on the side, a keychain of a bootleg Hello Kitty, and intricate beaded lanterns to hang on our door handles. Our home in Indiana was filled with her work. But she never made a beaded bag because the available patterns were for knick knacks and toys — things to display, and not to take outside. For her, making these beaded trinkets was a way to pass the time with her friends, who were also in the business of giving away fun, sparkly gifts. It was their version of knitting, a hobby for restless hands.
But if Asian aunties like my grandma made them first, its recent renaissance is entirely owed to Asian-American aunties.
Susan Alexandra didn’t have a grandma who beaded, but she wasn’t immune to the lure of the craft. One day, while walking through Chinatown, she came across a closet-sized storefront that stopped her in her tracks.
“I was so transfixed. It was this tiny tiny room just packed with little creatures made out of beads. There were Spongebobs and Hello Kittys, and I just had this idea that I wanted to make something, too,” Susan told me over the phone. At the time, Susan was making hand-painted jewelry, but she instinctively and immediately thought of bags at the sight of the beads. The shopowner, Lisa Deng, explained to Susan that she hadn’t yet had the chance to make purses, and Susan commissioned a watermelon bag from her.
One week later, the watermelon bag emerged ripe and ready, no grocery store tapping necessary. Susan made more, which became immediate hits; they all sold within a few days. Today, Lisa is now the head of production for Susan Alexandra, and, as the business grew, she led the charge in employing 35 more Chinese women to manufacture the bags. The bags aren’t easy to construct, and one bag takes at least one day to complete. So for these women, a flexible work schedule is paramount. “Most of them have children, so they all need to work from home,” Susan explains. The bags quickly became cult favorites, and were featured in every major fashion publication. This past summer, the bags became stocked at more than 30 stores around the world, and quickly outgrew what Lisa’s production team could handle.
Enter: Syeda Sonda, a Bangladeshi woman who moved to New York City with her husband in 2015. Growing up in Bangladesh, a neighbor taught Syeda how to make these beaded bags, as well as extravagant plastic-beaded chandeliers. Susan found Syeda’s resume online on career site Maker’s Row this past summer in an effort to keep things local. As Susan’s second production head, Syeda leads a team of 40 Bangladeshi women based in Queens.
“When I first moved to New York City, I didn’t know anyone except my husband and his friends, but now through making these bags, I’ve made my own friends,” Syeda explained to me in Susan’s Chinatown studio. “We’ll video chat each other if we’re up working late or run into any problems while beading. We’ve built a community. We’ll have large dinner parties and celebrate the Bengali New Year together. Now through word of mouth, other mothers also want to contribute to the business.”
Both Syeda and Lisa give their input on how the designs should be, what new techniques and beads they’ve discovered, and what the new colorways could work well. They work alongside Susan Alexandria to push the limits of the craft now that the originals have created a ripple effect across the world. Today, you can find fashion-forward beaded handbags as part of designer collections around the world, from Lisa Folawiyo in Nigeria to Truss in Mexico to Shrimps from the UK. You can even find them on Asian e-commerce sites Alibaba, AliExpress, and Lazada, alongside Kleenex boxes, demented Sanrio characters, and rainbow chandeliers
My grandma might have beaded as a hobby, but now it’s a craft that is garnering the attention of fashion obsessives worldwide. When I show my grandma pictures of these bags, she thinks it’s hilarious that they’re so coveted. The last time I went home, I found a purple crystal bauble and brought it back to my New York City apartment to hang in my living room, where I also keep my Susan Alexandra bag. Side by side, they remind me of all my homes, and the physical and cultural journeys that I, Lisa, Syeda, and other diaspora women like us make in our lives. It feels good to know that something as small as beaded crafts have this kind of staying power, and sparks this kind of happiness.
In #NotYourTokenAsian, we take on the pop products, stereotypes, and culture wars that surround Asian-American identity. Follow along as we celebrate our multiplicity during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
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Milton Worker Bee lived with his family in a ground colony. They could not build their colony up high because there were no big trees or mountains where they lived. So they dug a tunnel underground to protect them from animals and humans.
This was Milton’s first year to work among the worker bees, and he was excited to go after pollen so he could help make honey to feed the new baby larvae. He had heard stories of how his father and uncles had almost been smashed or captured by humans.
Milton was curious about humans, but his mother—the queen—had warned him to stay away from them. She warned all of her children about the dangers of leaving the colony so they would be ready to do their work and help the colony survive.
Today was going to be Milton’s first day outside the colony. He was ready! He was excited! He was determined to help his colony get all of the pollen he could find.
When it was light enough to see everything around him, Milton got in line with the other worker bees. The sun warmed the ground above him. It gave him a good feeling—of happiness and energy.
The worker bees started moving toward the opening of the colony’s underground home. Milton knew everyone wanted to get out, so they could search for flowers, find pollen and bring it back to make honey to feed the little ones. He fluttered his wings in excitement. The sound of his moving wings made a buzzing sound. As everyone started fluttering their wings, the noise became very loud. But it was a good noise that helped Milton know how excited everyone was to get to work.
Finally, Milton was at the front of the line and he was ready to leave—but only so that he could return with pollen. He stood on the edge of the opening for only a moment. But at that moment, he saw a large patch of bare ground all around the opening. The bare spot helped them spot enemies who would hurt them before they could get too close.
Milton started moving his wings in larger circles. His body started lifting off the ground. “Yippie!” Milton cried. He was really flying. He could not fly fast enough to catch up with the others, but he knew where they were going. They were all going where flowers grew on trees, on the sides of hills and on bushes and other green plants.
Suddenly, Milton saw hundreds of beautiful colors among the trees and all along the grass and bushes. He saw all his bee cousins landing on colorful flowers and there were almost as many bees as there were flowers. Milton flew over trees and between bushes. He flew past wide patches of dirt that stretched from one end of the world to the other, with strange things moving along them and humans inside of them. Those strange things moved faster than Milton could fly and they made much more noise than all of the bees in his colony. But those strange things could only move on the ground and could not fly over trees and across the sky like Milton.
He saw many flowers below him in the grass and on bushes. He flew low to the ground and landed on flowers that looked like no bees had ever landed on before. He landed on one and rolled his body all over the pollen in the middle of the flower. He laughed and giggled and hummed as he rolled in the pollen. It made him feel happy to be working for his family.
Then Milton flew to another flower and did the same thing. He flew to as many flowers as he could and every time he rolled in the pollen, he laughed and giggled. But each time, he became heavier with pollen so that he could barely fly.
Now Milton decided to fly back to his colony with all of the pollen he had collected on his body. But he was heavy and could not fly high or fast. He suddenly realized he did not know where his colony was or which way to go to return home. He had to fly close to the ground because he was so heavy and everything looked different from the ground.
Milton stopped to rest on a bush. There were flowers on the bush, but Milton did not try to take more pollen from them. He was already too heavy. He looked around for other bees to ask them how to get home.
But Milton did not see any other bees.
He tried to call out help, but no one came to help him get back home.
Finally, Milton started to fly again, but he could not fly for long because he was so heavy and tired. Even though he had been told never to land on the grass, he had no choice. He was tired and there were no trees or bushes or other plants near him.
Milton tried to walk, but the grass kept wiping the pollen off his body. He did not want to lose his pollen. His family needed it for the young larvae so they could eat. Milton did not know what to do to get home again. But he did not want to stay out by himself.
After walking in the grass for a while, Milton got some of his strength back and he did not feel so heavy anymore. So he flew into the air again. He knew he would have to fly high so he could find his home, but he was still very tired.
After a few minutes of flying and looking for other bees, Milton heard a soft voice calling his name. He saw two of his cousins from the colony.
Milton smiled. He was saved! He caught up with his cousins and they led him back home. Milton landed on the bare ground outside his home and walked back inside the tunnels. He had lost so much pollen that now he looked like he had as much pollen as the others.
Even though he tried to get more pollen than all the others, Milton discovered he could only do so much. He decided to work smarter tomorrow instead of trying to gather more than the others. He wanted his work for the colony to be as good as the others so everyone would have what they needed.
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If you’re in search of a meaningful tattoo design that makes the pain worthwhile, we’ve got just the one: a coordinate tattoo. A quick scroll through Instagram will tell you that coordinates are the tattoo trend your best friend, aunt, and college roommate’s ex all want — or already have. Why? It checks all the boxes: It’s trendy, it’s delicate, and it tugs at your heart strings
While the coordinates can represent a number of different things, most people get the longitude and latitude of their happy place (like hometowns and colleges) or specific coordinates to commemorate a life-changing trip. It’s sentimental without being too cheesy, it’s minimal without being basic, and it’s a customized tattoo no matter which artist you go to.
Since the coordinates are unique to you and your place of choice, you don’t need to take in as much photo inspiration as you would for your zodiac rising tattoo. With one quick Google search, you should be able to find the exact coordinates you’re looking for. Still, there are a few things to consider — like the font, size, and placement — which you can find the answers to, ahead.
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You can go the gift registry route, the honeymoon registry route, or the good ole cash in an envelope route. The latter is increasingly popular, but is there an agreed upon right amount to give? (Generous enough so that you’re not cheaping out, but reasonable enough so you can still pay off your credit card at the end of the month, ideally?)
Though it certainly varies person to person, according to this NerdWallet study, millennials in 2018 set aside an average budget of $151 for a good friend’s wedding gift. And of those polled, most said they’d shell out more than their budget for a very close friend. When we asked our readers, most of them shared this credo.
But what if you’re in the wedding party? Or what if the bride gave you less for your wedding last year? Ahead, read what 15 millennial women had to say when we asked: What’s the appropriate amount of cash to give for a wedding gift?
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Ever since we were first introduced to Sophie Turner a decade ago as Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones, the actress has only ever experimented with her hair color — never the style. Now, it looks like she’s not only moving on to her next project post- GoT, but moving on with her beauty look as well: While doing press in London for her upcoming X-Men movie Dark Phoenix, Turner tossed out her signature long, low-maintenance hair for a new set of bangs. Because what better way to say goodbye to a character you’ve played for nearly half your life than getting bangs?
Choosing the right perfume is one of the more intimate details of planning a wedding. Sure, it can’t be captured in an Instagram Story the way your first dance or the lace accents on your dress will be, but it’s the soft touch of musk that will linger …