Introduction        I. Perfume Study        II. Garment Exploration        III. Community Building        Video Presentation



a multi-medium project by Randall Wong Gee Studio
“Pursuing a journey of cultural reclamation, I am studying the ways 
in which western assimilation has impacted my lineage of the past — 
ultimately choosing to heal my heritage and uplift our communal legacy into the future.”


    Within Asian-American circles, it’s common to hear the term “ABC” (American born Chinese) but I arugue that there is an even more niche subgroup that is just as applicable — California born Chinese.
    California born Chinese speaks to the large Chinese diaspora that immigrated to the west coast; and the phrase resonates with me as someone whose parents both were raised in the San Francisco bay area.
    Grandmum (my father’s mother) was born in Berkeley, California and has lived most of her life there. Pau Pau (my mother’s mother) was born in a small village in the Providence of Guangzhou and immigrated to San Francisco in her twenties. My parents grew up in the respective cities that their parents has settled in. When my parents married and wanted to start a family they looked close to home, eventually settling in the suburbs of the east bay.
    The small suburb where I grew up was not reflective of the greater bay area which consists of a large Asian-American community. Despite being surrounded by kids that didn’t look like me, I never thought about the difference between my white peers and I. It wasn’t until I became older did I realize the implications of growing up in a predominantly white community.
    It’s hard for me to admit now, but there were times during my childhood when I felt embarassed of my cultural heritage. Whether it be complaining about visiting Pau Pau because I thought her apartment “smelled funny” or avoiding befriending other Chinese kids because I felt “different from them,” I’m painfully reminded of moments where I chose to distance myself from my Chinese identity. My hometown taught me that whiteness was rewarded and therefore those in proximity could reap whatever benefits came by association. Assimilation was the game of my adolescence and I became its pawn — laughing at the jokes that made me feel uncomfortable and constantly contorting myself to convince the white kids that I was just like them. While I’ve grown older, I’ve come to celebrate my identity as a Chinese-American person. Reflecting on times of self-loathing, I grant myself grace knowing that my efforts in distancing myself from my cultural identity were symptoms of an unhealthy environment. Learning more of my familial history has led me to understand that my experiences are rooted in systems much larger than me.
    I’ve learned more about my family while researching this project than I have in the past twenty-two years of my life. The more I learned, the more curious I become. I started to realize that the loss of cultural identity was a reality that many of my family members have experienced. While it’s comforting to know that I am not alone in my feelings, I can’t help but feel sad knowing that they have experienced these painful moments too.
    From Pau Pau teaching her children English as their first language, to the strategic school placement that started with my Grandmum’s parents and continued in practice to me — my family has always taken actions to create opportunities for their family.

“ But what is the cost of assimilation and 
how can the consequences reverberate 
through generational trauma? ”

“Pursuing a journey of cultural reclamation, 
I am studying the ways in which western assimilation
has impacted my lineage of the past — 
ultimately choosing to heal my heritage and 
uplift our communal legacy into the future.”

I. Reframing Ancestral Struggle
- understanding and reclaiming generational trauma

II. Transforming Cultural Narratives
- experimenting with traditional garments
- exploring traditional craft and cultural traditions

III. Building Community Systems
- building a cross-cultural sense of community

I. Reframing Ancestral Struggle: 

Perfume Study

One may think, why create a perfume? 

While perfumery is seemingly frivolous, it actually provides an insightful perspective on the complex relationship between the east and west.

    While there are underlying narratives of creating a perfume inspired by Chinese ingredients (i.e. spices, silk trade,  migration patterns etc.), my inspiration can actually be found in the nostalgic aroma that ruminated in Pau Pau’s apartment.

   It may be hard to believe, but scent has been the root of conflict and violence for centuries, even dating back to wars that were fought over the trade of precious aromatics. These days, scent has proven to be rooted in more interpersonal conflict. It’s the upturning of the nose when you open your lunch box or the snide remarks about why a certain group smells “that way” –– whether sources may be the food that we eat or the products that we put on our bodies,  ethnic peoples have always been told how they should and should not smell.

“Filbert Street” is the nostalgia of stepping into my Pau Pau’s home during lunar new year; acrid smoke from incense, the zest from peeled mandarins at the alter, and the fragrant spices emanating from traditional dishes.
I was inspired create a perfume that captured the memories that I hold so dear, and in turn reclaim my relationship with the scent of traditional Chinese ingredients.

Top notes –– light citrus
mandarin, lychee, bergamot

Middle notes –– warm, spicy
blood orange, sichuan peppercorn, clove

Base notes –– woody, earthy 
agarwood, sandalwood, benzoin

Bottle Design
    The bottle is designed to imitate a traditional Chinese “chop” which is used to imprint a family ensignia on official documents.

    Inspired by traditional Chinese perfume bottles, the outer casing is made entirely of carved jade. The jade exterior houses a perfume bottle which can be replenished. I wanted to create a bottle that was a collector’s item in itself, an object of heritage that could become a family heirloom.
initial sketches for bottle designs
stone carved chop, by Vincent Chong
traditional Chinese perfume bottle with jade top
example of chop and its ensignia, by Vincent Chong

3d printed prototype
fit test for the 3d printed exterior
created a silicone mold from the prototype
used clay to create a mock