Studio Visit: Joshu+Vela

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

STEPPING INTO Joshu+vela's studio is witnessing Noah Guy's meticulously crafted bags and accessories come to life... 

It's always fascinated me, discovering the actual process of ideas, collaboration, and artistry behind quality creations- the reality, in other words, of the hard work that goes into an independent business. 

What about Joshu+vela's products captured my attention? I think it was the leather clutch in nude and black that first won me over. Something in the elegant design, the lines and cut not unlike the quality of a Comme des Garçons convinced me. When I was home in San Francisco during spring break, I made sure to stop by their studio in the Mission District for a visit. Noah, owner and creative director of Joshu+vela kindly took me on a tour of the store, taking me beyond the beautiful wall of backpacks and totes, to the workspace in the back. I saw long strips of nude and caramel-hued leather material, the bright blue of equipment, brass and metal everywhere. And as I took photo after photo (no use resisting in a space like this) Noah told me a bit about himself, his inspirations and ambitions, how he got to where he is today.  

Read our conversation, below:  

Thanks again for having me in your studio, Noah! I loved getting to witness everything from the chosen materials, to the teamwork and overall process that goes into building your beautiful bags. 

What is a day in the studio typically like for your team? 

A usual day at the Tradeshop includes our sewers, Zhen and Ling, holding down the fort in the back of the shop. Taylor plans our production schedule and does all the riveting and leather cutting. Laura is our wholesale manager—she communicates with customers and makes sure everyone is happy. If I’m not running store operations, I’m probably designing a new bag or eating a burrito.

Growing up, were you surrounded by a creative family, or was creativity something you sought out yourself? 

I grew up in a pretty creative environment. My mom was always doing wood-fired pottery or oiled ceramics for fun. My dad was a director of cinematography for television commercials—he did the one in the late ‘80s for Cherry 7-Up with Matt LeBlanc in it. I didn’t really seek out a career in a creative field until a little later in my life, around my late twenties.

It sounds like your family has a great appreciation for the visual arts! Did you study something design-related in school? 

I didn’t go to school until I’d already designed and manufactured a bag while living and working in Thailand, which taught me that I basically knew nothing about design and business. At that time, the company was just called Joshu. After I came back to the States I studied apparel design in the formal sense.

Wow, I can only image that Thailand left you with a different perspective. How did the idea to make bags come about? 

I moved to Thailand in 2001 to begin manufacturing bags—there were a lot of resources for it there at the time. Honestly, I thought designing bags just seemed easier than designing clothes. At the onset, it wasn’t obvious it was the main thing I was going to do, but in the end it worked out.

What is your favorite part of the design process- and how do you turn an idea into reality? 

My favorite part is seeing all the various elements—from the design research to the materials sourcing to the patterning to the sewing—come together into a physical product. Ideas become real when you have the structure in place: you’re able to get your materials, own your own manufacturing tools and space, and you have an excellent team to help you get through the tough work. Time and patience are also crucial to working through manufacturing problems.

San Francisco is the base of your store- why did you choose the Mission District as the home of your store? Any favorite neighborhood places you visit in your off time? 

I chose the Mission because I think with the changes happening in San Francisco right now, this neighborhood is becoming the new center for the city. Outside of the Mission, I like going to Ocean Beach, Mount Tamalpais or Bolinas. If I have time, I’ll go camping in Point Reyes, Big Sur or Santa Cruz.

I’ve always deeply admired small businesses, and I know that owning your own independent store, especially in a city like San Francisco is no easy feat. Are there challenges of owning your own small business? How do you stay motivated and positive? 

The challenges are too many to name, and they come in all types. Right now the biggest challenge is making sure our new Tradeshop meets city building regulations, which comes with designing a space as custom as ours is. In terms of staying positive, part of that is in making sure I take care of myself: exercising, staying healthy and taking time off to regroup. 

Let’s talk about inspiration for moment- I love the collection of images on your tumblr. Where do you find inspiration? 

I love doing image research and I’m a big fan of photography and historical images. But the inspiration for products usually comes from what customers are asking for—useful products that speak to their actual needs.

We both share a love for printed material, and you mentioned that you’d love to carry independent publications in your store soon. Which books/ magazines would you put in your store? 

My friend Brian Kanagaki owns Perryman Press, and I’m working on carrying some books from his publishing company in the shop soon:

What are you most excited about for Joshu+Vela’s future? 

The opening of the Tradeshop is the most important thing. We’ve been working toward this goal for years and I’m really excited to say that it’s finally come together and we’re officially open. In fact, we’re having an opening party on May 29, so anyone reading this in San Francisco should come! You can RSVP by emailing us at

Any last words of advice for young entrepreneurs/artists? 

Be persistent in your search for originality.

Thanks again to Noah and the Joshu+vela team!  

Homme: Victor

Thursday, May 21, 2015

portrait study no. 1 
snapshots of Victor, film
San Francisco 


Friday, May 15, 2015


sophia coppola in vogue paris, 
december 2004

FRIDAY, on the long bus ride down Sunset blvd. towards the night's destination- Purity Ring at the Fonda theatre, Michelle told me that she'd finally watched the Virgin Suicides. She said that everything about the way Sofia Coppola brought the Lisbons from written word to life felt right. Kristen Dunst's portrayal of Lux being a huge reason the film fell in place so effortlessly. Their youth and energy, bare skin, bare feet in pale dresses, lying around their rooms, and out in the sun-lit field. Their bedrooms cluttered full of treasures and memorabilia- notebooks, candles, old glass perfume bottles lining the window sill, and blush-toned colors everywhere...

Of course, this made me want to watch the film all over again, so I did, and I realized that watching this movie is like opening a vintage yearbook, and reliving youth, maybe your own, maybe someone else's. It's an innocent movie, with less than innocent connotations. Listening to playground love years ago was all it took to make me fall in love with the film, far before I'd witnessed Trip Fontaine's haircut, Lux Lisbon walking home alone in purple haze the morning after, or throwing her records into the fire, one by one. I can only imagine how incredible Sofia's room must be- not the curated version in magazines, but maybe a cluttered Lisbon-esque version of memorabilia- books, photos, and translucent vintage dresses. 

" It didn't matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn't heard us calling, still do not hear us calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together."

the hours

Saturday, May 9, 2015

photo by david choi 
coat by oak and fort

Days in few words.

No sleep, stormy clouds. Green tea stains and performance art. Sensory overload. 
I miss having time to read in the morning, but leisure was never part of a student's vocabulary. This weekend though, I have the apartment to myself, and I'm opting to stay in, and reflect. The world never stops spewing out inspiration, and it's time to sit still, and sort through the words and images, ideas I've been for gathering for weeks now. With a cup of green tea and the latest issue of Vogue Paris Hommes next to me, I hope! I'm excited to be playing more with fashion lately. This coat is actually one of my favorites for layering- I love a sharp silhouette on a softer sweater material... it feels like a fluid piece, if that makes sense. Ideal for late mornings in the apartment, late nights downtown. 

And tonight: Noodles with the girls and a Yves Saint Laurent documentary. 


Saturday, April 25, 2015

3. 25. 2015
San Francisco, film. 
Never Let Me Go

I finally developed my film roll from a pastel-hued spring break, and lately I've just been thinking about what it means to escape a city that another person dreams about, with every limb in their body...

Garance recently wrote a post that made my heart ache. Didion's "Goodbye to All That" is the literary version, in a sense, of what the illusion of living in THE city means, and how this glimmering facade ultimately fades in time. Or does it? Somewhere in this past year, I stopped trying to make sense of Los Angeles, and when I did, it became accessible, and then a part of me, and the moment I realized it was when I went home, to San Francisco. My mind is somewhere else this week, frenetic really, and it's mostly because I'm excited for the future. The near future, the far-off in the distance future, yet nostalgic all the same. April and May in a word, would be bittersweet. But also, simply inspired! I've seen more films in theaters this week than I have in a year, and the q&a's with actors, directors, film-makers, writers- ah, I can't wait to share them here soon. But I'll leave reality, and all that I've been up to lately, for the next post.

"It had rained in Los Angeles until the cliff was crumbling into the surf and I did not feel like getting dressed in the morning, so we decided to go to Mexico, to Guaymas, where it was hot. We did not go for marlin. We did not go to skin-dive. We went to get away from ourselves, and the way to do that is to drive, down through Nogales some day where the pretty green places and all that will move the imagination is some place difficult, some desert."


Outfit of the night

Sunday, April 5, 2015


A few staples for a night out in Silver Lake with the best friend. Clockwise:

1. My friend Rachel sent me this gorgeous pouch from Still. Products, her accessories/ handbag store based in Singapore. 
I've gotten quite a few compliments on this pretty little thing! I'm using it as a coin pouch- perfect for the perpetual transit in LA. 
Give her website a visit- it's absolutely beautiful. 

2. Black AA polka dot socks, worn with my favorite Oak+Fort clogs. 

3. What was meant to be the bright neon signs lighting up Sunset Blvd - before the flash went off. 

4. My ultimate staple: crisp white, short-sleeve dress shirt. Alas, not Jil Sander...yet. 

This is home.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"she's got you", jim reeves |  "end", frank ocean
san francisco 

Vancouver on film: Revolver Coffee

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Revolver coffee
325 Cambie St, 
Vancouver, Canada 
LET'S revisit last summer in Vancouver for a minute...
Taken on a dreary grey morning, these analog photos from an afternoon at Revolver coffee are  somewhat of a nostalgic reminder of our trip last September. We took a bus far past Vancouver's main street, crossing the bridge into a dense forest to find the famous (infamous?) suspension bridge, Calypso, and back again to Gastown. 

It rained so much on this trip. On our hikes, our bike rides, in-between destinations, as we hid out in coffee-shops with soaking shoes and numb fingers. After awhile, we learned to just accept the gloomy weather instead of escaping it. In a way, we were lucky because with the rain, spending time in coffee shops like this one felt all the more like a destination, than a mere pass-through. The atmosphere here was very special somehow-it stands out from most other cafe's in Vancouver we visited (my other favorite stop being Le Marche St. George.) It was loud inside, and crowded, a mix of conversation and Bonobo, and there were these two strangers just sitting, totally immersed in their own worlds- the guy didn't look up from his book once, the lady just staring out the window. 

I had the wonderful opportunity to ask George Giannakos, owner of Revolver Coffee, a few quick  questions about his business! 

What was the inspiration behind Revolver coffee? 
The inspiration for Revolver came from years of visiting cafes and also working in the industry for a long time.  It is a shop that is designed to showcase all things 'Coffee', and allows customers to be part of that experience by having everything as open and transparent as possible.  

Why did you choose Gastown, Vancouver as the location for your cafe, and how does the surrounding community influence the atmosphere of the store? 
When we were looking to open up, Gastown was really the only neighborhood we considered at the time (almost 4 years ago).  It is home to so many like-minded restaurants and boutiques and has a history that dates back further than most other's in Vancouver. 

That's great to hear! Gastown really seems to have a great sense of community. And your favorite drink on the menu? 
I love to start off with drip coffee in the morning, and then fill the remainder of the day with macchiatos. 

photos taken w. Mamiya Sektor film camera. 

tell me who you are

Saturday, March 14, 2015


one photo, six ways. 

13 march 2015
"It was warm last night, light breeze and stars and we sat on the concrete porch outside, minus one Marlbaro, 3 am cough and a black cat that was either possessed or really infatuated by us. "

I've been very fascinated- addicted even, to reading people's unfiltered thoughts. It's very hard to find this on blogs these days, especially when for many, blogging has become more lucrative than personal. But I'm in no place to point fingers, because it's difficult for me too.

My bookmarked blogs- the ones I visit each week are visually inspiring, informative, or both, but the blogs I return to when I get this unmet desire to feel more full, are the ones with words of daily documentation, unfiltered like a diary, written as if no one is listening.

Yesterday afternoon, I sat in my favorite spot at Profeta, next to the big windows with stained glass and plant stains, and finally started reading Didion's "On keeping a notebook". It was kind of an event. This quote really stood out to me:

"Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to go to sleep and unafraid to wake up. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss." 

Actually her words do more than stand out. I almost feel like she's recognized a part of me that I never thought of articulating myself. My mom, like her daughter- unquestioning and content, myself, questioning everything to a fault until 1 am on a good night. Have I ever read words that resonate so well?

Pairing: for women

Sunday, March 8, 2015

images 1 | 2
Today is International Women's day, a day in particular where we reflect upon the incredible women in our lives- strong and vocal, and strong and quiet women alike, in how far we've come towards achieving independence and equality, yet how much more further we can-will- still go. 

This past month stands out to me, because of small, nevertheless empowering experiences that made me so happy- to be free, to feel again, to simply be. Like letting it all out to "Love on Top" in a sloppy group circle resembling a high school dance- Tavi Gevinson's Rookie Party, with some of the best-dressed folks I've ever seen (also getting hamburger stickers and a hug). Beyonce never felt so good. Like filming Sarah, an artist in her ceramic studio in the Arts District, and talking to her well past sun down about our lives and journeys thus far.

Finding brilliant ad campaigns with strong female figures:
1) Joan Didion's Celine ad. I have so much respect for Phoebe Philo choosing Didion to front her campaign (as if I didn't already).  I'm reading my second book by Didion now, Slouching towards Bethlehem, with my bookmark stopped just before "On keeping a notebook", until I have proper time+attention for it, as I can feel it'll be a very special one.

2) Iris Apfel in not one, but two campaigns. She's a beautiful individual who has quite literally changed the way I've thought not just about style, but about living.

"The world doesn't have enough color" she said. "Just keep in mind I’m the world’s oldest living teenager..." 


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