"I feel that there is a lack of understanding of modern Chinese culture, and Chop Suey Club is an effort to open it up to a larger audience through design and art."
– Ruoyi Jiang
Tell us about your store, Chop Suey Club
Chop Suey Club is a boutique store on the border of Chinatown and the Lower East Side. We specialize in contemporary Chinese design and art, carrying a selection of fashion, home furnishings and art – all sourced from young Chinese creatives around the world. I feel that there is a lack of understanding of modern Chinese culture, and Chop Suey Club is an effort to open it up to a larger audience through design and art.
So you’re bridging the gap, so to speak, between authentic contemporary Chinese culture, and an Americanized idea of it?
Certainly there is a gap between contemporary Chinese culture and the Westernized idea of it, but both are valid in their own ways. I’m trying to show something authentic, whether it’s Chinese culture or Chinese American culture. For me, Chop Suey Club is kind of like a study. Buying and selling enables me to see what people respond to and how to keep pushing those ideas. Interacting with lifestyle products is one of the best ways to understand a culture, because you're actively adapting a way of being that originated from another culture.
What drove you to take this creative leap of faith?
Chop Suey emerged from many different backgrounds and ideas. I worked in architecture, art dealing and collecting before this, but mostly, I just thought, “What’s stopping me?” I didn’t have any business school background, but I did some rough math (haha). I think the hardest part is facing yourself and deciding what you have to give up to make it work. I mean, I’m still really young and I want to go out and not have so many responsibilities. But it has been life changing in so many great ways.
Do you consider yourself a risk taker?
I think so. Taking risks is fun for me. No risk, no gain. But it’s important to think the risk through and decide whether you can face the consequences if it doesn’t work out. And if you can, then "Why the hell not?" Getting started is the hardest part. Beyond that, just be very clear with your vision and what you want to achieve, and more often than not, it will work out.
How do you persevere when things get difficult?
When I was 15 my dad gave this book, On War, by Carl von Clausewitz. It’s essentially a book on war theories and military strategies developed by the then Prussian general Clausewitz. He says you may plan and meticulously detailed, anticipating and making educated calculations about how to be victorious before the war...but as soon as the war starts, all bets are off. There’s going to be chaos, and your plan will most likely fall apart in an instant. Your end goal has to guide your decision making. And what ultimately makes the difference is the determination of the leader - who wants it more? Keep your eyes on the goal instead of every little step.
On a lighter note, what influences your style?
I have a very eclectic sense of style. I like to think about where I’m going, and try to imagine seeing myself in that environment. It’s fun to dress up to go somewhere casual, or wear something quirky in a high-brow setting. I like to wear something bright when it’s cloudy. If you think about it, you can’t really see yourself except for the moment you look in the mirror. So if it’s mostly for other people, why not wear something entertaining?
What are you most proud of?
I’m a very critical person, especially of myself. But the fact that I came to New York as a foreigner, opened a retail store in the city in my twenties and make a living doing something I’m passionate about – that’s huge. I didn’t realize what an accomplishment it was until I heard someone else say it. Sometimes I sit back and think, wow, I did this?!
What does “spirited woman” mean to you?
To me, being a spirited woman means that you value your own spirit, and accept that all of your feelings and emotions are equally valid. They are manifestations of your spirit. Women are often not very honest with their own feelings, and therefore make bad decisions for themselves. It's important to know that your spirit can be malleable, of course, because we all change over time. Accept these changes too. As long as you have guiding principles in your life, everything else is just fluid.
– RUOYI JIANG –
director & founder of Chop Suey Club