Last week when we posted our roundup of 15 Instagram accounts that are doing masculine gender queer style right, we were thrilled to include photographer Sinru Ku’s Insta feed on the list. But, after further investigation and reader tips, we found that Sinru’s account was actually also serving as an adjunct to the “Hey Queer” photo project, a visual catalog of dapper queer Asians that aims to document diversity and build community. We caught up with the creative visionaries behind the project, Sinru Ku and Wen Liu, to learn more about their mission, inspiration, and personal style. (All photos courtesy Hey Queer.)
Wen (left) and Sinru (right). Photo by TY Chang
dapperQ: Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?
Wen: I grew up in Taiwan and lived in Seattle for 8 years before moving to New York 5 years ago. I am currently 27 years old and a doctoral student in Social Psychology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. I am also a writer and have published two novels in Taiwan, regarding queer desire and diasporic queer communities that I have been involved in since moving to the US. I am the co-founder, editor, and one of the models at Hey Queer.
Sinru: I am a native of Taiwan and lived in North Carolina for 10 years before moving to Brooklyn 2 years ago. Currently, I am a freelance photographer and a marketing intern at the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn. I graduated from University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a B.A. in Dance and minor in Studio Arts. I am 25 years old now. I am the photographer and also a co-founder at Hey Queer.
dapperQ: What is the mission of “Hey Queer?”
Hey Queer: We hope to bring out queer Asians’ diverse personalities through documenting their fashion styles. The way we think about style is not how well one mimics a fashion icon or a particular trend, but how one expresses their characteristics freely and originally. So, unlike most fashion blogs that focus on trends or brands, we try to capture one’s individuality by hanging out with the model and getting to know them in a friendly setting before the photo shoot. We hope to change the stereotypical representations of queer Asian in the mainstream, or the complete lack thereof, through this project.
dapperQ: Can you tell me a bit about the history and evolution of Hey Queer? What motivated you to start the project?
Wen: I started a writing project called “Hey Stranger” about my daily queer encounters last summer. Since Sinru and I hung out quite often, she causally mentioned the idea of taking pictures of my daily outfits as a summer photographic project. We didn’t expect it, but the project actually started to get some traction on different social media sites; that was a wonderful surprise. We then decided to incorporate our other dapper queer Asian friends in the project since we hang out and drink and talk about clothes all the time!
Wen Liu. Photo by Sinru Ku
dapperQ: Some see fashion as being superficial and consumerist. But, it means so much more, particularly in the queer community. How does Hey Queer use style to empower viewers or to convey the project’s message?
Hey Queer: Truthfully, fashion is not the sole purpose of the project. We think what is more important is building a queer community where people feel comfortable with expressing their styles and individuality. Especially for female-bodied queer Asians, there is not as much public space in the LGBTQ communities. So we hope to demonstrate that queer Asians can have fun and be confident, while looking sharp.
Top: Zoe Yang; Bottom: Wen Liu (left) and Bo Mekavibul (right). Photos by Sinru Ku
dapperQ: How do you define your style?
Wen: I like the classic dapper style of suit blazers, vests, and button-down shirts. I also like to incorporate some vintage pieces such as oxford dress shoes, ankle boots, and leather accessories.
Sinru: I usually wear something casual, mix-and-and match, and colorful outfits. I like button-down shirts and oversize denim and/or bomber jackets. Good pairs of socks in quirky patterns are also important!
dapperQ: Has it been a journey defining your look?
Wen: It has been a long journey, indeed. When I first came out, I wore more baggy clothes because I wanted to look masculine. However, it really didn’t suit me well since I have a very petite frame. When I started to teach in colleges, I was looking for more formal outfit to look more professional and since then I have been drawn to dapper attire with a tailored, slim fit.
Sinru: I’ve never really try to identify what my look or style would be like, but I tend to wear clothes that make me feel comfortable with being myself. I also like to incorporate colorful mix-and-match patterns in my outfit. Previously, I’ve tried to dress like Wen’s dapper style, but for my personality, I just don’t really fit anything that makes me too serious. I’m less formal compared to Wen’s style.
Sinru Ku. Photo by Black Lin
dapperQ: Have you experienced any challenges when it comes to dressing dapperQ?
Wen: I think besides the obvious challenge of how the overall dapper clothing industry targets cis-male customers with a certain body size, being an Asian female-bodied person with a small body frame restricts my options. Unlike some with larger frames who can find their sizes in men’s department, I usually have to tailor my clothes whether they are from men’s or women’s department.
dapperQ: What has most influenced your style?
Wen: Wang Kar Wai’s films and American period dramas situated in 1950s and 1960s.
Sinru: I’m inspired by the natural bright colors surrounding me especially in the fall season. The mixture of colors suit my personality and it’s fun to mix them together.
dapperQ: Who are your fashion icons?
Wen: I don’t follow any particular fashion icons, but I pay attention to everyday people in the streets of New York City. I think people here are full of creative styles even if they are just casually going out for brunch over the weekend mornings.
Sinru: I don’t follow any particular fashion icons as well. However, I do love people watching and seeing how others dress for themselves in the street of New York and Brooklyn.
dapperQ: Where do you shop for masculine attire?
Wen: I shop at European brands such as Topman and River Island for the small sizes in men’s clothing. I also shop when I go back to Taiwan where the men’s clothes are just more androgynous and smaller in size in general.
Sinru: I usually shop at Uniqlo for men’s clothing and sometimes I likes to go thrift shopping at 10 Ft Single by Stella.
dapperQ: What is the one article of clothing you cannot live without?
Wen: A good pair of tight black jeans, actually.
Sinru: A mix-and-match patterns sweater, ha!
dapperQ: What can we expect next from Hey Queer?
Hey Queer: Hopefully we can expand the project by recruiting more contributors! So please contact us at [email protected] if you are a dapper queer Asian in NYC.
Sim (left) and Wen (right). Photo by Sinru Ku