I recently got the chance to speak with Wen Liu, cofounder of “Hey Queer,” a new photography project based in NYC that captures the beauty of queer Asians.
The project started humbly, with Wen and their friend Sinru Ku photographing their group of friends in New York, and grew to encompass more queer Asian style.
Sinru published photos of their friends who hail from Taiwan, Malaysia, and Thailand Instagram (@sinruuuku) along with Wen’s daily style, and they accumulated a lot of followers. Other queer Asians thanked them for their photos, noting that they were looking for more inspiration of people like them. People started asking Wen where they got clothes that fit their petite frame so well. As someone who is too small for most menswear, Wen had to be really creative in finding clothes to fit their identity.
Though US cities they’ve lived like New York and Seattle have several pockets of queer Asians, Wen told me, they don't see a lot of Asian masculine fashion in queer spaces. "I don't know if that's about the stereotype of queer Asians or queer butch women, but we're mostly invisible," Wen told me. "Even when you think you are butch presenting, you won't be taken seriously as someone who's masculine. Being Asian is already seen as effeminate." Wen noted that dapperQ's last show at the Brooklyn Museum featured a lot of Asian designers, though they didn't have so many Asian models.
Wen also noted that Taiwan and Thailand both have a large tomboy culture, but they see less of that when they come back to the states among queer Asians. For example, the recent film "Cafe, Waiting, Love" (2014) featured a tomboy bartender in the cafe, and "Yes or No" a Thai film (2010) featured a lesbian couple in which one of them is more masculine presenting.
“Hey Queer” uses incredible detail to capture the subjects within their surroundings, demonstrating how culture affects our clothing. Wen told me that fashion is just a starting point; this project is really looking at culture and the interaction of people and spaces. For this reason they focus on full bodied shots in surroundings that capture something about their subject’s personality or experience.
Though their group of friends is mostly dapper and female assigned, they told me they have no limits around gender identity and presentation and they plan to expand their project to document as much Queer Asian style as possible. I’m excited to see this project grow and plan to keep up with them as they expand.
As Qwear's Founding Editor, Sonny’s work centers around envisioning a future in which the clothing people wear does not dictate their chances of survival. Sonny was awarded 2015 dapperQ of the Year and was the first trans blogger to be sponsored by Topman. In March 2016, Sonny spoke at South by South West's first official queer fashion panel.