My designs often appear "somehow-strange" to my parents and often cause laughter. During my time in Chengdu, my creations have occasionally landed in my parents' hands at home. Each time this happens, they start a little conversation to guess what they are, where they come from, and where they should go.
Dad: What's this? [Picks it up and turns it around to view it from all directions.]
Dad: It's too huge to be socks.
Mom: Hmm, we'd better not to touch it.
Dad: You're right. It's probably one of those weird samples Ping made.
In the evening, I cannot find my hat.
Me: Dad, have you seen my hat?
Dad: We dare not touch anything of yours. So no.
He's afraid that I will blame him for anything I can't find. Later, I find my hat's twin, and I dangle it in front of his face. "Look, a piece like this. I made it from a sleeve."
Dad: Hahaha! Your mom and I tried for a long time to figure out what that was! Now I see—it's a sleeve! Here it is."
I'm so glad that my parents haven't given me any torn, dirty rags thinking they must be my artwork. So far.
I was born into a family of an academicians. Fashion is the least of their concerns. My poor dad has no idea why his daughter would buy a fashion magazine with the hard-to-pronounce title of "Vogue" every month.
Out of curiosity, he secretly opened the first few issues by himself—because my mom wouldn't be so happy to see her husband looking at almost-naked female models in magazines. He then shared his confusion with my uncle who apparently showed him empathy and support. My dad was shocked by the outrageous prices of some of the luxury products.
Dad: It's crazy: A handbag almost the same price as a car!?
Me: It's a luxury good. It represents a dream for some people.
Dad: OK. But to make a car requires a lot of work, a lot of parts, and a lot of mechanical designs ... He can talk a lot about a car, being an engineer.
Me: OK. To make a luxury bag too, requires a lot of technical work on special materials ...
Dad: In any case, I don't understand why you have to buy 12 issues every year. Each issue looks the same to me. Maybe you could just buy one, it's enough.
I was in the shower. "Mom!"
"Yes." Dad replied outside of the bathroom.
"Mom!" I raised my voice.
"Yes!" Dad raised his voice too.
"I was calling for MOM!" I said.
"It's the same," Dad replied calmly. "What's the matter? How can I help you?"
"Well, I was wondering what I should wear" [for a New Year dinner].
"Aiya! Mother, your grown daughter doesn't know what to wear! She wants you to tell her what to put on!" Dad immediately reported to Mom as if my question was the stupidest, most unheard-of thing to ask.
"Of course I had to ask! I didn't know what people normally wear here for this kind of party, and mom never likes my clothes."
"You should wear summer-dancing clothes. What kind of question is that!?" Dad used his usual sarcasm, and still couldn't get over the fact I dare even to ask such a question.
"Anything warm! Not like your usual crazy ones!" Mom ran down and shouted outside the bathroom door, eagerly trying to get her message clearly through the door.
They don't really appreciate my style, and never tried to hide the fact that they dislike almost all of my clothes.
It just so happens that there is a clearly mentally ill woman who wraps herself with all kinds of different colored textiles and walks around our district from time to time. I am often fascinated by her sense of color and silhouette. But her way of dressing is a big no-no for others in the district. My mom refers her as "Laji Xishi" ("trash beauty"). "Are you trying to dress like the Laji Xishi downstairs?" she sometimes asks me. I understand her implication. But to be honest, I don't necessarily think this Laji Xishi has a bad sense of style. On the contrary, I take it as a compliment.
One day, I found an XL man's sweater in my dad's closet. I was thrilled to discover this 100 percent wool material with square shaped patterns in front. I cut one piece open right below the front neck line, and flipped to the back of the neck. Then, cut off the two sleeves. I like its convenient style so much that as a big special offer, I told my dad that he can feel free to try it on during my absence in the cold season. "It's big enough to be put on the top of any clothes—very easy to wear."
Dad replies unhappily, "I wouldn't wear it even if you sewed it back!"
Socks, Part 2
I learned a new pattern of socks. I enthusiastically wanted to try to make one for experiment, of course for my own benefit. After three days and three nights hard working, the sock came out too big for my foot. So, I kindly offered it to my dear dad with a cheeky smile, "Big dad, it's quite cold in the winter time. Look at how nice I am, made a woolen sock for you. Isn't it cute?" I dangled it in front of him, knowing the heel part of the sock is honestly a little messed up, but green is his favorite color. With this in mind, I'm confident that he would like it—he loves anything green!
"Oh, thank you. Put it there." He pointed at the table where he always put his computer at.
But after a few days, I didn't see him wearing it. I wondered, "Dad, how come you don't wear my gift sock?"
"Well, I have two feet you know, and they could both get cold ... but you only gave me one sock. I don't know which foot to put it on? Left or right ... ?"
I love to see him confused by me, and laughed!
But I don't let him get away with it. I like to see people wearing my works. So, whenever I am at home, I always check to see if he has my sock on. If not, I would put it on him. He helplessly smiles at those moments and tolerates warming one foot at a time.
It's true that I love to learn new things and to create, but hate to repeat. After I knew how this pattern worked, I no longer have the desire to reproduce another one just like it—how boring. Thus, I ended up making one of a kind single socks in various styles. Maybe when I knitted enough single socks, my dad could possibly find another one similar enough to wear both at a time.
This article was first published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine, issue 11 ("Guanxi"). Text and pictures by Ping Wu. Ping is an up-and-coming Chengdu-born designer who has lived in the States and Europe for much of her life.