Revolver Blog
Interview / Bin Chen

Over bowls of pho in the Mission district, we sit down with Bin Chen, friend and fellow cosmic voyager, to discuss his creative projects, ranging from work on his popular and influential blog YouMightFindYourself.com, art direction at Timbuk2, launching and running his own startup Boba Guys and his new projects to start off 2015 with a bang.

Voyager: So tell us about the Blog? Why do you do it?

Bin: The blog started what 6 or 7 years ago and has been around for a really long time in terms of the internet. I was lucky enough to be an early adaptor on Tumblr and if you were around since then when Tumblr first started, you probably have a sizable follower base. For me it was just a new platform to put all my cool shit in. Before, people sometimes had folders to keep things, you know you would have a porn folder, another folder with inspiration or some other folder and the blog started as a place to toss everything in that I was interested in. [The blog] used to be just this storage, a locker for everything. I was not interested in getting followers but the site snowballed and weirdly grew exponentially in response.  Now the site over these years has become an awesome calling card of sorts, more than a portfolio, more as a business card to interact with the world. If you have put something out there that is personal, your point of view, its almost better than having a portfolio. Its natural. So its been a great way to open doors and have a dialogue with people that I wouldn't have met in any other way.

Its been the quickest way to find something in common with someone else and has been a vehicle for me to connect with people.


V: So it started as an inspiration board? What was that inspiration for?

B: I was in a creative rut at the time - I was art director at an advertising agency and I wanted an escape. This is and was a funny enough a way to escape that world. It was perfect timing. I was an art director and working on automobile campaigns, it was soul-sucking and shitty and I was trying to find a way out. Obviously a blog is not a way to get a new job, but for me it was a way to get my brain conditioned and used to thinking outside of the box.

V: Can you walk through me the name? What is history behind YouMightFindYourself?

B: Its an extension of a Talking Head's song. "You might find yourself ... living in a shotgun shack"...

V: So that creative rut you were in was that "shotgun shack"?

B: Yeah, definitely. The site was the shack, a starting point moving forward.  The site has always been anonymous, some people know who I am but pretty much there is no contact information. You can't get to me too easily through the site, but a couple of years ago, Roger Ebert contacted me through the site because in my about page is a missing scene from the film "Days of Being Wild" by Wor Kang Wai.  It's a random scene, a very obscure reference, but Roger Ebert found that scene, found me through that point and started the [Ebert Fest] festival. But it was really cool to have these points of connection and because of "you might find yourself..."

V: Cool! Anyway else of note or interest that connected with you through the site.  Are you still anonymous now? But if people really push they can find you then?

B: Yeah, I like it to be separate from myself, but at the same time I meet people randomly and connect with people. It's honestly a spring board for my other projects like Boba Guys. The blog has a critical mass where I can kick off ideas and get some immediate feedback and respond to them. Its nice to launch ideas and have an audience.

It's always been a storage bank for ideas, for inspiration and this has freed me to explore. There is no profit motive in editorial direction. It started very visually with my interests in architecture, clothing, design, etc and has moved towards more compelling long blocks of text that I enjoy and want to share.

For better or worse other sites people get caught up in curation, but for me I haven't aimed at that airing. Its more of a personal dumping ground for things to explore and bounce ideas.

Its always its own thing, there are no ads. I want to keep it pure in that regard because it's useful to me and then other people find it useful to them. 

V: What is your process then posting / dumping into it?

B: I'll give you my secret on how I find content - there is a lot of information out there, more than ever, something that grows exceptionally, so that challenge is to filter all that. What I do is, instead is finding things in the zeitgeist (other sites curate and filter things that are of interest to the general hive) what I do is take a fork in the road at the point of the zeitgeist. For example, say everyone, every blog is talking about some certain article. Instead of reiterating that point, i'll follow the source to the origin and then fork and explore that original idea in random ways. I might for example dig out something 5 years prior that's related or just look at things in the same context but from a different relation. Things are in the same sphere/ecosystem, feeling familiar but they feel like new perspectives. If it's posted everywhere, I then look at things. 

V: Do you ever feel the internet is a nexus of the same voice? The sphere is a hive? Isn't it hard to escape that hive mentality? 

B: Yeah definitely. I try to escape and hide that group thinking. A lot of sites group think and reblog similar things.  I like to go random and crunch things through my trained eyes in a second. I blast through things and suddenly when something catches my eye, I rewind the tape, and dig. Dig deeper.

V: It's the same thing then for Boba Guys, your tea venture? You're trying to take away all this crap and then narrow down what you think is pure. 

B: For sure. I'm shameless in trying to find the best in anything. From any industry, from costume design to uniforms to how people build furniture to reading to 10ks to secrets that I find interesting. Any creative idea is marrying two weird ideas together. Ours was craft + something they knew, in that case boba. No one had done that before and we rode with that.

V: Your partner is less curative, editorial than you, he's definitely more analytical? How is that relationship? Has that amplified your process? 

B: Yeah, my partner Andrew is more analytical, I work more gut-based, but I think that gut is refined through that analytic lens.

V: Where do you see the blog in 5 years? 

B: Hopefully more of the same, leading to sudden connections with valuable people and thoughts. I'm not interested in monetizing the site through any type of advertising. I'm more interested in keeping it pure and using that energy into projects that are based on trust. I'm giving away a library of things. Nothing was mine to start with. I want to offer a jumpstart for people for free and connect with others in that way.

V: Did you ever read that blog Click Opera?  Amazingly popular blog, but then Momus quit to explore other ventures? Do you think you ever will quit the site? 

B: I never feel like I'm on a schedule to post. Sometimes people write me and ask me to post more. With no advertising. Like the Japanese way where a craft man might take months off. I'm like that. Sometimes I need creative breaks. If I run out of things to say then maybe.

V: What's next for this year? 

B: This year is big for me. I'm working on a new brand called Tea People, the retail arm of Boba Guys. Traditionally, the tea world has deep complex world that is difficult to penetrate. The mission is just to make a simple way to get more people to drink more higher quality tea. I'm not trying to do 60 flavors and overwhelm people, but instead refine blends and offer something simple. People don't want a ton of choice. They want to trust [that business] to make the right choices and practice for them.

V: Where do you think this whole movement towards simplification is coming from? It's like the Bauhaus of choice? 

B: Every trend is a reaction. It's a reaction to the overwhelming amount of choice people have been given. When things are so overwhelming in choice, there is a desire for insanely high quality and less choice. There is a beauty in that. Things are focusing and niching, and striving in simplicity without dilutions of distraction. 

What's working for brands is staying true to what they original motivated by. It's much more interesting to stay true that desire and explore things from that point instead of chasing trends. It's first about intention, I want to feel that motive. It's impossible then for people to copy that intention.

V: I think thats true but whats so great about that focus is still sometimes taking side steps and exploring that intention from a different unexpected angle.

B: Yeah, it's important to not thread water and stay away from the mechanical line from the black hole. It's important to add something that people haven't seen before and being original to our desire. I'm really, really excited by new directions and new projects in same sphere. From my own projects taking things brick by brick and really trying to explore them in unique ways.

Continue to explore with Bin @ YouMightFindYourself.com or BobaGuys.com

Dialogue Series No.1 / About Arianne

If we had to choose what is that we love most about our job and about the stores, one of the very first things would be the opportunity it gives us to meet and become friends with so many talented and creative people. From designers to reps we feel we have become a big family and we wanted to in a way make you all be part of it.

Through a series of lunches, coffees, beers and what not, we started this small section in the blog where our buyers meet with designers and talk about their work, our work and what brought us together.

To start, Marta, our womenswear buyer, met with Ariadna & Ernest, the creative minds behind About Arianne, our new shoe line straight from Barcelona, to share their views, their stories and where they see themselves in the future.

Marta - Hola! Long time no see! It has been less than a year and it feels like forever. How are you? How is everything going?

Ariadna- Hola! I know! We have been super busy! Fortunately the brands has been growing and we haven’t stopped since you last saw us. Collaborations and collections have kept us really busy!

Marta - That is so awesome to hear! I of course have been following all your steps on social media and I can’t tell you how happy I am of all of your success. But let’s start from the beginning, how did you guys meet? How did About Arianne get started?

Ariadna - Well, Ernest and I met like 5 or 6 years ago. I had finished my graduate in Fashion and came back to Barcelona from London during the summer. I started working at a clothing shop to make some money and get my first collection going, It was there where I met Ernest, he was the visual merchandiser at the shop. It took us a little time to finally meet outside the shop but once we did we just couldn’t stop! Haha, it felt like we had known each other all our lives. The truth is we connected immediately!

Ernest - We also met at the perfect time. Both of us where specializing in our careers, Ariadna was doing a Masters Degree in shoe design and I was finishing my Masters Degree in Art Direction. When she jumped into designing shoes and launch the brand I started helping her with the art direction of the brand. We kept collaborating and we kept sharing ideas, so we decided to start our own project. About Arianne was born, and our first collection was launched on FW 2010.

M - I know exactly what you mean, that is exactly how I felt when I met Valerie, my business partner at Equals and my creative soul mate, when you connect so strongly it feels like there is anything else you can do but start working together, like destiny! I know you, Ariadna, have always known you wanted to be a designer, but did you both always knew that you wanted to make shoes?

A - When i started my degree I was more into making clothes and making full collections, but the more I got into it the more I realized that what I really liked was making shoes. I understood that shoes can completely change a look and that I was also unconsciously spending more time on that part of the collection. At the same time I just wasn’t able to find the shoes I wanted at stores and I realized that I was not the only one. I started sketching ideas I had in my mind and started showing it to my friends and people I knew, everybody kept telling me to keep going and start my own label so i guess I just listened to what they were saying. It was thanks to them that I learned that there were more girls like me that couldn’t find what they were looking for and that what I was proposing was exactly what they wanted.

E - Me personally, I never thought I would end up designing shoes. And I am from Elche (where there is a huge shoe making tradition). But since I was little I have always been very attracted to fashion and it was also true that I always had a hard time finding shoes that I really liked (well that hasn’t changed much hah). One little spoiler, if everything goes as we hope we want to launch a men’s line soon. My other passion has always been design, branding, communication.. So I can’t ask for more! I work at my own brand inside the fashion world, and I also get to design all that goes around it.

M - I totally see what you mean Ernest, that is one of the things I love the most about our the industry we work at, you know where and what you were doing when you started but you have no clue where or what you will be doing when you retire. Kind of how designing a collection goes, right? How do you guys do it? What are the first steps? Color palette, material, texture…or more about the overall style of the shoe?

A - It all starts with sketches made with pencil at my studio. Ernest and I talk about things we like about shoes, things we have seen or ideas we got in our minds. Then I sit down and start sketching, when I have a few of them we sit down together and we discuss what we like and what we don’t like as much. We make a final choice and then it’s when we choose types of leather, colors, soles and details. After that is pretty much going to the factory where we get them made, we make patterns and samples of every design not only to give the final details but also to cover the other important aspect, comfortability and functionality.

E - For example, the concept for our last collection AW15 came alive when Ariadna came from the factory with a new color chart of new leather styles, we started to take a look at them and fell in love with one of the styles that looked like granite stone. From that moment we started talking about stones and rocks, from the earth and the moon’s surface… until we came up with the concept. We choose Onyx as our main representative, we were mixing those granite leather styles with shiny leathers, something that we had never done before.

M - It is so interesting to me how we humans are so influenced and attracted to nature and all of its forms, almost everything we do is an inspiration of it in some way or the other. That is one of the biggest inspirations for me when buying for a new season or when coming up with ideas for Equals, what about you guys, how would you describe About Arianne in your own words? What are the fundamentals and principles of you as a brand? What is the foundation?

E - The core of our designs is always the same. We like to design timeless pieces, that don’t fall seasonable trends. Our goal is to make shoes with a different and particular style but that are at the same time comfortable, functional and of the highest quality, therefore that have a very long life!
Maybe one season we are more attracted to a certain style of sole, some details or others, but we really don’t follow any trend, we just follow what we like.

A - About Arianne's shoes are pretty recognizable, we like to respect the label and to be faithful to it. What we want is for anybody that see one of our shoes without seeing the label knows exactly that is ours, and slowly I feel we are getting there. Design in our brand is very important, a style that you can recognize at first sight. That and as Ernest said, a deep respect for quality and comfortability are equally essential.

M - As you know that is also one of the most important things for me when buying, I want timeless pieces with and exquisite quality so they can last a lifetime. I guess that is one of the reasons why I was impressed with you when first met you. Not only you were proposing a different style, but you knew what you were doing and you had a great respect for the craft.
I guess I have never asked you this but why did you also choose us to be one of your retailers? What do Revolver & Voyager have that made you feel like it would be a good home for your line?

A - We knew about the store through a friend of ours that lives in San Francisco, she said that it was one of the shops of reference from the area and she knew we would like you guys for your style and what you were proposing. Then when we were presenting the line at Capsule in NY we met Kathy from Kareem and she also told us about the shop and you! and then we had the opportunity to show you our work!

E - To us, it’s very important that the shop that carries our shoes transmits an aesthetic that we feel identified with. Same as in our studio/store we are transmitting and associating our brand's values we also need that the places where we sell our shoes share the same ideas. That way we also get to our customers as they go to those kind of spaces looking for that specific style. Voyager & Revolver are the perfect example of all of this!

M - Thank you guys! That is awesome to hear. To us sharing the same philosophy with the brands that we carry is essential! One last thing, I just have to ask…. when do you see About Arianne in 10 years? I know it’s a cheesy question, I guess what I mean is, where do you want to take it, where would you like to be?

E - We’ll.. of course we would want About Arianne to be a consolidated brand in the market and of reference in terms of design, quality and social responsibility. Also we would love to open our wings, men’s line for sure (and hopefully in less than ten years) and also a vegan shoe line.

A - 10 years are a lot of years… we would love to keep selling to boutiques and retailers but we would also love to have some of our own stores. In terms of design we would aspire to, as Ernest said, open our wings and design other kinds of things as well.. not big collections but more things that we like and that revolve around our way of living and our style. Furniture, accessories, maybe some housewares…

M - That sounds amazing! I can’t wait for all of it!

All images by: Marta Mullor / http://martamullor.tumblr.com/

Shop About Arianne HERE


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