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Behind the Influence Tee

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

Say hello to our latest tee: the Influence Tee!

Did you know that we sponsor 9 students from @projectpearls to go to school?

Aiko and ChiChai with one of our scholars

We dropped a new BRIGHT tee to further fundraise for our scholars and the scholarship program. Learn more about the scholarship program here

The Influence Tee features a photograph of PEARLS children praying from Tondo, Manila and the concluding quote from my master’s thesis: “Diversifying representation can influence people to accept each other’s differences and themselves.”

While the tee serves to support the scholarship program, the design also aims to have an inclusive representation of the children we are supporting. Seeing Filipinxs in mainstream media is hella rare and when we do see Filipinxs on screen, colorism and praising of Eurocentric features often come into play.

In supporting the kids, we want to represent them for the beautiful kids they are! Our hope is that when other Filipinxs -- and even other people of color! -- see this tee, as said in the quote, we can learn to accept each other's differences and ourselves.

The original photo taken by ChiChai in 2014 when volunteering for PEARLS at Tondo, Manila

One other note about the design... Chris has been bugging me to include a quote from my master's thesis since I got my degree in 2016. It happened! The tee is here! And I'm happy that my thesis Challenging Filipino Colonial Mentality with Cultural Art is providing support for Project PEARLS.

Now back to the tee

We collaborated with Mel & Jolo from The Company for Influence Tee's photo-shoot and video-shoot. We've been friends with the super-talented two for a while now.. Peep this lil' throwback from 2013.

The reason why we reached out to Mel & Jolo specifically were because they first-hand experienced the love and appreciation you instantly get when meeting the children of Project PEARLS and the volunteers & staff who run it.

Back in 2017, we got together with The Company to create Art of Us, a fundraiser for PEARLS and a dance summit for the kids in Tondo, Manila. Aiko, Ray, and I represented Empire + Mel, Jolo, and KJ (who's doin big things in San Diego now!) represented The Company. We hosted a fundraiser showcase in San Francisco then flew all the way to Manila for Project PEARLS! Read more about Art of Us here.

Fast forward to 2019 and we're reunited or Project PEARLS once again. We even went back to Sutro Baths where that 2013 video was shot!

We met up after everyone got off work to create this:

Video by our very own Ray!

Music by kyo-ken

Getting together with Mel and Jolo is always fun, silly, and part of building a commUNITY. We're extra grateful that they came through because literally a few days before the photo & video shoot, they were in a competition in SoCal!

more from behind-the-scenes:

Thank you to Chris for shooting the lookbook photos, Ray for creating the video, and Mel & Jolo for always bein' down!

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