It's a wonder that more designers don't start scarf brands given how easy they are to produce (there's no need to worry about fit), as well as their gift-ability and proven commercial success (at least for brands like Burberry and Hermès). Perhaps it's difficult to come up with a concept that's different from what's already out there and yet still appealing and relatable. But that's exactly what Christina J. Wang has done.
Wang, who holds an MFA in fine arts from SVA, had been painting for about five years in a studio in Bushwick and grew tired of working alone and creating things few people were likely to see (or, presumably, buy). "I wanted to make something that would feel more accessible to more people, and doing so would hopefully bring more attention to the art," she says. She chose scarves because, they're "the most easily translatable medium from painting because it’s a 2-D surface, you don’t have to worry about fit, trims or sizes." She launched the line in 2014.
Her drawings, which are printed onto scarves in silk, cashmere or Australian featherweight wool, are of recognizable objects, with each scarf having a specific theme, whether it's fall-appropriate vegetables (turnips, pumpkins), bowls of ramen or the ingredients for a chocolate fudge cake. They get pretty specific and personal, too: a "Blonde Asian" style features drawings of hair products an unnatural blonde might be familiar with, while the "MV shoe" features the most important shoe styles in Wang's closet, from Birkenstocks to Céline skate shoes to Charlotte Olympia kitty flats. "It's things that give me a feeling of excitement, that I really want to start drawing them and convey that excitement to my customer." Prices range from $175 for a mini (36" x 36") to $275 for a giant (53" x 53").
While her first customers were family and friends, retailers have started to bite. Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong has been a big early supporter, and she's also stocked in Ron Herman in Los Angeles and American Two Shot in New York. On Friday, five of her designs (which you can peruse below) will be stocked in select Nordstrom stores and on Nordstrom.com as part of Olivia Kim's latest Pop-In. Wang also sells scarves from her own website.
While she does do seasonal deliveries, every style is limited-edition and produced in very small quantities. "The idea is they're like limited-edition art pieces," says Wang. "It trains consumers, it also trains retailers if they want something to pony up and buy it and not think too long."
Staying seasonal could also protect Wang from legal issues that might arise from incorporating other companies' commercial products in her designs. She says she's met with a patent lawyer, and hopes that because it's an under-the-radar brand and she's not misleading consumers into thinking her scarves are another brand's product, she'll be okay. "I think that’s what makes it fun and relatable is how specific it is," she says.
Wang plans to grow slowly and stick with scarves for a while. She's still a one-person team, though she has the fortunate help of her family, who work in garment manufacturing in China. While they do not produce the scarves themselves, they do liaise with her factories and help with quality control. "I have never worked for anybody before," she says. "It can only grow as fast as I can learn."