Early in my days writing for the Chinese-English language fashion website AnyWearStyle, I was asked by the editor to meet the founder and creative director, Sonia Tay, behind a brand called Snoozer Loser in Shanghai. Being new to the fashion journo world, I never expected to hear back from anyone when I sent e-mails. However, having sent an interview request to her, Tay replied enthusiastically. Tay specified a time and place so I booked a train ticket from Nanjing, where I was studying, to Shanghai.
Compared to my life in Nanjing, Shanghai always felt relatively westernised to me and the café Tay chose was modern, sleek and offered delectable Western food and drinks not available in many parts of China. I was woken from these consumption reveries by a soft-faced woman who looked Asian, but with a Western finish. From e-mails written in English and a mixed Western-Chinese name I had not been able to discern Tay’s nationality, so my interview began from the beginning, discovering who Tay is.
Tay is what many sinologists term an ABC (American-born Chinese) and her eco-brand, Snoozer Loser, began in New York. In New York, Tay’s creative life evolved, literally, in a cooperative so she was surrounded by creative types of all sorts, musicians, painters, the lot. It was with these talents that Tay co-curated gigs, exhibitions and events, not to mention accrued inspirations. Although the buzz of big cities like New York provide endless lights and ideas, Tay has always enjoyed shunning chaos to concentrate on her work and what matters to her. She does this by taking annual leave in communes and retreats. Tay’s life has been and is filled with travelling; it is this travelling which ultimately led her to Shanghai. Tracing back her family roots to China, she felt it was time to experience the land of her forbears. Famed for being China’s fashion capital Tay set her sights on Shanghai, so she picked herself up and began to establish a base for Snoozer Loser in Shanghai.
The ethos behind her brand is to provide stylish and fun clothing which comes from the soundest ecological sources. The dyes and fabrics are all natural; if the right colours or materials cannot be found according to these guidelines, principles are not compromised, the designs have to be adapted. The dyers and manufacturers of Snoozer Loser products are recruited as locally as possible. Commissioning or ordering from Chinese suppliers often causes grief for Western brands as practices and mind-sets can differ, for Tay this was no different. The only way to surmount these road bumps is flexibility, by enlightening workers on the benefits of some Western practices, such as time management, whilst also knowing when to let cultural differences remain unbridged. This is one of the reasons why I admire Tay, it would be so easy in this environment for her to compromise values for convenience and commercial sustainability but this is unthinkable, somehow she makes this a viable and beautiful brand concept.
Each collection from Snoozer Loser is inspired by something Tay sees on her travels, on friends, from her time back in America or her life in China. This means previous collections have featured Aztec prints and the current Autumn/Winter 13 collections feature Old World designs such as Egyptian scarab beetles, Turkish elephant amour, and sailing ships inspired by Eurasia and Africa. Snoozer Loser still holds a communal and personal feel, for instance previous models have included friends and personal contacts of Tay’s.
As my first meeting with Tay drew to a close, she presented me with a gift bag containing a beautiful pink Aztec print scarf from her latest collection. Not only was it a generous gesture but I genuinely loved the scarf, I proudly wore it to class in Nanjing and enjoyed explaining where I got it from when classmates asked.
Since my first encounter with Snoozer Loser I have been a fan. The photo shoots regularly have a mystical, old world feel yet feel entirely of the present. Some of the models are not afraid to catch your eye, hypnotising you, whilst others cast glazed eyes into the surroundings, dreaming of anything but that which is immediate to them. In China, a country so often (and rightly) criticised for its environmental issues, it was hard to believe that someone was able to find the means to make such wonderful clothes sustainably. Through the events Tay subsequently invited me to I discovered that she was not the only one-posts on these brands will follow.
Snoozer Loser’s current Autumn/Winter collection is available online. Tay e-mailed to tell me that for this collection she “…loved pairing earthy and gilded tones with pops of indigo blue and copper. We sourced the globe for Irish linen and pretty quilted cotton to produce our line this year to reflect our ongoing effort to use all-natural fabrics paired with sustainable production. We always hand-print everything locally in our studio.”
I hope Snoozer Loser’s magic spell is cast on readers too.