By Emma Buchanan
There is vibrancy in the clutter of Mia Yaguchi-Chow’s home. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, there’s another piece of eclectic art, another shelf of records, another old movie poster — or a spare giant pencil leaning precariously against the wall in the corner of the living room.
Yaguchi-Chow says this is the only house she remembers.
“I've been living in the same house pretty much my whole life, so it's kind of cool as I'm growing up to experience how the neighborhood changes, the house changes, [and] how me in the house changes.”
Yaguchi-Chow is a second-year fashion communications student, a painter and photographer. She’s creative director and photographer for Ryerson’s design magazine, RADmag and she’s run two pop-up shops over the past year, selling t-shirts that she designed with painstaking detail and made on silk screen prints through her instagram and online brand, bitchfits.
She says then name was originally taken from a scene in her favourite movie, White Chicks, but over the years it’s taken on multiple meanings, with her interest in fashion linking the word to “outfits.”
“I don't know, I feel like I've always been kind of a bitch.” Yaguchi-Chow says she is more of a rational, practical thinker than an emotional one.
“You know, you have practical thinkers, who are less emotional, and then emotional thinkers who may be less practical, and then everyone in between. My practical thinking may come across as bitchy….[but] who I am is subjective to everybody.”
Yaguchi-Chow says her godfather, friends and family got her excited to show her work when she was a kid, and that their enthusiasm has translated to things like her pop-ups and paintings.
“I like to share my work also to get any outside perspectives from friends and family, or anyone that I don't know, and to see how they interact with things.”
There is some of her work on the walls throughout the house, as well as her older sister’s paintings and many art pieces from her dad’s collection.
The house is over 100 years old and the entrance is narrow. Yaguchi-Chow is generous with her descriptions of her home and her work, like she’s overflowing with the same creative spirit that fills the house.
“Constantly, things are rolling through my head, whether I'm out on the street doing things...in class, or at home. It's something that is both a burden and a blessing, because I get some really good ideas from it, but…the switch that controls the thinking is always on...if I wanted it off, it won't go off.”
Yaguchi-Chow lives here with her mom, dad and a 6-year-old husky named Mochi. She says her home and her family and have both subconsciously and consciously affected her art.
Yaguchi-Chow says she loves how her parents created the vibrancy of her house — everything from the orange dining room, the pink, purple and teal bedrooms and the blue hallways.
The shirts from her first pop-up collection “coincidentally matched the house.”
Large, striking, cartoon-like eyes are a consistent motif in Yaguchi-Chow’s work, and were the theme of her second collection of shirts.
A painting of a singular eye with thick lashes and a star for a pupil hangs over her living room. The signature she’s been using for about a year is a stylized character that is written the same in Japanese and Chinese — which is Mia’s background. It’s also followed by a star to represent the A in her name.
The eyes are representative of the concept of multiple perspectives for Yaguchi-Chow.
“I did this sketch once, sometime last year. It was a girl's face...I did multiple [eyes] on the top, multiple on the bottom.”
“Just by chance I drew eighteen [eyes] total. So I'm like, you could have all these eyes, but still not be able to see everything in front of you, right?”
For Yaguchi-Chow, this means that every person has the capacity to see a singular thing multiple ways — a theme echoed in her conversations about her mother.
“How I think is reflective of how she thinks,” Yaguchi-Chow says.
Yaguchi-Chow says she talks about everything with her mother, and that her mother instilled a sense of balance in her.
Because of that, “I’m able to consider perspectives outside of mine,” she says.
“My mom isn't much of a stuff person, so her things don't fill houses much. But I think she's pretty artistic...she has a lot of creativity, but she works full time, so she doesn't really have time to pursue any of it.”
Yaguchi-Chow says her dad is the opposite. “My dad grew up poor in Hong Kong...so he didn't have much. I think now that he's...an adult, and he has the opportunities and the ability to live more freely, our house is full of stuff. He loves stuff.”
Their house sits on a piece of land surrounded by the University of Toronto campus.
Their family moved to Toronto when Yaguchi-Chow was one. At the time, her parents owned a diner down the street called Room 338.
“I wish I could have lived it,” Yaguchi-Chow says.
Eventually the university forced the diner off the land.
The walls of the Yaguchi-Chow home are filled with old 50s movie posters from the diner, mainly of her dad’s inspiration.
“His taste is really good...I feel like as he adds those things to the house it kind of impacts me too, how I experience the house,” she says.
A large calligraphy banner sits high on the orange wall of their dining room.
Yaguchi-Chow’s parents got it at a calligraphy booth at a Chinese fundraising event about a year ago where you could commission a word or phrase on a banner.
“[My dad] asked to get ‘Ho loves Mariko’...because Ho is my dad's name and Mariko is my mom's name,” Yaguchi-Chow says.
The calligrapher “got a good kick out of that, because people normally come for ‘beauty’, or whatever, and then this guy comes along and gets ‘Ho loves Mariko.’”
In a photo the two took afterwards, Yaguchi-Chow says her dad and the calligrapher were smiling ear to ear.