Next in line in her family’s creative dynasty, Asia Chow finds her own voice.
the concept of art can seep into our lives in a variety of ways. Some of us studied it in school, some of us visited galleries with our parents as kids and some of us took weekend painting classes just to look at nude models. (I’ll leave it to you to guess which of those camps I fall into.) But for Asia Chow, the 20-year-old daughter of restaurateur and painter Michael Chow (of Mr Chow fame) and painter-turned-fashion-designer-turned-LACMA-fundraising powerhouse Eva Chow, art is hereditary. In fact, it’s quite literally the official family currency: Before she was born, in the 1980s, her father accepted artwork from the likes of Warhol and Basquiat as payment for dinner. “My parents took me to the opera and museums and gallery openings quite a bit,” she says. “Growing up with two parents who are painters created an environment that shaped my outlook on many things. It definitely taught me at a young age to understand the value of creativity.” That value manifests itself in her arresting modeling work for luxury brands spanning Givenchy to David Webb, and a burgeoning musical career—which happens to come with a built-in audience. (Two years ago, at an impromptu after-party for the star-studded LACMA gala her mother chaired, Eva propped Asia in front of the packed crowd and asked her to play the piano.) I spoke to the full-time student, currently in her junior year at Columbia University and majoring in English, about how art in all its forms has influenced her life.
Derek Blasberg: As you know, this is the art issue, which I imagine is something you can relate to. Both your father and your mother have been such big patrons of the arts since even before you were born. What’s your first memory of art?
Asia Chow: I don’t know if I can think of one memory as being the earliest, but I think very fondly of my room in the house that I grew up in when I was a small child. I can remember it from when I was maybe 4 or 5, and what was most significant about it was the 1,000 roses and butterflies and the clouds and sky that my mom painted on the walls. The way I’m describing it, it sounds kind of cheesy. But the way she painted it, it didn’t look like the walls of a child’s room: It looked like it could have belonged in a painting.
DB: Your mother mentioned to me once that she liked to paint, but I never knew that before.
AC: She was a child prodigy in Chinese watercolor painting, actually!
DB: Which pieces from your parents’ collection stand out for you the most?
AC: The portraits of them at home––my dad by Jean-Michel Basquiat and my mom by Julian Schnabel—are both such beautiful pieces; I just feel a connection to them.
DB: I know one way that you practice your own art is music. What instruments do you play and when did you start playing?
AC: I started playing guitar in high school, but what I most love is singing. Lately, I’ve been more focused on singing, writing and recording.
DB: How would you classify your sound?
AC: It’s difficult to say what genre it is. I’m in a place of experimentation right now; in high school I was such an avid rock listener, and in the past three years, my music appreciation has expanded to so much more than that. Many of the musicians that I admire today draw from so many different influences, and don’t really stick to just one genre, so that’s what I aspire to do too.
DB: What are you listening to now?
AC: Right now, I’m all about Glenn Gould. Besides that, I’ve been listening to quite a bit of jazz.
DB: I’ve always been very jealous of people who are musically inclined. When I was in school, I played the trumpet and I was terrible! But maybe that’s why I can appreciate music in a different way, because I don’t understand it as well.
AC: That’s definitely a valid point. In more recent years, I’ve started to listen to music in a different way. Sometimes I catch myself listening a lot more actively than before. I think it’s probably because I’ve started to take writing more seriously and like to analyze other people’s music to see what’s going on.
DB: That’s a much different experience than mine. To quote Taylor Swift, I’m just looking for a “sick beat.”
AC: Ha! The first thing that attracts me to anything is that it has to be emotionally compelling.
DB: How do you find inspiration for your music?
AC: Sometimes I just find inspiration randomly and then will try to write something. A lot of the time, though, writing is more like a ritual. I tell myself I have to get something done today and I try to get it done. It’s practicing, just like you would do with anything else. I’ve also been trying to rethink the way I approach songwriting, so instead of starting with just a melody, or harmony, or lyrics, I think of it more experimentally. I’ve been thinking more in terms of how recording—which requires
an entirely different set of techniques—informs writing. I might approach a new program, or think of new sounds that I like aesthetically, and start with that.
DB: Is there a song that you think sums you up?
AC: I will say that I’d aspire for my daily theme song to be “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” by the Supremes. I love the way Diana Ross delivers it, and just conveys this feminine confidence, which I think every woman should have.
DB: How does fashion influence you?
AC: Fashion is an everyday way people can express themselves—just by what they chose to wear—so it can be an everyday micro-influence for me, and when I look at a great editorial, it’s a grander, more fantastical kind of inspiration.
DB: What do you miss most about L.A.?
AC: Listening to music in the car.
By Derek Blasberg.
Photographed by Inez & Vinoodh.
Fashion Editor: Rushka Bergman.