For our 2019 ‘Friends and Family’ issue, we asked eight families—from multigenerational clans to collaborators who lean on each other like kin—to share what they’re giving and asking for this holiday season. Contributing editor Karin Nelson sat down with each group to paint a picture of their relationships and what they’re getting up to this year.
If her parents, both Chinese immigrants, had their druthers, New York–born Sandy Liang probably wouldn’t have become a fashion designer. Her mother, May, believed in never buying anything at full price, and thought that caring about one’s appearance was a waste of time; in Sandy’s father’s eyes, the only legit jobs were those that required a license. Still, when Liang needed a place to sew her first collection in 2014, her father, Peter, who owns the restaurant Congee Village in Manhattan’s Chinatown, let her use its basement storage space—now her official studio—and offered up the dining room as the venue for her first formal presentation. Two years ago, when she received a mention in a Hong Kong newspaper, her parents finally expressed their pride: “My dad was like, ‘Oh,’ ” Liang recalls. Colorful and slightly mismatched, Liang’s designs are inspired by the women in her Lower East Side neighborhood—especially Chinese grandmothers. Her own paw paw, Luo Bi Wen, who played a big role in raising Liang while her parents worked, is perhaps her greatest muse, popping up in lookbooks and campaigns wearing the designer’s fleece jackets and wonderfully eccentric shearling coats. “Family factors a lot into my brand because it’s so much based on personal references,” Liang explains. “But also out of necessity—you have to get scrappy as a young designer, and it doesn’t get more scrappy than relying on your family.” Case in point: She regularly calls on her older brother, Ricky, a lawyer, to do her legal work. “I get a sibling rate,” she says, “But I’m always at the bottom of his pile.”