Jimmy Patel-Nguyen

Second-generation Vietnamese American

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SIRKA // determination

about us

SIRKA was established in 2015 by descendants of immigrants and refugees. We are a clothing brand for people who take pride in where they come from.

Our name is an acronym: Stories from Immigrants, Refugees, and Kin in America. At SIRKA, we value conversations that trace our ancestries.

Our vision is to be a multigenerational idea that stands for honoring our heritages through art and apparel. Clothing does not make the man, but we do believe that it has the power to connect a community.

SIRKA designs are inspired by people's experiences and influenced by streetwear. Our success happens when people share their stories as a result of wearing SIRKA.

t-shirt concept

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// name

Determination

// insight

Immigrants and refugees share a common drive and determination to earn a better life for themselves and for their families.

// concept

We wanted this design to start conversations about determination.

Since our brand is inherently multicultural, our goal was to visualize this characteristic rather than writing it. The idea here is that the look in a person's eyes can be understood regardless of language.

Call it grit, moxie, or relentlessness, it’s in the DNA of first-generation Americans. And for those of us who were born and raised in America, we think it’s critical to hear the stories of those who came before us, whether they were determined to chase the American Dream or to escape a life without hope or promise.

To start conversations, we've often asked questions like the ones below:

  • When did you come to America?
  • Why did you leave your native country?
  • What was the journey to America like?
  • What obstacles were in the way?
  • What were the first jobs you took to earn a living?
  • What dreams did you have about America?

We hope this shirt, along with those questions, will spark conversations that may not have been initiated otherwise.

// design

Our shirt has three elements: two parts on the front and a small design on the back collar.

The front design is a chest print showing determined eyes in white ink. Just below that is a large SIRKA wordmark in black ink. The tonal print keeps the focus of the design on the eyes.

The back print is a logo mark we call the “token,” a play on the concept that our stories are a token of our identity.

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Our model, Sonya, is a second-generation American and our design is influenced by a style of Vietnamese artwork that uses eggshells.

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Why eggshells? Two reasons: First, we wanted to bring a level of artistry to our designs, and Vietnamese eggshell art lends itself perfectly to halftone screen prints. It’s also ideal for our in-house production set up. Second, we wanted a design that looked simple from a distance, but invited conversation after seeing the detail up close. Perfect proximity and circumstances for starting a conversation.

How? We started with a portrait of Sonya using one light source to intensify the look in her eyes. Then we cropped her portrait to show the determination in her gaze.

To produce the design we ate a bunch of eggs, picked up a pair of tweezers, and recreated her portrait using tiny pieces of broken eggshell. In total, it took 35 hours to place 1,553 pieces of eggshell to create this image.

We fell in love with the actual process of creating this piece, finding it calming to focus on the meticulous placement of each shell and gratifying to see the bigger vision emerge.

Below are a few photos from start to finish.

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We arranged the shells on a plastic sheet so that we could use the actual art to burn our screen. You can see the tiny shadows in the image below.

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We printed the design on a black v-neck because we think it maintains the Vietnamese-style art.

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// cost

We do all printing in-house and will print on Alstyle V-Neck shirts. Cost of the shirt and ink will be $5.25. Our shirts will retail for $25. 

// conclusion

We're excited to hear the stories this shirt provokes. If you have a story, please share in the comments. Thanks!

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