The Founder of Asian-Focused Beauty Brand Talks About Her Fight for Equality In The Marketplace

For Yu Chen Shih, the founder of Orcé Cosmetics, fitting into tradition beauty standards is not acceptable, neither is sitting quietly while the beauty world seems to pass you by. Nothing could be farther from the truth for this trailblazer in the makeup industry who created foundations specifically formulated for the Asian complexation. “I have never felt like the beauty business provided options for me. I definitely have felt overlooked whether it is my skin type or skin color,” says Shih. The feeling of being pushed aside, fueled her to build a brand based on the specialized needs of Asian skin which has more yellow undertones as well as structural differences than other ethnicities. 

“Many Asian consumers don’t know that our skin is actually different because the industry hasn’t done the research in this area. They have been feeding us this one-size-fits-all solution, but different ethnicities have different skin types. The cosmetic industry assumes that releasing 50-60 shades is going to solve the problem, but it isn’t. Asian skin reacts to ingredients differently than a caucasian customer or a back customer,” says Shih. “The topmost layer of Asian skin is much thinner, so it is more prone to water loss. At the same time, we have extremely active sebum production, which combined with dehydration is the perfect recipe for acne,” she states. 

Three key ingredients comprise Orcé’s unique foundation recipe— Tahitian pearl extract which promotes collagen and addresses hyperpigmentation, hyaluronic acid to increase moisturize, and a Chinese herb called Evotee fruit which is known to boost radiance, and guard against environmental stresses. The alchemy of these components gives this beauty elixir it’s unique properties that target Asian skin.

Born in the United States to a Malaysian father and a Taiwanese mother, Yu-Chen’s love for cosmetics started with a prized eyeshadow palette at 11 years old. She would insist on making up family and friends in her vibrant shades until one day, her young cousin said she made her look like Ursula from The Little Mermaid. This obsession with make-up prompted her mother to send her to make-up artistry classes to improve her skills, signaling to Yu Chen to excel at all she does. As a teen Ms. Shih recalls watching You Tube tutorials and realized how transformative foundation is for women and how it’s literally the basis to any makeup routine. 

Her quest for the perfect foundation persisted as she matured. “I would go to drug stores and department stores and scoured every lane, every counter and could not find a shade that suited me. It was always either too pink or too orange. Even Japanese and Korean brands tend to have extremely limited shade ranges.” The unconscious message she received from her youthful shopping was that she was not good enough, her skin is not light enough and she wasn’t important enough to be addressed by the industry she loved and wanted to be a part of. This only ignited her passion to fill the void she saw in the market.

Finding a solution to the beauty industry’s ignorance of Asian skin really bloomed while attending Pepperdine University where she studied Advertising and Marketing. It was during her capstone project that she formulated the first rendition of the brand, researching the unmet needs of Asian women. With the help of dermatologists and chemists she developed the formula and launched in 2019. 

Although this Asian beauty made inroads in addressing the needs of women like herself, she has also been accused of not being inclusive by social media trolls and even retailers who have suggested she broaden her approach. But this is counter to the very core of her brand ethos. “Retailers and investors hate my Asian focused approach. I feel like I get penalized because they say I’m not being inclusive. {They say} You’re ‘Asian focused, call us back when you’re not’ or, call us when you expand your shade range. {Or they say} your story is, fulfilling the needs of Asian consumers— how about everybody else?’ So, it’s been hard for us. On the one hand, I’m driven by this mission to fulfill the unmet needs of Asian consumers, but at the same time, I’m being told that I’m not being inclusive to non-Asian consumers. Many times, they complain that we are racist or elitist because we’re only focusing on Asian skin.” For Yu Chen Shih, the hurtful comments only serve to embolden her cause.  

Despite the fight for a race of people who have long been told to sit quietly and accept the status quo, Orcé cosmetics and Yu Chen Shih, march on full steam ahead with the conviction that the needs of Asian women should be addressed in the beauty world. As proof of that path, the brand plans to launch six new shades in September of 2021. One of her most talked about item on You Tube is the Experience Set of minis which allows women to sample three shades before investing in a full-size. Orcé also offers a Perfecting Finishing Powder to compliment the medium coverage foundations. 

“My goal when creating these foundations was to make shades that look like Asian skin—not a pink version or an orange version. We developed each shade based on a real woman and carefully launched the initial six shades. Foundation will always be my star product which I tackled first because it’s the hardest product for Asian women to find.” 

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Zandra Rhodes Goes To Bed

In Zandra Rhodes world, bold color and prints are everything. The latest addition to her laundry list of accomplishments is in the world of beds. The vibrantly haired British fashion and textile designer partnered with the bespoke bed company, Savoir, which make fewer than 1000 beds per year, and infused her unique style into upholstered beds. Let’s face it, we are all spending more time in bed whether it’s for getting your zzz’s, eating, working, or snuggling activities—your desk is set up for work but your bed beckons you.

Ms. Rhodes, says she, like most of the world, has slowed her hectic life down substantially because of the pandemic and is appreciating more reflective time at home like most on planet earth. Although it’s generally thought that white beds and bed linens are the optimum setting for a tranquil sleep, in Zandra’s world, vivid colors and prints are as soothing as pristine white sheets. To that end, she designed a grouping of styles based on an original lily pattern from 1975. The beds range from zany vibrant akin to her personal style to soft and serine variety but both are distinctly Zandra Rhodes.

The collaboration with Savoir means that the beds are supremely hand made out of all organic materials—no synthetics in this dreamboat. Zandra Rhodes beds are available on Savoir’s website. https://www.savoirbeds.com/our-story/

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Chanel’s Quiet Couture Presentaion

If it’s January then it’s also time for Haute Couture— but in covid times presentations are viewed the cozy comfort of my home in Brooklyn NY.

From Chanel.com anyone can view the breezy simplicity of Virginie Viard’s Couture. Soft and easy are words that come to mind for the spell she cast on the collection since Lagerfeld’s death.

Models floated out on-mass to a soft rendition of ” Be My Baby” to a sparse audience of Chanel fans one of which was Penelope Cruz. Anton Corbin directed the film shot at—where else but Paris’s Grand Palais. Wish I was there. https://www.chanel.com/us/haute-couture/

Chanel Haute Couture ss2021

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A Fresh Start 2021

It’s been months since my last post but I’ve been happily busy with other projects. I’m crossing my fingers for a fresh start for 2021 and even though it’s just a number on the calendar, it feels like a positive delineation from the dreadful 2020. Every cloud has a silver lining and to that end, I have much to be grateful for during 2020, with new clients and a new agent— which I am super excited about. September came and took off like a rocket with a story for Avenue magazine, shoots for Ines Di Santo, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, McLaughlin, and Bailey Hats, and more. I’ve collaborated with talented photographers and illustrators that I’ve not worked with before and had a blast. But here we are seemingly back to where we once were, with the uptick of covid and all that comes in these strange times—New York City to my eyes has more crime and some strange characters roaming around the streets. I saw a deranged man try to push 3 people on a subway platform—I called 911 and got the hell out of there. If I go out, I try to be back before sundown—totally weird time. Still can’t meet with any friends or family except for an outdoor lunch on my deck with some of my cousins on a frosty December day. Took me all night to defrost from the event, even though we had heaters and blankets!

So in the interest of shameless self-promotion and accessing where I’ve been and where I’m going—professionally that is, below are some images from the shoots I’ve worked on in 2020 (some actual imagery and some from my own camera). Cheers to a successful, happy, and most importantly, healthy 2021. Let’s get together and accept our differences.

Above: Photographs by Walter Chin for Ines Di Santo

Creative Director Deborah Moses

Stylist Mimi Lombardo

Behind the Scenes Ines Di Santo shoot

Below: My photos from Hat shoot with some handsome dudes
Selphy at “The Row” Showroom

Taking a break from shopping at Uniqulo

Shoot for J McLaughlin

The above photo by me but the photographer was the amazing Arnaldo Anaya @ Defacto agency

Fashion Illustrations by Megan Morrison from @travelwritedraw

I collaborated with Megan to create these delightful illustrations for Avenue magazine’s holiday issue.

https://avenuemagazine.com/fashion-illustration-ready-to-wear-holidays-2020/

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The importance of affiliate links and changes to fashion business in Ryan’s rants and raves PODCAST @ryansrantsandraves

podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/ryans-rants-raves/id1521390353

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No Social Distancing at Louis Vuitton Men’s Show in Shanghai

The takeaway from Louis Vuitton’s men’s show, which happened in Shanghai on Aug 5, 2020, is that this pandemic may have an actual end. From my limited laptop vantage point, the audience seems unconcerned about any COVID contagion. The locally based audience sat in cramped rows without masks on a dock in Shanghai which was decked out with LV fantasy characters. The extravaganza had everything from floating globe balloons, whimsical frogs, and teddy bears attached to model’s blazers, cloud-ushers, and Lauren Hill music video streaming inside a shipping container. The clothes ran the gamet from classic suiting to cloud-printed looks to a more directional and less commercial grouping towards the end of the show. The press material touts Upcycling and reusing of classic styles which make good sense and should be applauded.

The show was upbeat and hopeful in the sense that this pandemic may have a real end. If Shanghai is unmasked and sitting toe to toe there is hope for the rest of the world.

https://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2021-menswear/louis-vuitton
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Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels Reveal The Most Creative Jewels

I love the jewelry industry because unlike it’s fickle sister, fashion, jewelry is not a commodity that loses its luster, gets tossed a box and sent to Real Real. Generally speaking, jewelry and watches from notable French houses like Cartier or Van Cleef & Arpels are not created for influencers to show on their feeds, but rather are meant to be well-worn for decades and passed down to the next generation. The pieces retain much of their monetary value and are sentimental talismans. Similarly, the marketing and PR for these brands refect this ethos with editors, journalists, and stylists. They take the long view and maintain long-standing relationships which I am grateful for, so I can continue to talk about and style stories and just gawk at these sublime pieces.

July is Haute Couture fashion month in Paris while also the time for historic jewelry Maisons to reveal “High Jewelry” collections. High jewelry basically means, unattainable for normal humans to purchase, although definitely inspirational and fun to ogle for those interested in gems and jewels.

This time around the fashion runways are empty and the jewelry presentations are also scaled down to digital assets only. But the brand stories told from their deep history seems unending. The archives are a limitless wealth of celebrities and royalty who purchased or were gifted or designed a piece for a significant occasion. Other times the story presented for this masterful array is dreamed up without reference to their past. And this is the case with Cartier.

For Cartier, nature is not as we see it but as we dream it. The Sur Naturel high jewelry creations are uncanny takes on nature fashioned into a work of art. The necklace below is inspired by a surreal plant using 2 huge and exceptional beryls as its the focal point.


“This new collection really speaks to the Maison’s stylistic identity and pays homage to finding beauty wherever it may lie – especially during a moment in time where nature is such an integral part of our lives, perhaps more so now than ever before.”
This new collection really speaks to the Maison’s stylistic identity and pays homage to finding beauty wherever it may lie – especially during a moment in time where nature is such an integral part of our lives, perhaps more so now than ever before. 

Cartier Sur Naturel High Jewelry

The blue piece below is executed with brilliant-cut diamonds and 5 rare sapphires that mimic the movement of an undulating river.

Cartier Sur Naturel High jewelry Brilliant cut diamonds with 5 sapphires

The last necklace, fashioned with diamonds, onyx and emeralds, emulate an abstract snake. With one foot in the natural world and the other evoking a landscape of limitless possibilities, they created a fitting fairy tale for these works of art. Seeing the pieces on a model is a must to grasp the scale and beauty.

https://www.cartier.com/en-us/collections/jewelry/high-jewelry/surnaturel.html

https://cnaluxury.channelnewsasia.com/obsessions/nature-inspired-jewellery-cartier-surnaturel-collection-12893458

Cartier Sur naturel Emeralds, diamonds and onyx, abstract snake
Cartier Sur Naturel High Jewelry

Van Cleef & Arpels created a trio of more traditionally designed rarities inspired by former clients, Princess Faiza of Egypt, Marlena Dietrich, and Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

The original collarette ( below) made for Princess Faiza in1929 is called the Merveille d’émeraudes necklace and boasts 70.40 of Columbian emeralds which can be removed and transform the piece into an all-diamond version.

Van Cleef + Arpels Merveille d’émeraudes

The RUBIS EN SCÈNE bracelet echos a piece purchased by actress, Marlene Dietrich in 1937 and wore in the Hitchcock movie, Stage Fright in 1951. It’s created with rubies and diamonds and is as substantial as the original in size and use of gemstones.

The final piece is a reflection of a gift to Jacqueline Kennedy by her husband, Aristotle Onassis for their wedding. Originally the earrings were made of cabochon rubies and diamonds with a detachable floral motif. The current version, called, Tendresse étincelante is crafted two pear-shaped DFL type 2A diamonds for a total of 20.21 carats. The stones weigh in at over ten carats each and detach like its inspiration.

Van Cleef& Arpels High Jewelry Tendresse étincelante earrings

High jewelry is not something you will see collecting dust in shop showcases but will be taken out of the vault for road trips to display to potential secret buyers. But there is a chance the one of a kind creations will be seen on the red carpet event— if that ever happens in the future.

https://www.vancleefarpels.com/us/en/collections/high-jewelry.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/10/fashion/jewelry-couture-boucheron-van-cleef-and-arpels.html
https://mimilombardo.com/2020/07/15/viktor-rolfs-ironic-couture-collection-is-just-what-we-need/

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Viktor & Rolf’s Ironic Couture Collection Is Just What We Need

It’s couture time in Paris and although the coronavirus has put a halt to in-person fashion shows, designers’ creative spirit continues to shine. Viktor and Rolf’s fashion film, titled “Change” is a sharp and ironic comment of this uncertain and stressful moment in time. It’s a fitting title for the precariousness of fashion’s future and the normalcy of life after this unimaginable pandemic. But the Dutch duo’s take on the current state of affairs is humorous and may put a smile on teeth-clenched faces—for at least the duration of the show. It sure made me smile.

Viktor& Rolf Fall Couture 2020

We are told to look on the bright side, to turn a negative into a positive, to find the silver lining. And certainly, there are many positives to the lock-down, but it’s not all rainbows and sunshine and V&R doesn’t shy away from the truth of our current predicament but are refecting the undercurrent of anxiety in our society. The show is narrated with an ironic tone— like a 1940’s or 50’s fashion show. Comments like “a panoply of gloom” are used to describe a look—you can’t help but chuckle as you watch the earnestness of the models as they wear some of these silly looks.

Viktor& rolf Fall Couture 2020
VIKTOR & ROLF SOCIAL MEDIA DRESS

The show starts off with an empire-waist slip dress with rainclouds, “to express the anger and gloom that everyone is feeling”—well, isn’t that the truth? The social media dress, covered with emojis, critiques the “conflicting stability of social media”, the narrator states—uhh, yeah. The show uses clothing as a vehicle to express social commentary. Each of the 9 lounge-wear inspired looks goes beyond pure adornment and deftly achieves art’s job—to document and comment on social and political issues.

In the end, V&R concludes with ” change is necessary and love conquers all,” as well as “the world around us is changing rapidly, whether it’s the apocalypse or new spiritual era.” Yes, we need to hear that life is about change and love is a constant, and in the end, we will be alright.

There are times when we think our worlds are as small as our geographic neighborhood. Different realities exist by location. V&R’s digital show is evidence that our experiences and anxieties are collective and universal which is comforting in itself so watch it for a moment of relief from the worries of our times.

https://us.viktor-rolf.com/flowerbomb/?GeoRedirectOff&gclid=CjwKCAjwr7X4BRA4EiwAUXjbt0H530gG-UOJDCBJQqTludoei-UFC9bs_U2N6XnULecKuMJn4HjNQRoCVMEQAvD_BwE

Read Vogue’s Review below:

https://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/fall-2020-couture/viktor-rolf

https://mimilombardo.com/2020/04/23/did-februarys-runway-foretell-the-pandemic/

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10 Summer Pick Me Up’s To Brighten The Quarantine Days

I wish I could have a do-over for the summer of 2020. I couldn’t have envisioned a summer without travel or work or enjoying a nice meal at a restaurant. Forgive the toddler-like wining but I really want these months stricken from my life and granted a do-over. But since that is not going to happen, the next best thing is to make myself and what I wear and enjoy, as cheerful, comfy and fun as possible. With that in mind, here is my list of pick me up’s for 2020’s pandemic summer. For ladies and men who won’t be traveling except in their dreams.

Tory Sport Varsity Pullover $168

I love Tory Sport because it reminds me of growing up in the 70’s especially this chevron striped pullover in optimistic orange. It’s a great summer staple for cool nights at the beach or rainy overcast days when you need a bit of sunshine in your pandemic life. This French terry hoodie is roomy and boasts 100% soft cozy cotton. https://www.toryburch.com/french-terry-chevron-hoodie/52355.html?color=877

Trestique Essential 8 $175

Trestique’s founder worked in the beauty industry, which she found promoted too many products with complicated beauty routines. Contours, primers, bronzers, illuminators, just don’t have a place in working women’s lives—except if you’re a You Tuber. Trestique’s Essential 8, has all the makeup you need in a cylindrical case. Each pencil applicator has a dual-use—the brow pencil has a tinted brow-gel the eye shadow has a smudger, and the mascara’s alter-ego is an eyelash curler. The case comes with a mirror housed in the flap so it’s really one and done. The products on the Trestique’s site are currently on sale for 20% off.

https://www.trestique.com/products/essential-8 https://www.sephora.com/search?keyword=trestique

Hermoza One Piece
Hermoza Swimsuit Johanna one piece in la Rumba

This one-shoulder maillot from Hermoza swim makes me smile with it’s whimsical La Rumba print. The interior tummy shaper will keep your quarantine flab smooth and contained so no worries there. Grab this happy suit while you can because it’s a limited edition to celebrate the brand’s 1 year anniversary.

lhttps://thehermoza.com/products/johanna-one-piece-swimsuit-in-la-rumba

Palma’s San Juan Men’s and Boys Swim trunks $50-$80

This newbie brand on the swim scene makes matching trunks for father and son in fun Caribbean prints using sustainable packing and use of recycled fabrics. They also donate 3% of each sale to a Puerto Rician charity while also offering face masks for $10 in the same vacation-inspired prints

Serena Williams Lucky ID necklace
Serina Williams Jewelry Lucky ID necklace $850

Not only does Serena Williams rule the tennis courts, but she’s set to ace the jewelry market with her collection of 18K gold, sterling silver, and conflict-free diamond jewelry. Serena’s pieces serve up positive messages and illicit spiritual vibes like this ID necklace which makes a bold statement of fortune which we can all use more of. Wear it loud and proud. https://serenawilliamsjewelry.com/collections/necklaces/products/lucky-id-necklace

https://diegobinetti.com/products/uma-large-tote-bags
Love Binetti Uma Large Tote $80

This Love Binetti cotton textile tote has 4 roomy exterior pockets, fringy edges and convertible shoulder straps. I imagine this packed with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a Hermes towel, and hand-sanitizer, all toted to Rockaway Beach, and ready for the sun gods.

Chanel Round Sunglasses $520

Give yourself a well-deserved treat with Chanel’s dark tortoise and green sunny frames. The off-kilter pattern is fun but remains sophisticated. You will not regret a Chanel purchase but beware of leaving them for the beach treasure hunters. Best to think of them as a chic hair accessory when not used for shade.

https://www.chanel.com/us/eyewear/p/A71348X08101S651700POCCI/round-sunglasses-dark-tortoise-green/

Figue Envelope Clutch
Figue Envelope Clutch Moon Ivy ice $140

I love this clutch because it reminds me of far-flung travel—Bali or Tahiti anyone? This fold-over fabric envelope with tassel and botanical print is great to throw in your beach bag and can be your best friend with solid fashion looks.

Tory burch thin flip flops $29

I suppose I missed the memo because in my mind, flip-flips had to be Havana’s. Little did I know that improvements were made while I wasn’t paying attention. These Tory Burch thin flippers are the only thing you need on your feet all summer long. The patterns are super fun, Tory’s insignia is just the right size and they are on sale for $29— can’t get much better.

https://www.toryburch.com/thin-flip-flop/56488.html?color=484

Hint Sunscreen Spray $17

The brand that infuses H2O with true essences of fruit, Hint Water, has expanded into sunscreens which are also infused with deliciously fruity scents. Hint sunscreen boasts a clear continuous mist with SPF 30, water-resistance, hydrating to the skin, and paraben-free. And for the lucky few swimming in tropical waters, this formula will not hurt the precious coral reefs. It’s safe for the environment and for all skin types.

https://www.drinkhint.com/products/hint-grapefruit-sunscreen-spf-30

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Cartier Is Set To Launch The New Pasha Watch With An Inspiring Group Of Ambassadors

Rami Malek, Troye Sivan, Willow Smith, Maisie Williams, and Jackson Wang photographed by Craig McDean for Cartier

Leave it to Cartier to assemble a group of progressive influencers to get the watch-love message out to Millenials. This selective and international bunch of creatives, which they call the Pasha de Cartier Community, speaks to a new generation of potential Cartier fans and customers in a way that is relevant to the social justice concerns in our culture at this very moment. The group includes actor Rami Malek, singer, and songwriter, Troye Sivan, singer and activist, Willow Smith, actress, Maisie Williams, and Chinese rapper, singer and dancer, Jackson Wang.

The Pasha de Cartier watch is a revamped and updated version of one originally launched in the 1980’s but rings as new and modern as ever. It comes in stainless steel and yellow gold, and pink gold with diamonds, and the prices range from $5,700 (35mm stainless steel) to $16,600 (41mm yellow gold). One of its cool features is a self-sizing bracelet. Its launch is set for September on Cartier’s site with curbside pick up for sure. Fingers crossed for a visit to the elegant mansion on 5th Avenue, to buy in person which for me— will never be taken for granted again!

If you’re a watch aficionado and would like to know more stories and details about the Pasha, please read expert watch journalist, Jack Forster’s review for a more in-depth review:

https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/pasha-de-cartier-in-41mm-and-35mm-introducing

Cartier’s messaging for this initiative is below;

With its distinctive codes and extraordinary design, the Pasha watch has always been for those who take a wider view of the world. This breadth of vision is shared by a new generation of talents who have cultivated their own uniqueness, like Maisie Williams, the English actress involved in various collaborative projects, or actor Rami Malek who is drawn to complex and captivating roles that don’t conform to Hollywood’s traditional standards. Personalities like the artists Troye Sivan or Willow Smith who rely on courage to assert themselves and have faith in their creativity and versatility; or in the desire to unite and connect young people, as shown by the success of the Chinese singer Jackson Wang

Pasha de Cartier in stainless steel and stainless steel and leather
Visit Cartier’s site

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