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At the Asian Art Museum, Wu-Tang’s RZA Unveils New Fashion Line

Collaboration rules everything around me.


Designer: Julian Prince Dash

Item: Denim Jacket

Inspiration: 18th-century Chinese statue of Vajradhāra inlaid with semi-precious stones.

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Designer: Lu Kesi

Item: Wu Seal Envelope Wallet

Inspiration: Traditional seals from hand-carved, pyrophyllite stamps.

“I made the seal, carved the stone, stamped them, and then sent them the stamp design,” said Kesi.

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Designer: Lu Kesi

Item: Wu Seal Shirt

Inspiration: Traditional seals from hand-carved, pyrophyllite stamps.

“It combines East and West and old and new. It’s a way to take an ancient artform and try to remake it,” said Kesi.

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Designer: RZA

Item: Emperors’ Treasures Souvenir Jacket

Inspiration: The Heart Sutra

“We have that sutra printed inside the jacket. The head glows like a flame. It forms a fire, it forms a smoke because when you think, you burn brain cells, but the smoke is your thoughts,” said RZA.

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Designer: RZA and Shaikh

Item: Buddha Camo Tote

Inspiration: Abhaya mudra  

“This guy’s holding up the Wu-Tang symbol,” said RZA.

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Designer: Zhi Hong Liang

Item: Upcycled denim shirt

Inspiration: Calligraphy styles of Wang Xizhi, Yan Zhenqing, and Han Li and works from Emperors’ Treasures.

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On Thursday night, the Asian Art Museum hosted Wu Tang’s RZA, who showed off a limited-run collection of jackets, tees, and accessories influenced by a show recently at the musem. It was a fashion collection that ain’t nothing to—well, you know the rest.

“As we walked through seeing different dynasties, the scrolls, the quality of the earthenware, the motifs, and the designs immediately inspired us,” said RZA.

The Emperors’ Treasures Collection was in the works since RZA and business partner Mustafa Shaikh visited the Asian Art Museum in 2016 to see the 150-piece exhibition of artworks collected by nine ancient rulers of China. “We checked out the exhibition and immediately—I didn’t even say anything. [RZA] was just like ‘That could be in a jacket, that could be in that piece’ and I was like, cool,” said Shaikh. 

In addition to showing off their collection, the duo talked with Jeff Chang of Stanford’s Institute for the Diversity in the Arts about hip-hop, artistic influences, and cultural appropriation. Devotees heard a new track from the forthcoming album Wu Tang: The Saga Continues (out Oct. 13). Both the garments and the music are released through 36 Chambers Alc, a lifestyle brand RZA and Shaikh launched in 2016.

Marc Mayer, senior educator for contemporary art at the Asian Art Museum, applauded the cross-pollination. “It shows that the museum can be a living entity,” he said.

Continuing the brand’s “hip-hop, Chinese culture and high fashion” aesthetic, the new line infuses elements from Asian art in collaboration with the Asian Art Museum and artists Lu Kesi, ZhiHong Liang, and Julian Prince Dash, one of San Francisco’s 2017 New Designer Award Winners. In the slideshow above, the designers talk about their inspirations.


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