Talking Plaid: an interview with designer Rich Tu

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For our second print release of spring ‘20, we teamed up with a past Janji collaborator, Rich Tu — an accomplished artist and designer based in Brooklyn — and asked him to design us a fresh take on a popular heritage fabric in the Philippines: plaid.

Inspired by the megatropolis of Manila, his hometown of NYC and his own Filipino-American background, Rich created a vibrant print with an unexpected graphic for our Water Is A Human Right series. Taking further visual cues from the urban grid and the Sampaguita flower, Rich and the Janji design team created a race kit like none other. Check out the designs below and read the interview with Rich on how he's staying active and creative...


M's AFO Singlet in Plaid H2O Vine Racer

W's AFO Singlet in Midnight H2O Vine Racer

Janji: How did you get started in design?

RT: I always wanted a creative career, but didn't pursue it seriously until after I had graduated college. After graduating, I re-assessed what was important to me, and took night classes at School of Visual Arts in NYC for 3 years, and then was accepted to their Graduate program. After another 2 years, I was on my way, and have pursued it in earnest ever since.

J: What’s your preferred way to stay physically active?

RT: I run outside early in the morning when I can avoid people (tough in New York), and also lift weights. Since social distancing started, when running isn't possible I bboy (breakdance) in my livingroom. I was pretty serious/competitive in my youth and it felt like a good opportunity to dust off some old moves.

J: How would you describe your approach to design?

RT: Flexible and unapologetic. Willing to make mistakes, and learn from them.


J: What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work or life?

RT: Right now I'm fascinated by how we are going to move forward as a society and culture. My work and life are very informed by culture, and likewise it's my job to inform back so it's an interesting feedback loop.

J: Do you have a motto?

RT: "Cautious Optimism" (not a motto, more like an outlook).

The third graphic in our Water is a Human Right series is screen-printed in

near electric colors and inspired by the Sampaguita, the national flower of the Philippines.

J: Tell us about your podcast, First Generation Burden.

RT: First Generation Burden focuses on the intersection of immigrants and the creative community. We celebrate the unique and diverse immigrant population in America through longform interviews. Basically, it’s just a bunch of fun conversations with good people. We started in 2016, and been going strong ever since.

J: What’s the best idea or thought you've had while exercising?  

RT: Currently I'm the Vice President of Digital Design at MTV. It's an incredibly fun and rewarding job, where I can push my creative skills to the limit. One such case is the show MTV's Sneaker Wars, which I thought about while going for a morning jog (I run every morning, either for short distances before weights, or a few miles). I was fascinated by the idea of taking the food competition format show, and applying it to sneaker customization (I'm a big sneakerhead). Then I pitched it to some important people, and the rest was history. 


J: What’s your dream job? 

RT: I've been pretty fortunate to have a few "dream jobs", working at places like MTV and Nike, and having a range of clients from The New Yorker, Coca-Cola, American Express, Converse, etc. But something I'm curious about now is designing a city, and helping to engineer an infrastructure that's designed to help people.

J: What's the best piece of advice you've heard that you repeat to others?

RT: I don't believe in advice, but be kind to others. It's the single most important one, especially now.

Thanks Rich!

You can follow along with Rich on IG @Rich_Tu or tune in to his podcast First Generation Burden for conversations with other creatives in his circle. If you missed Rich's IG takeover, you can still check it out in Janji's IG Story Highlights @runjanji. We are super thankful to have been able to collaborate with Rich and you can shop his Midnight Plaid Print and H2O Vine graphic below.


Check out Rich's designs

Jess, Hannah, + Conor running through Intramuros, Manila shot by Ian MacLellan

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