Because of the way the Australian school year pans out, I have never actually spent a Chinese New Year in China. That is not to say, however, that Chinese New Year isn’t as grand and as authentic as a family of four can make it, not to mention its utmost importance in Chinese culture – certainly I’ve looked forward to our exceptional feasts since I could say pork buns (and baby oh baby, can I say pork buns). Last year, being here in New York for Fashion Week, was the first time I hadn’t been with my family to celebrate the lives and achievements of our ancestors, and share our ambitions and excitement for the Lunar year to come. That morning, I baked myself an egg and tomatoes in coconut oil (a far cry from 西紅柿炒雞蛋), spent the day running between shows and Chipotle, shared three serves of Jamaican grilled corn with Michael, Jess and Bridget, and Skyped my dear brother back home, only to fall asleep at the keyboard and wake up with a hilarious collection of screenshots he’d taken the liberty of saving and sharing on Facebook.
Such is the life of siblings.
This year, knowing that I would be mid-Fashion Week on Chinese New Year, I decided that I would make a point of celebrating a little on my own here in snowy New York, and tap into some of that infectious Chinatown cheer (think shopping complex vibes at around Christmas time). All the more reason, too, when Mulberry and I teamed up on this red Alexa bag of love, that is technically for Valentine’s Day (more on that later), but what with its resemblance to a red envelope, is just as profound a special friend to accompany me on my day-t0-night (which somehow also wound up demonstrating the impact of outerwear).
8:00 am – Having spent the past hour and a half chained to my email inbox, fresh air and a human activity is most welcome. I take a quick walk around Chinatown in search of hot breakfast, and watch the excitement and hospitality between stores and passersby. 恭喜發財 all round, and the best green tea I’ve had all week.
8:30 am – The cold walk from our apartment to Canal St seems far too high a price to pay for a slightly cheaper cab, and even more so for a much cheaper subway. I book an UBER car instead and spend just as much time listening to my teeth tell each other that I should really be wearing a coat. A five year old passing by points out that the shirt and jacket I have tied around my waist would be much more productive around my shoulders: ‘Your bottom doesn’t need to be warmed up‘. Thanks dude – appreciate it.
9:00 am – Shooting MAC’s fresh faces backstage at Victoria Beckham’s show - the New York Public Library is something else. Housing a whole cast of models and artists in half a hallway is something else again. (SPOTTED: David Beckham trying to understand what exactly it is that his wife does)
10:30 am – As always, I have sorely underestimated New York City’s midtown tunnel winds. As a result, I most definitely have windburn on my face. Stop by our Nolita apartment to grab my happy coat, then the mission for decorations and New Year’s knick knacks to have around my dinner table and work space. Chinese New Year is so much about forthcoming prosperity and well-rounded happiness (for which the lucky colour is red). This translates to a lot of red silk, red sweaters, red tassels, red Alexa’s, red 3D cardboard models of dragons breathing amicable fire, and artificial shades of gold in between. Jade is the colour and stone for tranquility, so I channel some dollars towards a few miniature carved lions to stand guard in my handbag.
12:00 noon: My take on suiting up, without the hassle of a full changeover (oh ELLIATT – you get me), for lunch with second cousins and their little families. While waiting, I find a little inspiration in red and pink window displays. We go with Joe’s Shanghai purely for the excellent soup dumplings and buzz of fresh starts.
1:30 pm: The preferred means of exiting our restaurant is by rolling – directly correlated with what could only be described as inhaling plates of dumplings and sticky rice. It’s a custom in my extended family that anyone under the age of sixteen gets cornerstore money in their red envelopes, and those with the need to feel independent receive larger wads of dollar bills to support larger decisions in life, like education, new homes, and online shopping habits… oops.
2:00 pm – Try as I might, I’ve missed the beginning of Jeremy Laing’s show thanks to traffic in narrow downtown streets. I have a habit of booking appointments back to back, which doesn’t quite translate in New York City. A half hour on either side is a social standard for being early or late as a result of previous tardiness or lack thereof. (SPOTTED: that actor who plays the slightly racist all-American Dad in every show ever aired, walking his Dachshund at Mercer St).
2:30 pm – Head back downtown to pick out ‘lucky candy’ to drop off for a dear family friend’s children. The stalls on the lower side of Canal St and Mott St, past the bend in the road, have a lot more variety in flavours and tackiness (bless).
4:00 pm – A quick change before taking the subway uptown in more inappropriate footwear and particularly conspicuous blues for Diane Von Furstenberg’s runway. Lincoln Centre Plaza is a bit of a zoo after the show – the streetstyle scene has certainly evolved in the past year, and everybody wants a shot of this perfect construction of hot Mulberry leather. (SPOTTED: Nicky Hilton attempting to talk to her companion prettily while having her picture taken).
5:30 pm – Mad and hungry dash back to Chinatown, to pull together some ingredients for a quiet solo New Year’s Dinner. What looks like fresh produce makes me a little homesick…
6:00 pm: Cooking chronicles on a hotplate, and stacked bowls of water, upon realising the absence of woks and pans in our rental apartment. First up is Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce and sticky rice. Then, a few seared mini spring rolls, and, God forbid, 西紅柿炒雞蛋.
7:00pm: Up to the Plaza Hotel for Zac Posen’s decadent show, then a short cab ride with Tiany to the Park Avenue Armory for Tommy Hilfiger’s runway. More on both of those later!
11:00 pm: Skype my family back home in Sydney to discuss the financial viability of my mother starting a dumpling and spring roll store. Instead, discuss the psychological viability of moving to New York, with the conclusion that, yes I should have taken the subway in morning; yes, $2/LB for mandarins was actually pretty good, and .
12:30am ~: Let’s not talk about my laptop and inbox. We’re on the rocks.
Did you guys do anything for Chinese New Year (regardless of whether you’re Chinese)? Any red packet scores? Or better yet, any Mulberry Alexa’s?
Mulberry Alexa Bag in Valentine’s Red – Mulberry Heart Zip Purse – Mulberry Red Envelopes (complimentary with bag) – SYLVESTER by Kate Sylvester Sweater – Factorie Trousers (similar HERE) – Mode Collective Y-Front Points – TOPSHOP Unique Herringbone Cube Coat – ELLIATT Cape Blazer – Cheap Monday Point Black Sunglasses
photos by Lydia Hudgens