There’s little I love more than a cute hair accessory so when I discovered Little Asian Sweatshop, I was super excited! I can’t recall whether I first saw her table at a convention or if I saw her on Etsy but either way, I was definitely hell bent on getting one of her hair flowers. Last weekend at Baltimore Comic Con, I was able to sit down with Fennie, the lovely lady behind Little Asian Sweatshop, and chat with her about her shop, geeky things, and the joys of conventions. It was such a fantastically enjoyable time that we just kept chatting and I’ve had to edit this interview a little bit for length.
Bria (WHR): How did you get involved with fandom?
Fennie (Little Asian Sweatshop): I’ve always been a baby geek since my early days. The way I got into fandom was actually at the first and only sleepover my mother ever let me go to when I was a kid. I’m Chinese so growing up, you’re not allowed to go to sleepovers. You’re at home, you do violin, you practice your math. I mean, not to do the stereotypes but my life was a stereotype. My best friend at the time in the 7th grade was this girl who was also Chinese, our parents knew each other, and for her birthday, she wanted a sleepover. This was such a big deal in my circle of friends because we’re all Chinese and we’ve never been to a sleepover together even though we’ve always heard about it. We go to the sleepover and there was this big drama—our parents kept calling each other every 5 minutes to make sure we weren’t doing anything bad. The fact that we had a second cupcake set off a parent conference.
So we’re just sitting there and we’re playing the dumbest slumber party games. Her big brother was a comic book fan and he had around one of the X-men graphic novels. It was the collection of the first run with Xavier and Jean Grey. I was so bored by these games because this was not the slumber party that they showed on TV and this was not cool. So I’m sitting there in the corner reading this comic book and I’m like… “I don’t know what this is but this is my life. This is amazing. There’s a whole world that doesn’t involve math, violin, studying, or Chinese school!” From there, I started talking to the brother and he told me that they sell comic books at 7-11 and I had to walk by a 7-11 to get home from school every day so I would illicitly buy comic books. And that’s how I got into the dark, deep underbelly of comic books.
So your mother not letting you go to sleepovers turned out well.
You found comics. How did you get into accessory making?
Actually, my best friend and I used to cosplay all the time so I was really good at sewing. I could make the outfits but I was really bad about accessorizing and making the little pieces and she used to make all of them. The accessories really make a costume. It’s the make up, the hair, the everything. From there, I became kind of obsessed and it all became (gestures at table) this.
And then you decided to open your shop?
What happened was that I started off my shop making cosplay stuff like skirts and dresses and hairbands and so forth. My best friend was getting married in Vegas and I had this crazy— I don’t even know what I was on… too much caffeine and on life or something. She was getting married in Vegas and I had this crazy idea that I was going to make a dress out of poker cards for the wedding. I can even hear her cringe now. I was convinced that this was what I was going to do so I bought all of these poker cards. By the way, if you’ve never sewn cards, just don’t do it. It will end in tears and rage. So I was all pissed off and I came back two days later and I open the door to my work room and all of the cuttings looked like flower petals on the floor. I thought that I had to be able to do something with this and that’s what ended up starting all of my hair accessories which then became my most popular item because no one else makes them. It was completely unique and completely different. (more…)