A unique Asian-led jewelry collaboration is bringing visibility to the deaf and hard of hearing communities. The collection, entitled “The Beauty of Being Deaf,” consists of eight gold-plated brass ear pieces meant to complement and proudly draw attention to cochlear implants and hearing aids rather than hide them.
New York-based streetwear brand Private Policy collaborated with activist, artist, and actor Chella Man to bring this project to life. Designers Siying Qu and Haoran Li met Man at New York Fashion Week last year and they came up with the idea together.
“We really felt there was something so creative that we could do with an ear jewelry piece and we were also very intrigued by Chella’s artwork and paintings,” Qu tells The RepresentASIAN Project. “They’re very distinguishing, very creative, so we thought this could be a nice connecting point between his fine art pieces and his passion for the deaf and hard of hearing communities and what we do in fashion.”
Qu is referring to the fact that Private Policy is an inclusive fashion brand that takes inspiration from political and social topics for each of its collections. Since its founding in 2016, Private Policy has made statements about a variety of topics, including the dark side of the pharmaceutical industry and breaking Asian stereotypes.
Highlighting the deaf community is “so new within fashion, especially within jewelry,” Qu says, which is one of the reasons Private Policy wanted to collaborate on this project.
The biggest challenge was balancing functionality with aesthetics. Each jewelry piece had to be flexible enough to adjust to every person’s unique ear shape while also being lightweight so as to not interfere with hearing devices. The pieces were also modelled after Man’s artwork, which include intricate lines and unique shape combinations.
The result is eight stunning “wearable art” pieces ranging from $330 to $620 USD. And although they were designed with the deaf and hard of hearing communities in mind, Private Policy says anyone is welcome to wear these pieces on their own.
In addition to launching the ear pieces, Private Policy and Man also released a moving campaign video to highlight the unique experiences of the deaf and hard of hearing communities and the beautiful way they see the world.
“The whole project, in a really subtle and emotional way, changes people’s perspective. It’s not about focusing on what [the deaf community has] lost,” Qu explains. “Society often highlights this misconception that they need our help, that they are disadvantaged. But through the film you can see they are proud and they have a different perspective to offer.”
Since the jewelry line launched on March 15, Qu says they’ve already received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. Private Policy has received emails and messages from people, especially within the deaf community, who are excited about the collection and wondering if there will be more styles added in the future.
“It’s really amazing to see that we’re doing something that people can relate to, so if this launch does well, we hope we can have the opportunity to add more styles and colourways,” says Qu. “And from our initial conversations with Chella, he had so many other ideas that could be collaborated in the fashion industry. If we can, we’d like to fulfill the other ideas we had.”
Private Policy and Man’s jewelry collaboration comes at a unique time. Not only was the project launched during National Deaf History Month, but also during a time when anti-Asian racism and violence has become so prevalent.
Considering “The Beauty of Being Deaf” is an Asian-led project, Qu says they tried to use this moment to remind people that Asians are not a stereotype.
“Chella, [Private Policy designer] Haoran and I are very aware of our Asian identity and heritage. So every day in our creativity and what we do, we always hope to break the stereotypes of this very singular idea of what Asians are good at,” she says. “[Asians] are actually very creative in other fields. They don’t always have to be [the doctor or lawyer] stereotype. That’s what we really hope to show.”
“And with the whole cast being minorities, it really shows that solidarity is happening in real life. It’s not just us talking only on social media or only in moments when we’re protesting. It’s actually happening in everyday life.”