They fight anti-Asian hate as superheroes in comic House of Slay. For AAPI Heritage Month, they want to encourage their US community to vote
- Prabal Gurung, Phillip Lim, Laura Kim, Tina Leung and Ezra William created a digital comic starring Asian superheroes who fight anti-Asian crime
- The five have been asked by AAPI Victory Fund to help create and promote a line of clothing aimed at encourage Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders to vote
In light of a rise in attacks towards Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities in the US, a new superhero league was formed in November 2021 when five friends – all household names in fashion – joined forces.
The series sees the squad go on a journey to fight a cruel tyrant whose strength grows as racially motivated cases increase.
The tale acknowledges the heritage and cultural backgrounds of every member of the gang. Each tells their story as a way to connect with readers who may feel out of place or scared.
“[The fashion industry] is quite cliquey and segregated, even though it’s very small. So, during the pandemic, we decided to change the narrative,” Lim says in a video interview. “We centred ourselves as the protagonists and took away the narrative that we’re always competing with each other or that we’re divided.”
This collaboration intersects the fashion and political worlds as the AAPI Victory Fund focuses on mobilising voters in the 23-million-strong AAPI community to make or break outcomes for electoral candidates across the US.
Brad Jenkins, president and CEO of the fund, believes House of Slay arrived at a moment when that exact kind of messaging was needed.
“In my work in politics, that’s always been my goal – to inspire people to realise they have a voice. Sadly, most people don’t use it,” Jenkins explains, highlighting how different things would be if more young Asian-Americans voted. “If young people voted at the same rates as older people voted, everything would change overnight.”
While working on this collaboration, the members of House of Slay and the AAPI Victory Fund agreed that scaring people into voting was not the way to go. Instead, they decided to use Asian-American creatives to inspire the community.
“The collaboration was just so organic and natural. I was so honoured that they were willing to jump in and help us do this,” Jenkins says. “It’s a pretty rare collaboration. I can’t think of another like this, to be honest. We’re so humbled and honoured that we had the chance to do it with them.”
With more voters reporting feeling little to no connection with any political party, this project embodies a crucial step towards inclusion and empowerment, with apparel slogans that read “Our voice, our power, our vote” on the front, and “the United States of America, in voting we trust” on the back.
“When we decided to take this on, it was a natural evolution to our journey,” Lim says, emphasising how, though they’re not politicians, this project was an opportunity to get involved and rewrite the narrative of the country they call home.
“We wanted to cover more than fashion and the fabulousness of it all. We also wanted to use the platform for a social impact.”
As a group, the five chose to fight anti-Asian hate through a comic book after realising that growing up would’ve been quite different if they had seen people that looked like them being superheroes.
“Part of our goal was to let young people see grown-up versions of themselves,” Lim says. “And the response has been phenomenal.”
“That’s what’s so exciting about working with this group of creatives,” Jenkins adds. “This collaboration is an entry point. We have to create entry points for people who are disillusioned with politics.”
For that same reason, his favourite phrase from the #OurVote line is “in voting we trust”. “We have a lot of work to do to repair that trust so people can believe that their vote does matter. That their voice matters.”
The visual language of this collaboration addresses those voices and tackles how language barriers can make some feel as if they’re not being spoken to. This is why “vote” is written in 14 different Asian languages on the back of the shirts.
“We’re just getting started,” Jenkins says.