Chris Wong is the mastermind behind _CODED, a brand that produces forward-looking clothing and accessories. We discuss his journey, learning to sew and design, and starting his brand.
My full time job is in the field of Applied Behavioral Analysis with children that are on the spectrum. For example, imagine an eight year old child who is physically bullying other kids at school to gain attention. I would develop a specialized program and curriculum to teach them the appropriate means to seek attention from others. To do so, there are a lot of layers—baseline data to collect, observation, strategy to contrive more appreciated behavior and how to motivate.
Balancing my full time with _CODED is always challenging, but generally it is about the amount of time to invest and when to commit to other things I want to do in life. My work schedule is typically 8am to 5pm, and then I spend 7pm to 1am on _CODED. However, I’m not always consistent as there are other things that revolve around my life and I find myself wanting to do a lot but constantly running out of time to do so.
It started when I was in my junior year of high school. At the time I was a very antisocial and shut in individual. I wore oversized polos baggy jeans when everyone else had moved on towards the skater trend with skinny jeans, Vans, Volcom, and Zoo York. My friends felt I needed a makeover as an individual to be more suited with the current trends and to boost my appeal in both physical appearance and social aspects. I didn’t understand why I had to wear all this, but eventually graphical appeal and design fascinated me.
I guess I was able to compare the idea of dressing the same way how MMORPG characters look and armor skins. Eventually, I got into Nike SBs during their pink box era along with The Hundred, Kid Robot, Soulful Commando. That was the start of it all.
Getting into streetwear and Nike SB made me want to learn graphic design. During my first year of college, I got a ripped copy of Adobe CS2 and watched a ton of tutorials. I learned to build Signatures in forums to express, build some banners for clan websites, and overall enjoy the creative process that comes along with it. Over the course of time school, adulting priorities, and self-doubt distracted me from continuing.
Fast forward 5 years later, I finally solidified my career path and found myself in my final year of college to finish my bachelors degree. It was my friend Matt who originally got me into sewing. He was making these patch pockets with TS (TechSys) webbing. I thought it was interesting so I decided to try making similiar things myself. Eventually I bought my own sewing machine. Sometime later, Matt introduced me to a page on Tumblr called the “techwearist.” He thought it would resonate with me because it reminded him of my styling.
He was right, everything I saw there was super interesting and had really interesting details. I was introduced to brands that were nothing like what I saw at stores in LA: Isaora, Maharishi, Y3, and Acronym. There was one particular piece that fascinated me the most: it was the Acronym CP2 in olive. I was fascinated by the color, shape, form. There was a personality within the entire look that captivated me. I looked up the price and I couldn't ever imagine how to even afford it. Still, I couldn't stop thinking about the details in the CP2 and perhaps became obsessed with it.
I decided to search up every photo online available and save those images. I decided I was gonna make this, but with some changes or perhaps improvements. I didn't want to make an exact copy– the artist in me and artist friends had always held these high standards when it came to creating and the process. I didn’t know how to start at all, but I tried to imagine how I could relate my practice as a DIY graphic designer into the equation. Somehow I made the piece.
When I showed Matt, he was shocked at the results. It validated to me that I might actually be good at making things. I kept at it, creating things that I found fascinating, and making a lot of DIYs. I reflected on my own and gave myself a goal. I wanted to create for the sake of challenging conventional designs and imagined the what if, the whys and the how. CODED was never a brand, it was a work process that I built up for myself and a form of creative practice that solved my own day to day problems.
_CODED was a conceptal thought process that I built up in both practice and idealization of what I was interested in digital form. CODED is:
C = Cut
O = Organize
D = Development
E = Execute
D = Demonstrate
The _ underscore is a reference to Y2K, my origin, and to how technology influences me as an individual.
As for how it became a brand I would say it just naturally came to be due to engagement and interaction from others online. I still don’t consider myself to be a brand. Perhaps I keep comparing myself to others and I just don’t feel like I’m at a level yet to earn that title.
I’m not as active as people think. I was on SuFu (SuperFuture) because my friend Danii told me I should check it out. At the time we really connected well with each other based on our ideals, thoughts and common interest. I wanted to express to people that you didn't need to go to fashion school to have something you want and that you can just make it yourself. I got involved in SuFu in a sense to support Danii and share. I spent a lot of time really just trying to solve people’s issues with repairs and answer technical questions when I had the chance.
Instagram is fun in a sense. I can just post whatever I want more like a journal for and about myself. It reminds me of MySpace, but with more information, faster, and quicker. In this platform I had many interesting engagements and got to be friends with people online. I thought Discord would be the same, but it’s really tough to keep up with it. Things just happen so fast that I can't even keep up or jump into a conversation.
Overall, I would say that these social platforms have affected me in that I am able to meet like-minded people that I feel some belonging with. Some of these people became part of CODED and now we are on a journey to create things together. _CODED’s current goal is to connect with others through art and design. I hope to express this thought/goal more towards the end of this year. I want people to know that you can create really interesting things out of the blue with those who you connect with.
Hahahah, I really don’t think I’m the right person to ask this because I’m still trying to follow my own advice.
I would say that it is not impossible to learn if you really want to, and you don’t need to go to school for it. Trust in your process, be patient, take your time, try not to compare yourself with others.
Outside of fashion I’m really into inline skating, Japanese super robots, video games, anime, and behavioral science.
Thank you to everyone that has supported me and CODED so far. —Chis
You can follow Chris on Instagram at @chrisjsw and shop _CODED at underscorecoded.com.