SJMade ’18: Empire in the Air

A colorful community means a flourishing collective of local makers and small businesses. Whether it be through craft fairs or pop-up shops, San Jose Made is a significant driver of maker culture in the Bay Area. This couldn’t be more evident than through its annual San Jose Craft Holiday Fair, an event which consists of over 250 craft makers, food vendors, artists, designers, and emerging brands coalescing under the tent-like dome of South Hall. Fittingly located in Silicon Valley’s creative district SoFA—an area brimming with colorful galleries and lively murals—SJMADE’s seasonal event offers brands an optimal opportunity to connect with new customers as well as each other. Join the excitement on the 15th and 16th of December from 11 am to 5 pm.

In anticipation of the event, allow us to introduce you to a few of the compelling makers partnering with SJMADE.

ChiChai Mateo – Empire in the Air

Though ChiChai Mateo’s fashion brand may have started as spray-painted, one-shirt-at-a-time projects out of a dorm room, her endeavors soon blossomed into a community-driven clothing brand. As Art Director and Founder of Empire In The Air, Mateo titled her brand after the legacy she strives to leave as well as for her flourishing “head in the clouds” dreams (despite naysayers’ contrary predictions). Her business takes basic garments as well as classic streetwear illustrations and transforms them into fresh, fashion-forward designs.

But beyond the clothes, Mateo seeks to inspire and support her audience in their endeavors to elevate dreams into reality. “A lot of our audience members are young adults who are trying to figure out how to build their own empires too,” she indicates. Her team activates each collection through empowering themes, like “The Good New Days” (learn from the past while also moving forward) or “Public Figures” (create the change you want to see without waiting for celebrities or politicians to take action). They also actively host community events in the San Francisco Bay Area. “From open mics and art shows to 5K runs and kickball tournaments, we offer a platform for others to share their passions,” their website asserts.

When she isn’t designing or spending time at the Empire store, Mateo acts as a program associate for Youth Art Exchange and balances multiple teaching gigs. “A lot of artists have that side hustle to support their art,” Mateo explains, “but for me, even though I’m teaching as my ‘side hustle,’ I’m still passionate about it. So I think that’s what helps me balance everything. I’m actually motivated to do job one and two and three and four.” When she finds spare time in her demanding schedule, she chronicles her many travels through photography

Find Empire In The Air at MOMENT, a San Jose Made powered project which recently converted 12 parking spaces on the sidewalk level of the San Jose Pedro Market Parking Garage into micro-retail spaces.


Instagram: chichai.empire


Written by Johanna Hickle
Photography by Arabela Espinoza

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