FROM CHOPSTICKS TO BUCKET HATS, VISTA & CHIFA TEAM UP FOR A ONE-OF-A-KIND DROP

(SPONSORED STORY)
ART & DESIGN
WORDS BY CAROLINE BROWN
© HIGHSNOBIETY

Meet Chifa, the LA-based restaurant with merch that you’ll actually want to wear.

Vista's online platform partners with your small business for every and all design needs. From posting on social media to refreshing your logo, even hosting an event or a grand opening – Vista has a carefully crafted team prepared to help take your business to the next level in design, marketing, branding, and more. Giving us an exclusive look behind one of its most recent collaborations, Vista has teamed up with LA-based restaurant, Chifa, to create a merchandise drop as unique as its client's backstory.

Chifa has always placed an emphasis on food through its community since its opening in 1975. Originally founded by Wendy Leon, who emigrated from Hong Kong to Lima, Peru, and her husband, Ricardo Jose Leon, who was Chinese Peruvian, Chifa honors their family through the blending of authentic Chinese and Peruvian cuisines.

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Chifa has always placed an emphasis on food through its community since its opening in 1975

Now, four decades later, Chifa has reopened in Eagle Rock, but its spirit remains the same. From its traditional Chinese and Peruvian-style dishes to its inviting, retro, monochrome interior, Chifa’s design needs for this collaboration proved to be just as unique as the brand’s ethos.

Together, Vista and Chifa created items like bandanas and bucket hats as well as more unique items like branded chopsticks all using Chifa’s iconic mint green signifier and red heart motif. Incorporating endearing messaging like “From Chifa, With Love”, the Vista x Chifa collaboration showcases just how distinct and detailed small business merchandise can be while creating with Vista.

From Chifa, With Love...

Behind The Scenes of The Chifa and Vista Collaboration with Co-Owner, Humberto Leon

Founded in 1975, Chifa was originally established in Peru by the mother of Humberto Leon, co-founder of Opening Ceremony and former creative director of Kenzo. However, after seizing an opportunity to move to America for her children, Leon’s mother forfeited her beloved restaurant after only two years.

With just $500, Leon and his family moved to Los Angeles between Eagle Rock, where the Chifa is now located, and Highland Park. “As children, we didn’t understand the sacrifices she made, we just thought these were things our parents did,” Leon adds. “My mom started working at some factories sewing clothing to make ends meet. Soon after, she got a job at a local hospital in the cafeteria and began working exclusively in food. She really worked her way up and gave her kids the American dream.”

Now, years later, Leon and his family, including his brother-in-law who is now the head chef, have come together to recreate Chifa. Still serving distinct Chinese and Peruvian dishes side-by-side, Chifa is a true family restaurant with over 50% of the staff being related, while serving up dishes that the family would eat at their dinner table growing up. Leon’s mother even cooks a handful of dishes at the restaurant herself as only she knows its distinct nuances such as the soy sauce chicken and sticky rice in lotus leaves.

While some elements have stayed true to the restaurant from ‘75, LA’s Chifa was approached with an entirely new aesthetic thanks to Leon’s artful eye. Creating a merchandise line in collaboration with design and marketing partner, Vista, Chifa also released a line of apparel and accessories that exudes all of the love and style that is now fundamental to Chifa.

To get more insight into Chifa’s partnership with Vista, we caught up with Leon.

I knew I wanted the restaurant building to be green and for the lettering to be red because it's the perfect palette combination in Chinese culture – it' attracts hope, joy, and prosperity. Also, from an American perspective, the color red emotes love, so I really wanted that juxtaposition. The building itself is actually a very particular green color. Vista worked really hard on getting the merchandise to match, and they nailed it which is so exciting because it's so vibrant. We also have this signature heart window on the restaurant that is on a slight tilt – I wanted the building to sort of wink at you as you drove by, so it all has an intention. We embraced all of these elements in our project with Vista which I feel has now become a signature.

I think Vista was an amazing partner first and foremost for connecting me with local companies to source specific pieces. The t-shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, and hats were made in partnership with another small business called Local World. Vista has been such an amazing support to so many small businesses and individual families through this sort of networking process and we really wanted this partnership to highlight those attributes. Vista also goes the extra mile to create products that tell the narrative of a small business. For example, I customized red and green envelopes for Chifa, which are widely used throughout Asain culture on birthdays or Holidays as a gesture to say, “we’re wishing you luck.” I think bringing this sort of cultural element into the Vista business model is so cool because it really showcases them wanting to tell an authentic story of the people who they work with.

I knew I wanted the restaurant building to be green and for the lettering to be red because it's the perfect palette combination in Chinese culture – it' attracts hope, joy, and prosperity. Also, from an American perspective, the color red emotes love, so I really wanted that juxtaposition. The building itself is actually a very particular green color. Vista worked really hard on getting the merchandise to match, and they nailed it which is so exciting because it's so vibrant. We also have this signature heart window on the restaurant that is on a slight tilt – I wanted the building to sort of wink at you as you drove by, so it all has an intention. We embraced all of these elements in our project with Vista which I feel has now become a signature.

Vista really took everything we wanted to make to heart and wanted to bring that to life. It would be so easy for them to tell me that they couldn’t complete certain ideas, but they made the effort to custom-dye pieces to our match our building and create pieces with amazing detail. As a small business owner, it makes me so happy to see this entire project come to life with the original vision that I had.

My favorite piece that I can’t wait to wear all day and all night is the sweatshirt. But I think the little red and green envelopes are special because it symbolizes something more, something celebratory. When creating Chifa, we knew that we wanted it to be a place where people can come together and share special moments. When most people think about celebrating an event, one always thinks of the best Italian restaurant or the best French restaurant, but I don’t think anyone’s first thought is, “let me go to this tiny Chinese Peruvian restaurant.” The fact that we can open up this conversation to elevate Chinese cuisine with the help of Vista has been incredibly special.

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Chifa and Vista Host A Lunar New Year Celebration

To commemorate its first-ever capsule collection together, Vista and Chifa hosted an intimate dinner at the family-owned restaurant timed to the Lunar New Year.

Celebrating themes of family and intentional design, Vista and Chifa’s event further highlighted the collection’s curated apparel, including custom lunch bags, hoodies, and matchsticks, while also serving Chifa’s authentic Chinese Peruvian dishes to its attendees.

With guests present like Jimmy O. Yang, Greta Lee, Eric Andre, and Eddie Huang, the event seamlessly reflected the community-oriented ethos which made Vista and Chifa’s capsule collection a success, proving that merchandise can, and should, celebrate local businesses and the stories that inform them.

Noting the importance of thoughtful collaboration, Chifa co-owner Humberto Leon added, "We are very excited to partner with Vista because Vista is all about helping small businesses grow, and is very community-oriented. Through the partnership, we hope to bring Vista into our community and develop the tools we have available to present the food and mission of Chifa at its best.”

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"Through the partnership, we hope to bring Vista into our community and develop the tools we have available to present the food and mission of Chifa at its best." - Humberto Leon

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