Creativity & KidsAndrew Chen Talks About Carefree Children

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“I’m not the best dad — I yelled at them… this morning,” Andrew laughs.

Andrew Chen, Co-Founder of American-Contemporary menswear label, 3sixteen, and a partner of denim mecca Self Edge is most known for his contributions to the modern world of denim. However, outside of the “office,” his other, and more important full-time job is as a father. For his two children, they're fortunate to be subjected to countless real-world, creative experiences. It led us to wonder, what is it about children that allow them the ability to experience life in such a different and more creative light.

Text by Eugene Kan
Audio by Alex Maeland
Photos by Minnow Park

<p>Logan, Hunter and Andrew examine Andy Warhol&#8217;s &#8220;Campbell’s Soup Cans&#8221; at the MoMA.</p>

Logan, Hunter and Andrew examine Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans” at the MoMA.

I’m not the best dad — I yelled at them… this morning,” Andrew laughs.

Children enter the world without restriction. Their curiosity guides them through daily life as they begin to poke, prod and grab at the world around them. But as children begin to mature, society’s inhibitions and parameters began to set in — they become part of the fabric of society and the structural alignment it seems to provide. This can often mean being shackled in more ways than others through an invisible force on what we do and how we behave. Whether it be a job, or how we interact with others, we inadvertently lose a sense of creativity, curiosity, and experimentation. Children are devoid of the pressures of society. One person who has witnessed and documented this first hand is Andrew Chen. He is the Co-Founder of American-Contemporary menswear label, 3sixteen and a partner of denim mecca Self Edge. However, outside of the “office,” his other, and more important full-time job is as a father. For five-year-old Logan and four-year-old Hunter, they are fortunate to be subjected to countless real-world, creative experiences. It is these real world experiences that continue to have a formative impact on how they view the world around them.

“Kids are wired to express themselves creatively… Being young and a lack of inhibitions, a lack of manners, a lack of knowing what’s appropriate or reasonable, they don’t face some of the challenges we as adults face. We don’t want to get into something unless we think we’ll be good at it or impress somebody else with it. Those things come later in life. We should embrace that before society clamps down on it.”

Kids are wired to express themselves creatively… Being young and a lack of inhibitions, a lack of manners, a lack of knowing what’s appropriate or reasonable, they don’t face some of the challenges we as adults face.

To further the point, providing offline experiences are something kids happen to love. With so many creative outlets available, a sense of engagement has never left them asking for a digital device. “In my mind, I don’t think they [the kids] need any more toys. They have a lot of toys… if you leave them to it they’re really happy with what they have. They have such broad imaginations that they can think of new scenarios to put their toys into.”

An initial feeling from Andrew suggests children lack inhibitions. However, this sentiment isn’t exactly true. Enter the parents, who play the indefinite role as guardian, providing discernment and the mobility to explore. “As far as I’ve been able to figure out over these past five years, I really aim for moderation. That’s probably something I need to apply to myself and learn more about as I consume so voraciously. I don’t need that moderation because I’m an adult. I do what I like. I expect that from children, they have limits. I cannot count the number of time they walk up to me and say ‘daddy, put down the phone.’ It’s a very sobering moment.”

The parent’s role of guide enables their children to open up doors of experience. Unlike their adult counterparts, children are, as Andrew puts “they don’t seem as set in their ways as I am as an older person. Logan could tell me ‘I don’t want to do this,’ and turn around the next week and look forward to it. As adults I think we’re a bit more hardheaded. That’s something I can learn from them. If the results yield a different outcome than what they had originally had in their very limited experience, they’re willing to change their mind.”

The lessons that children are able to teach us extend onwards. Adults in the social media age have unrealistic expectations staring them right in the face. This disregard for children is a great creative asset. They act without outside implications. Andrew suggests that, “a lot of times we don’t do things because we fear we won’t be good at it never mind it takes time to be good at anything. I’ve experienced this personally. As an adult with limited time on your hands, you don’t have the same resources to pursue new opportunities, ventures or creative endeavors.” 

Andrew goes on to admit that “as it stands there are things on my plate that I would love to be better at. And to a certain extent, that’s good for you to not be good at certain things and continue to pursue it. There’s this tension or frustration that comes from not being good at something but still wanting to improve at it.”

For children, every situation in their relatively young lives is new. As we get older, the curiosity is hindered by other pressures. We try our best to control perception and how others view us. Several factors create fundamentally different mindsets between children and adults. Children are accessing new experiences every day without certain social pressures. This is opposite to adults. Instead, it’s this comparative microscope that exerts an invisible force on how adults create.

<p>Andrew, Logan and Hunter confront Thomas Schütte&#8217;s &#8220;United Enemies&#8221; in the MoMA Sculpture Garden.</p>

Andrew, Logan and Hunter confront Thomas Schütte’s “United Enemies” in the MoMA Sculpture Garden.

<p>Logan, Andrew, and Hunter.</p>

Logan, Andrew, and Hunter.

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