Aikong See: From humble beginnings comes classic style
Born in a creek halfway around the world, Aikong See has found his home and his mode in the Med City.
Aikong See has something of a global perspective – in the sense that he has been shaped by life on relatively opposites sides of the world. Originally from Thailand, See holds dear that heritage, all he has learned and is doing in Rochester as well as values he sees in other cultures.
See and his family arrived in the United States after escaping the late 1980s border war with Laos. With the help of Catholic Charities, they moved to the United States and Rochester.
“I wasn’t born in a typical setting," he said. "My mom had me in a creek when my family was traveling to a refugee camp. My dad was a paramedic and worked in a lab so it was alright, but when people ask where I was born, I can’t say a hospital.”
Explaining he and his family had much needed help learning English, from speaking to reading and writing, they faced challenges related to poverty, including difficulties for him from being underprivileged. See says his high school and college years remained difficult, but that through a discovery of faith, he moved in new directions here.
Today, he is sales manager for TEXTEijL, a Minnesota screen printing and embroidery company based in Elgin, Minn., and co-founder of Hope Central by TEXTEijL, a place for local nonprofits to raise money and awareness through merchandise sales, collaboration and community service.
"It’s a collaborative space for local nonprofits to create their gear so they can store it there and sell it to the public," he said of Hope Central by TEXTEijL in Rochester. "All shirt sales, 100% goes back to the local nonprofits because we believe in serving those who are doing good and making our community better.”
In addition, See volunteers with the Dorothy Day House among other organizations here. “And,” he said, “One of my passions right now is also working as a DJ. My DJ name is DJ Aventvs.”
How do you describe your style, briefly?
Classic. Simple. Modern.
Growing up, I watched a lot of Italian soccer players and off the field a lot of them wore turtle necks and very muted clothing — black, maroon and red. The Italian soccer player Andrea Pirlo had a more classic yet modern look. … Then, I got into watching a Greek international soccer team. So I love to think about the Greek world too where there are very light, somewhat bright color, and light material matching the climate. My style is a mixture of both.
I also love olive green. It doesn’t have a lot of brightness to it, but it does have a lot of familiarity and nostalgia to me. In Thailand where I grew up, there are a lot of lands that were very lush with rice fields and a lot of green. And the green reminds me of that.
You’ve said you have a little of Milan in your look. What in particular from that Italian fashion hub?
The classic and simple and modern you find there. Of course there are the more wild fashions, but there is the classic and simple and modern style worn by the soccer players.
Speaking of Milan, where there is one of the world’s premiere fashion weeks … you said you went to Minneapolis to participate in last spring’s Fashion Week Minnesota.
Yes. I have a friend who is a fashion designer there. I didn’t model for him, but I was in the show. I wore similar to Dolce &Gobanna, a chia print in the middle and outlining with a floral. Not a mat floral, but with illumination and reflection in it.
It’s interesting because every time I see my friend make something, it’s very unique, and I see him seeing value in certain fabrics and textures and putting them together. It is inspiring in many ways and can be carried over into life.
What do you wear normally, say for work and then otherwise?
Normally, for business, I wear things that are very simple – turtlenecks in wintertime, mostly black. In winter, I don’t wear much other than turtlenecks. Otherwise, black T-shirts. Classic and simple.
If I go to an event, I try to wear button up shirts, on the olive green side or for a fresh look, white and blue of a thin fabric.
Your most essential wardrobe component?
I love chino shorts, which I think of as classic and fresh and usually light blue or white. Then a T-shirt or Polo shirt. I love Polo. It provides the essence I’m looking for – simple yet fresh.
What should every well-dressed man have in his wardrobe?
White shoes – Nike, Adidas. And then a good fitting white T-shirt, which doesn’t have to be a certain brand but just good fitting that looks clean and crisp. … Also, I would say good slacks. Normally, I love navy blue.
Favorite accessories these days?
I am recently liking Italian-style jewelry and some Greek too. Gold plate, simple and classic. … Also, a watch, a practical chrono watch.
Do you have a priceless sentimental item?
Yes. This isn’t really in my style but my mom made my family traditional clothing. It’s pretty cool. The colors are typically black and bright red with little beads that hang down. I wear this every year for our New Year. It is really unique and I love it.
Your favorite style season?
Fall. The colors I like fit with fall — olive green, navy. Fall is not too hot, not too cold, and those colors are not extreme. That’s always been from my perspective in life coming from an Asian cult — try to stay away from extremes, be even and centered, and that includes in the way you dress.
Is there anything especially Minnesota about your style?
My love of the color light blue. That’s what I’ve taken away from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, with a lot of snow on top of it. Some of my light blue clothing reminds me of Minnesota and who I am.
What do you hope your style communicates?
I hope that I have a balanced approach to life. The wisdom of balance. … Also that I have confidence, hope and am humble.
When you wear what you feel good in, that can bring out the good in you. And value yourself, see the value in who you are and show that through your style. Embrace who you are and express that in your style.
Do you know someone who has unique style? Send nominations to email@example.com with "Your Style" in the subject line.