Today is a Hungarian national holiday, celebrating St. Stephen I, Hungary’s patron saint and First King (between 1000 and 1038 AD). Through his powerful role as King he helped to establish the Kingdom of Hungary, so August 20th, while commemorating his life, also celebrates the birth of Hungary. During the Soviet occupation of Hungary St. Stephen’s day was dismissed as being “too religious”, and was replaced with a celebration of the Stalinist constitution, as well as a “celebration of new bread”, referring to the beginning of the harvest.
Modern day Budapest celebrates St. Stephen’s Day with fireworks, air shows, and outside fairs, with stands selling bread and cakes.
This season we happen to be carrying a shirt that references King Stephen’s reign – our Knights Double Decker Tee was inspired by the Knights of King Stephen’s army:
Have you ever been in Hungary during St. Stephen’s Day? Did you celebrate it as a child? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.
Here at Tea, we’ve been wondering whether the image on the pullover is really a dragon. Or could it be an eagle?
To us, no matter what you call it, the Nanaos Dragon Pullover is one sweatshirt boys will love to wear back to school and all throughout the fall. It’s sure to be warm, comfortable conversation-starter.
My Nonna had an amazing set of nesting dolls when I was little. They were my favorite things to play with when I visited her house (or at least, a close second to crushing potato chips in her vintage coffee grinder), so I was pretty excited when Laura and Emily brought back these beautiful nesting doll sets from their Old world Hungary inspiration trip. They immediately made way to my desk so I could ‘be inspired’ by them, but really I just wanted to play. Every time I played with my grandmother’s dolls I was always amazed that when I thought I had made my way to the smallest doll, there was even a tinier one inside. Turns out even now, I still get excited by this. “Oooh, there’s an EVEN smaller doll after this one!” I’d announce to my coworkers, who were actually working and probably not that interested in my toys.
This set’s tiniest doll even had a painted face! Thrilling!
When Laura and Emily brought back the below postcards from their inspiration trip to Old World Hungary, they could barely keep them away from me. I was ready to start designing graphics immediately.
postcards of Károly’s Reich linocuts from Tea’s inspiration trip
I saw on the back of the cards that they were by Károly Reich, a Hungarian artist and children’s book illustrator. I couldn’t wait to see more of his work. Most of his work is in watercolor or gouache, which I found even more charming than his linocut pieces. The more I found, the more obsessed I became. I searched the internet for days trying to find every last piece of his artwork. I was image searching google.hu. I found myself on a random assortment of Japanese book sites that collected his work.
just a few of Károly Reich’s watercolor/gouache children’s book illustrations
I managed to get my hands on two of his books. I got lucky with an Amazon used book search. Matt the Gooseherd a Hungarian story told in English. I love the idea of sharing a Hungarian tale for an English audience, I think its a great way for children to learn about new cultures. Let’s See the Animals teaches children about a variety of woodland creatures, most of which live both in Hungary and North America. AND! It’s illustrated in crayon! Crayon!? A real, respected artist who uses crayon! I was smitten. I was ready to design our entire line as a tribute to this man. While the rest of the team didn’t really go for that idea, there are a few pieces that are inspired by his work (see below).
fun fact: I was having a hard time determining if his name was Károly Reich or Reich Károly. It seemed to be listed differently on different books. I asked my aunt, a librarian, which she thought was correct. Turns out that in Hungarian names are written backwards according to the Western way of writing names. They are apparently the only country that does this.
While looking through the travel photos from Korea, I noticed over and over again that all the dragons looked like they had antlers. Now, I have seen dragons with horns, but these were definitely antlers – like Bambi’s father had. At first I thought it was a little odd, but since I kept seeing it over and over again, I decided to do some research.
Dragons with antlers from Tea’s travels:
(images from: Tea’s travel photos)
The first creature I came across was actually not a dragon, but the Kirin. AKirin has a dragon’s face, deer antlers, a lion-like body and hooves. Since many of the pictures our team took were from Korean temples that only featured the face of the ‘dragon’ I figured I could have been looking at a Kirin and not a dragon at all. The more I read about the Kirin the more intrigued I was. The Kirin is a gentle, nature-loving creature. It is said that the Kirin would never hurt anything in the natural world; in fact it is so gentle that it can walk across the grass without crushing a single blade. The Kirin also has the power to walk on water.
Pictures of the Kirin:
(images from: google images, Tea’s travel photos and Praying for the Happiness – Korean Decorative Painting)
I thought I solved the ‘mystery’ of the dragon with antlers but I was still curious about the actual dragons of Korea, so I decided to keep researching. Like the Kirin, the Korean dragon is also benevolent and peaceful with a strong connection to nature. There are three types of Korean dragons: Yong, the most powerful, protects the skies, Yo is a hornless dragon who lives in the ocean, and Dwell is a dragon that lives in the mountains. The Korean dragon is also a symbol of protection; it is believed the Korean dragon protects humans and wards off evil spirits. For this reason dragon masks are a common feature in Korean homes, especially on doors to protect the household.
Tea’s dragon mask shirts and our travel images that inspired them:
It turns out the Korean dragon is also a mix of many different creatures. Like the Kirin, the Korean dragon also has horns of a deer and scales like a fish. Some sources say the Korean dragon also has the head of camel, eyes of a rabbit, claws of a hawk, feet of a tiger, and the belly of a frog. Unlike most other dragons, Korean dragons do not have wings, but they can still fly.
Examples of Korea’s wingless flying dragons and Tea’s flying dragon tees:
While the exact make up of the Kirin and Korean dragon is hard to determine, since different sources say different things. It is clear that these wonderful peaceful creatures come from the imaginations of people who have great respect for wildlife. By combining some of the most unique features of different animals, they create a powerful, God-like creature that embodies the love and respect the Korean people have for the natural world.
These Tea tees celebrate dragons with features from many different animals:
Tea Collection has re-introduced their original Eternal Layette, well-known styles and prints from Tea’s first collection in 2002.
The entire Eternal Layette collection of baby clothes is now made with exceptionally soft Pima Cotton. The Chinese sweater jacket features a distinctive piqué stitch and mother of pearl buttons. The Lotus print in pearl pink and dove gray is inspired by vintage Japanese textiles. The Lotus collection includes a footed one-piece, a wrap jacket and pant, a baby onesie, and a swaddling baby blanket. Prices range from $29 for the footed one piece to $145 for a six piece set, making the perfect gift for new babies.
For our Spring Collection, our design team set off to explore South Korea to gather our inspiration for the season. This was very exciting, as I really knew very little about this country…and South Korea didn’t disappoint. In Korea, Isabelle, Tami and I found a uniquely vibrant, energetic culture and a land of exuberant color, ornate architecture and beautiful artisanal crafts. Enjoy!
VP of Design
It’s hard to imagine a place that bustles more than Seoul, home to the 1988 Summer Olympics, and the fifth largest city in the world. Everyone contributes to the energy and excitement… we heard so many parents urging their little ones along with a hearty “Gaja Gaja!” (“Hurry up Hurry up!”), rushing from one place to the next. This playful saying inspired our Gaja Gaja! t-shirt.
In Seoul, we did a lot of exploring with the Kims, Tami’s extended family. They introduced us to Kimchee, the quintessentially Korean side dish of pickled vegetables that’s eaten every day at breakfast, lunch and dinner. We love spicy food, so we fell in love with this dish and decided to honor this staple in the national cuisine with our kimchee boy’s tee.
We wandered in and out of Seoul’s distinct, charming neighborhoods with the Kims, and discovered Insadong, a traditional arts and crafts street. We found shop after shop selling traditional crafts like Hanji, handmade Korean paper, used for everything from masks to clothing to furniture. Here, Isabelle and I found the inspiration for our Hanji floral dress.
Through our wanderings, we also noticed wonderfully ornate doorknockers at the entrance of homes as well as temples. The knockers were shaped like dragons’ heads to protect against evil spirits, and we incorporated them into our Heem Dragon polo.
At Dongdaemun Market, the largest shopping center in South Korea, we found many examples of Hanbok, traditional curved, high-waisted dresses worn at festivals and celebrations. This iconic, elegant design inspired the proportions of many of our Spring dresses.
We were also charmed by the resourcefulness of the traditional craft ofJogakbo, the art of patching together leftover scraps of colorful fabric for everything from blankets and clothing to wedding gift wrap. Two of our favorite dressesin this Collection are inspired by this patchwork tradition.
As we traveled throughout Korea, we climbed steep stairways to find intricate detail and beautiful colors in ornate ancient temples. In Gyeong Ju, Korea’s historical and cultural center, we were awed by Bulguksa Temple– particularly the geometry of gridded doors and the beautifully painted floral patterns, which inspired us to create textured plaids and colorful prints.
We are so pleased to share our new collection, inspired by our journey to Korea. Enjoy!