Meet the Maker: SWAN CITY

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I first met Andrew Chang standing in his kitchen. I had just started Townie Tourist and Dana Roquemore had asked me to co-host a Dinner Party Project meal. The dinner goers were sharing stories and getting to know one another when this dark-haired sweetie popped into the kitchen to say hello. His exuberance was contagious and I still feel it whenever we’re together. Maybe it’s his love for swans, for the City Beautiful, or just that those dimples that have a certain joyful power. Let’s get to know the Pikachu of the Orlando maker scene, Andrew Chang.

Childhood memento?

When I was younger I was obsessed with animals and stole a stuffed tiger from my sister that I named Tigger. I would fall asleep chewing on its plastic whiskers and still have him tucked away for safe keeping should I ever have children on my own. 

Recent acquisition for your home?

Nothing gives me more joy than swans, giraffes, pigs and penguins in the form of decorations for a home. I recently went into Pom Pom's for a late dinner, made eye contact with a giraffe painting across the dining room, and purchased it on the spot. It is done by Lisa Sullivan Dunlop and depicts a giraffe in a long flowing night gown playing the piano. 

Current obsession?

I have been on such a sour beer kick. Right now my obsession has centered around the Central State Garden Gose sour beer. It has lemon peel and coriander, comes in a tall boy, and is just so damn good. I used to hate sours but now I cannot get enough of them!

Favorite hobby?

Creating - whether it be painting, digital graphics, redesigning a room, or just writing. I have always loved being creative and expressing myself through every potential medium. Ever since I was a kid I have always been fascinated by the ability to put yourself out there with artistic mediums and so that is what I have always done. I took up pencils first, then painting and ceramics, and after that it was digital design and writing. I have also dabbled in fiber arts, textiles, street art, and more.

Always on you - watch, memento, etc?

A Swan City business card is never not on me and that is usually because a Swan City shirt is most likely what I am wearing. I get a lot of people that ask me where I got my shirt or tell me how much they like it - so now they get a card so they can get their swan on. I have generated so many on the spot sales because of that and I get to organically spread my brand while interacting with this awesome city full of Orlandoans.

Favorite spot in your home?

My jacuzzi tub wins hands down. That thing takes away all my stress and is my place to find peace. I have it set with candles, a stack of books, bath salts and a huge selection of bath bombs from Naked Bar Soap. I also usually turn on the Deep Sleep Spotify playlist while reading and it just gives me all the zen. The tub was a huge selling point when we looked at this house and gets a lot of use. It also is my place to relax after standing on my feet all day at our pop-ups; I never sit down at them because I always want to interact with our supporters and every passerby.

Favorite neighborhood restaurant?

I have so many but I am such a sucker for Shari and their happy hour. It is to the point that most of the servers know me and my dirty martini drink selection. I have gone three nights in a row once and was not upset in the least. Sushi is so good and Shari, to me, has the best.

Favorite neighborhood shop?

I am so torn between Paper Goat Post and YAY Tiny Shop, but both are in Ivanhoe Row! I met the twins behind Paper Goat Post before it was a thing and was just a mere concept. I have an affinity for snail mail so I believed so heavy in what they were wanting to do. When the store opened I was so overjoyed and try to stop in whenever I'm in the area to buy something. And down the row is YAY Tiny Shop that has a unique selection of gifts and goods - plus Stacy the owner is so kind. These two shops are my go to places for gifts, cards, and friendly smiles.

Favorite way to focus on health or wellness? 

My name is Andrew and I am addicted to Orange Theory. I go about five days a week and that keeps me so focused on my health and fitness. I know when I leave I don't want to ruin the work I just did so that tends to motivate me to eat healthy as well. There is something about the group workouts that always gets my competitive nature going so I push myself so hard in the classes that I leave drenched in sweat. It is both disgusting and refreshing.

Favorite place visited in the last year?

I married my best friend last year and we took a trip to New Zealand - that place needs to be on everyone person's list of places to visit. The photos do not do that place justice at all. It is verdant green with rolling hills and mountains that look like they pierce the sky. We visited both the north and south island and drove the whole thing so we saw a lot of the country. We did some stupid things like bungee jumping the equivalent of a 44 story building into a dry rock canyon and then slowed down to enjoy local wines and cheeses. Not only will it forever be the place of my honeymoon but I hope one day I'll get the chance to become a temporary kiwi (what they call New Zealanders).

Best gift recently given?

Our Swan City candles of course. We have started giving them to everyone because they are cheeky, Orlando-inspired, and really great as a gag gift if you give them the I-4 Traffic one. If we have to disqualify our own products as gifts then I would say that as a 'gift' to a friend I designed her wedding save the dates and will soon do the same for her wedding invites. While not technically a gift, I was able to give her a piece of my art and help her save some money all in one!

Best gift recently received?

I was just given the new Chelsea Handler book and if you know me then you'll see the correlation of our personalities. We are both very snarky, very direct, and very out there. I have not cracked it open yet but it was randomly sent to me by my closest friend because she saw it, thought of me, and sent it. So now every time I read it I will think of her.

Most inspiring book you’ve read?

Chapter One by ThankYou. I encourage EVERYONE to go and buy this book from them on their site if they have an idea that they think is crazy or not good enough. I read this thing front to back and back to front, wrote in the margins, and just kept saying YES YES YES to every page. It inspired a lot of the reason behind where I am today with Swan City. Literally stop reading this, open a tab to the site and buy the book. You will not regret it.

The thing you most love about your city?

There are quite a lot of things to love but I think that the diversity and inclusion of this city is what I love the most. After Pulse happened I saw this skyrocket in our city - a silver lining from that tragic day. There are rainbows displayed everywhere throughout our city, I have seen strangers stick up for others and honestly think the city just has this genuine loving vibe. When I started this crazy concept it was welcomed with open arms and has been embraced by so many awesome people. 

Best thing about what you do?

I get to create and meet people during our pop-up events, but the best part of all - watching their reactions. When I see someone read our Asshole Swan postcard for the first time, stumble across Sex, Drugs, Pub Subs or the newest edition of reading our snarky candle descriptions...man, it puts a smile on my face. People crack a smile, full on belly laugh or just smirk and give a head nod. It varies so much but ultimately it means that what I am putting out there with Swan City is working and doing its intended purpose of making people laugh.

At the top of your to-do list?

Expand the product portfolio and get some Swan City in local stores. We have already started on this to-do by launching posters, pillows and candles and have more items on the to-do list in the near future. Stores have asked to wholesale our items but being so small right now it is a bit of a challenge but we are really wanting to make it work in 2019 so that is probably the biggest to-do.

Other work projects?

We have been embraced by so many people that have asked us to do custom design work for them so that has been a fun side gig for Swan City. Additionally, we are looking at putting some of our designs on a wall somewhere so we can check off being muralists. Really for us the sky is the limit and we intend to keep pushing ourselves!

On your bedside table?

About five books that are all partially read with bookmarks strewn throughout them. My retainer case to remind myself to not be an idiot and have my teeth go crooked again. A stuffed giraffe from my husband that has these big dopey eyes. Our fan remote that is always turned to the highest setting. Pending how early in the night you may find our cat perched on the table watching us sleep (he's such a creep). (Editor’s note: ADORABLE creep!)

A film that holds a special place in your heart?

If you ask me what my favorite or most watched film is I would blurt out American Beauty but that doesn't hold a special place in my heart as much as it is just a damn good movie. With this new criteria I would have to dig down deep and select Angels in America. It is an eight part mini series that was released on HBO while I was a teenager struggling with my sexuality. That movie encompassed a lot of personal fears at the time - being alone and being okay with that, being sexual but understanding that you have to be safe about it, religious opposition and loving someone that ultimately cannot love you back. But more importantly this film gave me such strength and understanding. There are a lot of great scenes over the eight hours of film but the end where they are in Central Park at Bethesda Fountain settled so deep in me and became a place I would visit time and again when in NYC. It became even more than just the film when my now husband proposed to me at that fountain in front of my friends and family that had flown up as a surprise.

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Connect with Swan City on Instagram, or visit their website for unique Orlando shirts, candles, stickers, and so many swans it’ll make your head spin. #SwanOn Orlando!