GO FISH! A Talk with Emerald Fish’s Heddie Chu

When I see phrases like “Savvy Travel” and “Global Pulse” used by a creative woman, I know I have found a soul sister. But in the case of Heddie Chu and her worldly online store of international finds, Emerald Fish, I also know I have found a new addiction. One look at her website, with its eclectic mix of Moroccan cooking tagines, Chanel vintage jewelry and Indian glasses, and I fell in love.

Chu herself lives in Mill Valley, just outside of San Francisco, but her background may as well be that of a Gypsy. A world loving, beauty inspiring, collectibles buying Gypsy. Following is my interview with the globally glowy Chu, who reveals some of her secrets for always finding just the right thing, her favorite place on earth, as well as her simple formula for keeping her complexion flawless and glowing. It’s a talk you won’t want to miss!

E. NINA ROTHE: Heddie, you are definitely a global goddess. What inspires your eclectic taste and how does that translate into your lifestyle as well?

HEDDIE CHU: What inspires me are the different styles and cultures that exist in every new place I travel to. When I return home I try the style I learned abroad and integrate it into my existing style — including the way I cook, set a table, entertain and even dress! Also, I’m surrounded by friends from all over the globe, such as Pakistan, China, Chile, France and Portugal. We are all part of the 1.5 generation, meaning we came to the US when we were around 12-15 years old. Our lifestyles are truly eclectic — we hold traditional values of where we are from and integrate global styles.

ENR: Speaking of your background, can you talk a bit about that? Where were you born, where you have lived? And why Mill Valley now?

HC: I was born in Korea, studied at Parsons School of Design in NY and in Paris, then lived in Kuala Lumpur, London, Korea and now in Mill Valley. Why Mill Valley? Mainly because I love nature and our house is in the woods. I love to entertain, especially in the summer and it’s just too cold in SF in the summer.

ENR: Are there specific traditions or habits that you have taken away from each of those places?

HC: Yes, definitely! From Paris: how to enjoy food, not just eat it, over long conversations. From Korea: your skin is the most important thing to maintain. I still have 1 facial and a body scrub once a week. Skin is your best asset as you get old. From Barcelona: Start dinner very late, 11PM dinner during the summer in Barcelona is pretty early. Nothing’s rushed. The goal is balancing work and play. From Kuala Lumpur: With women wearing the hijab, with headdress. and face and body almost covered, sometimes you see glimpse of outrageous high heeled beautiful shoes underneath. I thought it was very sexy and just a great expression of each woman — though their shoes!

ENR: Can you talk a bit about the philosophy behind Emerald Fish? How did you come up with the name?

HC: We wanted to create a platform where cultural ideas and facts are exchanged and understood better through objects, and stories behind objects. For example, our socially responsible baskets from Uganda and Rwanda were made by women who couldn’t afford much for their family, and sometimes weren’t allowed to work. Now, just doing their traditional crafts with local materials, they can turn into business owners. That means their kids can get a better education and end their family’s cycle of poverty. Each basket has a name of the woman who hand-made it. If our customer can hear a story and understand a culture he or she did not know about before- we are happy!

The name Emerald Fish comes from my favorite stone, emerald, and fishing was my dad’s (who has recently passed away) favorite past time.

ENR: What is the one item you cannot live without, in your home? And the one indulgence in food?

HC: My collection of things that are just great finds. Each one has a story, and I need them all near me. I indulge in all kinds of food, every day. When I wake up, the first thing I think about is what I intend to have for lunch and what to make for dinner. I’m obsessed with food, I think.

ENR: How important do you think our living environment is to who we are, how we view the world?

HC: If by “living environment” you mean what we surround ourselves with every day, I think it’s incredibly important. There is a huge difference between living in a room with just white walls and a bed, or living in one that is filled with pictures, furniture, colors and objects that make you happy. Also a huge difference between living in a big concrete jungle and a place that has parks and greenery. We all need to be surrounded by beauty, it helps us to be better people.

ENR: What is the one thing about you that most people don’t know?

HC: Then everyone would know. Can’t tell you!

ENR: Touche… And if you could do anything, live anywhere, no concern for work, money or friends, where would you be?

HC: Mallorca. All over Mallorca, staying in Solier first, looking over the Mediterranean. If the small villages get boring I can take a quick flight to Barcelona so I’d have a back up.

All images courtesy of Emerald Fish and Heddie Chu

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