Globe Trotting with Grace Ban

Grace Ban is something of a renaissance woman. Designphile, social expert, and fashion guru, she's got so much variety on her resume you'd wonder when the creative juices ever take a beat. Read on to discover how this transatlantic transplant makes the most of her time outdoors and the adventures that eventually led her to Taipei.

You’re what some would call fashion literate. Could you give us a bit more background on what you do and how you’ve really carved a space for yourself doing what you love?

  • I’m a digital consultant and content creator for independent brands. I worked in-house and managed social media for Bergdorf Goodman for a few years and moved on to manage social for Vogue after that. I became a consultant after I moved back to Taiwan since it allowed for a more flexible schedule so the time difference wouldn’t get in the way of working with brands based in LA and NY. I had originally intended on becoming a buyer for Bergdorfs but since I was very proactive about growing my personal Instagram for fun, it unintentionally paved my career path in the digital space. Though I love helping brands with digital storytelling, I’ve been gradually shifting my focus back to growing my own personal brand—I’m currently on a mission to showcase what Taiwan has to offer (and put it on the radar as a travel destination) since it’s seriously underrated!

So, you spent most of your childhood in California, your early adult-life in NYC, and now you’re now based in Taiwan. What are some of the major cultural differences that you would say are most apparent between these spaces?

  • I would say the biggest difference between California and New York is the amount of freedom you’re granted to explore your own identity. Personally, I always felt the need to conform when I lived in CA and it was exhausting to continuously, and unsuccessfully, try to fit into some socially acceptable mold that I just couldn’t fit into. I didn’t have any friends growing up who could share and/or accept all of my interests so I ended up having many acquaintances and friends from various circles who shared specific interests with me but no close friends who I felt like could accept me in entirety, if that makes sense. I really found myself in NY and I owe that in part to the friends and support system I found there—I had finally found my chosen family who loved me for me and I had never felt more at ease. They encouraged me to embrace who I really am and I really thrived and came into my own. The self awareness, confidence, and perspective I developed in NY can be taken with me anywhere. Taiwan, I would say, is more like CA than NY in respect to conformity but the other side of that coin in Taiwan is that people care a lot about community and family and that has helped us immensely during the pandemic. The type of individualism that’s so deeply ingrained in the US doesn’t seem to exist here and people look out for each other and generally everyone is willing to make small sacrifices to help the community.

You hail from California, how did your childhood shape your relationship with the outdoors? Asian parents aren’t typically the first to push their children outside, especially when the piano, or in your case -- the flute (Grace was a concert flutist) beckons. Were you also encouraged to spend time outdoors?

  • There was never much emphasis in my childhood household to embrace nature or pursue outdoor activities. I honestly never had the time! Between a full schedule of classes every school year and an equally overwhelming student orchestra, band, and chorus rehearsal calendar, I spent most of my time indoors. Ironically, my parents loved being outside. They would go on small hikes and take long walks along the tree-lined trails around our neighborhood at least twice a day, something I’d love to do nowadays but don’t have the luxury to.

During the recent lockdown, Taiwan was especially diligent in containing the spread. Do you find there is now a greater emphasis on or appreciation for spending time outdoors? 

  • I think the majority of people are still very cautious even though the government here has eased up on safety measures and lifted the stay-at-home order. Dining in was out of the question for two months but even though we’re allowed to now, you’ll discover that a lot of shops and restaurants decided to hold off until further notice or until all employees have gotten vaccinated. Most people who want to leave the house opt for outdoor activities where they’re less likely to get sick so yes, there’s definitely a greater emphasis now on spending time outdoors

Do you consider yourself an ‘outdoorsy’ person? If you could choose to spend leisure time at a beach location or a city, which would you choose and why? 

  • When I lived in CA, I would only want to go to a metropolitan city to spend vacation because I craved the mental stimulation. I really took the beaches we had for granted—my university dorm was a 5 minute walk from the beach and just knowing I had such easy access to it made it less appealing for some reason. I never really considered myself an outdoorsy person per se, but ever since I moved to NY, I’d always have the urge to head somewhere closer to nature to help me ease my mind and feel more grounded. Nowadays, my ideal vacation would probably be a mix of both—a few days of relaxing by the beach or a lake and once I feel more recharged, I’d want to be exploring a new city and learning about a new culture.

We’d be missing out by not asking for your favorite food spots. Taiwan, New York, and Paris, offer some of the best eats on the globe. Have any selects you’d like to share? 

  • I’m not good with picking favorites so I’ll just go with the few spots that come to mind first! For a nice meal in Taiwan, I’d recommend Ryugin which is actually a Japanese restaurant but they stick with creating their dishes with local Taiwanese ingredients. It has 2 Michelin stars and is quite fantastic. For dessert, I’d highly recommend Hugh Lab which is run by a talented young pastry chef who has a background in fine dining and Zizzi which is run by a young couple who make the most amazing homemade ice cream and sorbet sundaes with seasonal fruits. For New York, I love Win Son in Brooklyn which actually offers Taiwanese fusion but probably some of the best “Taiwanese” food I’ve had, which obviously says a lot because I actually live in Taiwan now. Lastly for Paris, I love Frenchie in the 2nd arr.

Everyone picked up a quarantine hobby of some sort, whether it was baking, crafting, or venturing further outdoors. Did you pick up anything that surprised you?

  • I tried to pick up baking but I’m no good at all and my boyfriend and I had to eat a lot of really dry cinnamon rolls for a week straight and it was terrible!! So I switched to arranging flowers instead which helped bring the outdoors in and wreaked no havoc on my waistline. I also practiced the flute for the first time in many years and was happy to find that I could still (sort of) get through the Ibert Concerto which was the last piece I was studying before I stopped playing.

As a content connoisseur, any pro tips on capturing the outdoors? Documenting these moments as personal keepsakes or for social can be a way to flex some creative muscle - how do you make those memories shine?

  • You can make your memories shine by making memories first. Nowadays, people are so preoccupied with documenting their lives that they end up completely missing the truly precious moments. Pretty photos are nice, photos with a story and feeling are great. In order to have a story to tell with your pictures, you have to live in the moment. I love candid photos that capture a feeling or a moment in time that you wish to hold on to. So maybe start with that—take candids instead of posed shots for Instagram.

What is your idea of #TimeWellSpent? 

  • Any time spent on something that helps you grow and/or heal.