Posted by Kevin Yu
Go West, Young Man
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I love Barcelona. It was a reunion from an internship during high school. I remember telling everyone how much I disliked my job. But what I meant was how much I disliked my life. 
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Traveling has a way of removing dirt from our compass. I got home on Sunday. I quit my job on Monday. A few days later, I rented out my condo in Dallas. Shortly after, I was driving to San Francisco.
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Mission Driven
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The Mission District of San Francisco is awesome. There are as many taquerias as there are homeless people. I found myself jogging through Delores Park a few times each week. I stepped on a lot of human poop.
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My college roommate Jason was in a giant loft and let me crash the couch. A Peruvian shaman lived down the hall. We had a marijuana dispensary across the street. Every Thursday night, the old lesbian next door would host a musical jam session. Random people would show up with instruments. The whole floor would smoke like a chimney.
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A Pleasant Surprise
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While in San Francisco, I connected with the Master Sinfonia. It was led by David Ramadanoff, who was once the associate conductor of the San Francisco Symphony. After a performance one evening, I saw a pack of second violinists hanging in the parking lot in what appears to be a closed discussion. I thought I was tight with these people. The next day, I received an email from the conductor. 
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“By unanimous decision from members of your section, they would like for you to be the Principal Second”
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I called my mom to let her know that "everything happens faster in the Silicon Valley"
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Backwards
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San Francisco is like a Walmart filled with really smart people. One day, I was having a beer with a buddy (who went public with a startup). He asked me how my personal project was going. But I told him that I was in San Francisco to ride the wave and chase the next unicorn. Here's what he told me:
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“There are a lot of smart people coming up with great solutions. But they have solutions chasing problems. DON'T YOU THINK THAT'S A$$ BACKWARDS?"

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Mama I'm Comin' Home
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My San Francisco experiment was money well spent. I reunited with my buddies Jason, Adnan, Rogier, and Chris. Along the way, I made some great friends, ate a ton of Gucci ramen, and learned a lot. After a few months, the new car smell was fading. I got on a train that didn't have a next stop. I hate not knowing where I'm going.
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In December 2013, I decided to head back to Texas. It would be a long drive. But I was really happy to heading home. Did you know that El Paso is half way between Dallas and San Francisco? 
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Mullet of Life:  Business in the Front, Music in the Back
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I've had a double life for as long as I can remember. While in undergrad, I was working at a tech startup while serving as the concertmaster at the University Orchestra. Every now and then, I'd get a call to sub with professional symphonies. The business degree has lead me from Cisco Systems to KPMG and then to Atmos Energy before landing at a small energy startup. But I always found myself returning to music.  
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Over the years, I've been accepted into music school not once, but Three times. I've walked away from it each time. There must be something wrong with me.
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Boomerang: Path to Starving Artist
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I came back to Dallas. My buddy let me into the second bedroom. During that time, I found my way back to the Las Colinas Symphony. It was the music therapy that I needed. With all the extra time, I read the "Four Hour Work Week" three times.
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The Uniform
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Playing a classical instrument is a precision sport. We practice for long hours in isolation to achieve perfection. Not only do we have to battle musical challenges and nerves but we have to deal with the added constraints of restrictive clothing. It's kinda like wearing a strait-jacket to perform brain surgery.
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Function vs Fit
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I visited every Men's Wearhouse and scoured the internet for better options. Today, I have a closet full of crappy tuxedo jackets, shirts, and accessories. Most look like Halloween costumes from pop-up stores. After lots of shopping and visits to the tailor, I reached a broad conclusion:

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"Those that fit are not functional and those that are functional do not fit"

 

I Got 99 Problems

Formal wear has not been updated since its inception. Most of us (men) have come to accept that formal wear should feel restrictive and uncomfortable.  There is also a subset of human beings who designate themselves as the high priests of fashion. Beyond the snobbery, here are some of my main digs at formal wear:

(1) Design - The tuxedo was designed as a dinner coat for formal parties. Its rigidity and shape was intended to exude boldness and confidence. How am I suppose to move around in this thing?

(2) Fabric - Traditional fabric such as cotton absorbs sweat and holds heat. How does my body breath in this thing?

(3) Lack of Options - As a consumer, I'm skeptical of any thing or place with the name "warehouse". Today, the market is flooded with cheap imports that fall apart and a few luxury brands that I can't afford. Where and what are my options? 

There's got to be a better way
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The Epiphany
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While running on the Katy Trail (in Dallas), I looked down at my shirt and had an epiphany. I was wearing a light-weight, moisture-wicking shirt that was moving with my body. It was light as air and made me feel fast as lightening.  I thought to myself --
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“Why can’t I be this comfortable while I’m on stage?"

 

Stuck in the Past

Every athlete in every sport (ie: NBA, NFL, FIFA, ATP, PGA, etc) has shifted AWAY from cotton jerseys to high performance synthetic fabrics. People are wearing yoga clothes out of the studios and onto the streets. Why in the world am I still wearing stiff and stuffy formal wear on stage?

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(This is not a picture of me)
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Love versus Like
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I heard a talk from Sam Altman, the guy behind the Y Combinator. He said “It’s better to have a few users who LOVE your product than for a lot of users to sort of LIKE it." That statement has always stuck with me.
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For more words of wisdom from Sam, click HERE
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Finding Love
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Online dating is a lot like playing the lottery. The odds are not great. Historical transactions are not indicators of future success. Profile pictures are highly deceptive. 
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But like the lottery, we only need to strike once. On March 1, 2014, I met a gal on a popular dating site called OKCupid. Maggie loves yoga. To impress her on our first date, I went to Lululemon and overpaid for a shirt. 
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Failure
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The internet is great. I found a designer in Los Angeles. And after four months, lots of prototypes, and lots of money down the drain, she sent the final prototype tuxedo shirt.
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My friend Rogier was in town for a visit and I asked him to try it out. I remembered how he struggled to put it on. He shook his head with disapproval. 
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I got really depressed. I had quit a full time job and was sleeping on couches. I didn’t mind tapping into my 401K. But what bothered me the most is that I couldn’t get to a solution. 
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Ramen Inspiration
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It was close to 10pm. I sat at the dinner table having instant noodles with my buddy Pepe. He told me about the El Camino de Santiago - a religious pilgrimage where he walked across Spain on foot.  
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I went back to my room and ran some Google searches. At 9am in the morning, I was on the phone with American Airlines. An hour later, I had booked my flight. Two weeks later, I was in Spain.
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What The?
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Maggie was living and working at a small college in Wichita Falls. Coming from the cultural epicenter that is Beijing, Wichita Falls was a near death sentence. She would sometimes refer to the city as "WTF".
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It's true what they say —long distance relationships are not easy. We had been talking almost every night. On weekends, I would drive out to visit her. I had butterflies in my belly every time before seeing her. After my tux project had collapsed, I told her that I needed to step away to “find myself”. Her exact words were “WTF!"
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El Camino de Santiago
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Three weeks later (in early June 2013), I was in Spain walking alone on El Camino. 
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The Camino really helped me restore my personal compass. Often times, we look outward for answers and inspiration. But the old saying holds true -- we hold the answers inside. In life, we need microscopes just as much as telescopes.  
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Whirl Wind Tour 
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I wasn't done. I went to Berlin for beer and schnitzel. I managed to squeeze my way into a Berlin Philharmonic concert. I then hopped over to Bulgaria for a friend's wedding. From there, I met up with two buddies in Istanbul. We ate doner kebabs every day and saw lots of Turkish people. 
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A New Beginning
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I came back to Dallas and immediately flew out to Los Angeles. There is a really well known fabric company that only work with the big boys in athletic wear (Nike, Patagonia, and Lululemon, etc).
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I drove out to the Fashion District and met with the agent. I pulled out the piece-of-shit prototype that was designed many months ago. It still looked horrible. But after a short conversation, he saw the vision and decided to release a few yards of fabric to me. In addition, he recommended a really great designer. It was a new beginning! 
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Movin on Up
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The day after I landed back home in Dallas, I rented a large van and drove out to Wichita Falls. Maggie had agreed to quit her job to take a chance on the relationship. We spent one final night on a mattress in her apartment. The next day, we moved all her stuff into a 500 square feet studio apartment on the 8th floor in downtown Dallas.
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Becoming a Student Again
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Through a fellow musician, I became a private violin teacher at the Dallas Strings studio. Today, I have a little army of young violinists. I love these kids. 
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Teaching could not be more different from corporate. Its hard to get on Facebook when I’m bored. But that’s just the thing — I don’t get bored! Even my worst days are not so bad. If I had all the money in the world, I would still be teaching.
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Getting Hitched
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October 20, 2014 - Maggie and I loved our evening walks. One evening, we strolled over to Klyde Warren Park (our park) in downtown. In the children’s playground, I got on bended knee and asked her to marry me. Twelve days later, we were at the  courthouse in my home town of Richardson, Texas.  We got married!
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Photo Courtesy of the great Sil Azvedo
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Product Development
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The tuxedo shirt project was coming to life. My designer is proving to be amazing. She listens well and has a great eye. We found a great pattern maker that was willing and able to help.
September 2014 - After countless testing, we finally have a viable product. I sent the very first prototype to ten of the best musicians that I knew. 
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In February of 2015, I flew out to meet with my rep at the fabric company. I pulled out my redesigned prototype and watched his jaw hit the ground. He had never seen performance fabrics used in this format.
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"Sixteen years ago, Chip Wilson sat across from us. We took a chance on him and look where Lululemon is today"
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TODAY
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Today, I run Coregami out of a small condo in Uptown Dallas. My entire day is consumed by work. And in the afternoons, I teach violin at a music studio. The stress is constant and the hours can be punishing. But this is the happiest I have been my entire life.
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I stand on the shoulders of giants. With great responsibility and duty, we will do better.
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Kevin @ Coregami
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MERCI. DANKE. GRACIAS
My Family, Pepe Vamos, Hysam, Adnan, Nelson Hsu, Chris Ito, Chris Own, Oliver Schlaffer, Nathan Olson, Sil Azvedo, Stefan, David Itkin, Scott Sheffler, Jun Iwasaki, Ron Gilbert, Drew, Frank Huang, Adnan Chaudhry, Jackson Gates, Jennie Richie, Vivian Wu, Charlotte Lee, Heidi Frederick and last but not least, Maggie.
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Wi
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Comments

  • Posted On February 29, 2016 by Marilu Garcia Montalvo

    M so happy for you two…Know that it was too much for you…but you didn’t quit…nor did your (now wife)…Those shirts r so grand…I m buying 6 shirts later this year…one for my grandson…three for my sons…& two for my grand daughter’s husbands…oh & one for a great friend of mine…total seven…ty.

  • Posted On February 28, 2016 by Winston

    Awesome and inspiring story Kevin! So very excited for you and Maggie. And I think you’ve hit a home run with your idea. So impressed that your wanderings have led you to fulfillment….the search was worth it!!

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