Rachel and Will have been close friends for over 10 years. I was present when they first met and watched mouth-wide-open as their fire combusted and the love exploded. It was Coachella 2010... there was the festival... and then there was them. They enveloped one another in a world unto themselves. I would watch the artists perform and then I would watch them. They put on a better show. I have never seen a more passionate, instant, and inspiring love. It was a beautiful thing to witness. And still is today.
Rachel and Will have been Ziran fans and clients since the day I launched the brand and sent out the first email blast to friends (Uh, hi, I'm pursuing my dreams and starting a clothing line, here it is, ok bye). They consistently support Ziran and have acquired a beautiful collection.
In April, Will hit me up to make a special custom robe for him, "since I'm home all the time now." His vision included a traditional and dignified gentleman's robe with Chinese characters Dragon 龍 King 王 chainstitched on the sleeves. Rachel is born Year of the Dragon, and my last name means King. He's the King of Dragons. Also 龍 and 王 in English pinyin is "Long Wang." I'll let you translate that one yourself...
When the robe was finished, I handed it off to him and we spent a lovely afternoon together in a park in San Francisco (wearing masks! socially distant! duh!) Rachel and Will both wore some of their Ziran. I took photos and asked them about life together during quarantine, career ambitions, and how they feel...
1. You both are hardworking, career-driven individuals. Has COVID-19, working from home, etc changed your outlook on your respective careers? Has the drive increased or decreased? Any new thoughts?
RACHEL: We both already knew we were lucky to have the careers that we do, but COVID brings to light just how lucky we are. We have to keep reminding ourselves that while working from home isn't ideal (space is tight, we bicker, we miss face-to-face interactions), we have jobs, we have our physical health, and there are others who don't have that security.
WILL: We are both pretty lucky that our jobs can be done remotely. There was a period of time when we first went into shelter-in-place where we were wondering if things were going to slow down, but both of us work in the healthcare space and that world has really continued to move at a quick pace. Both of us are busier than ever, albeit working in very close quarters. We’re more motivated to keep pushing forward in our careers because we know how lucky we are to still be employed and to have the opportunity to build.
2. How was working from home affected your marriage? Good and bad.
RACHEL: Being confined in a small space just adds heightened stress to everything around us, but being at home so much makes me really grateful for things I took for granted before (nature, long walks, parks) - all things I get to do with Will. The beginning of quarantine reminded me of when we lived in Shanghai where we only had each other, which made us closer than ever. There are obviously always ups and downs with the stress of life, but we're lucky we have friends and family that support us that we can see in-person or virtually when we need to connect with others.
WILL: We definitely get to spend more time with each other – just us – which has both positives and negatives. We had a pretty hectic travel and social schedule prior to the pandemic, so being able to pause and spend some much needed time at home has been great. While all of the cooking, dancing, movie watching, and general joking around has been fun, living in a small San Francisco apartment can feel a bit restrictive. Since we work at the same table, eat the same meals, and are dealing with a lot of pressure from both work and the world at large, talking through how we are feeling on a daily basis has been really helpful. We’ve been trying to be as open as possible about our emotions and how each other’s actions and statements affect the other person. Let’s just say there have been both productive conversations and some arguments. But at the end of the day, we know that the love we have for each other is the most important and valuable thing we possess.
3. What are you grateful for?
RACHEL: I'm more than ever grateful for the support system we have in place (family, friends, and Will).
WILL: Primarily each other, our families, our health, and our friends. The people in our lives have always been our biggest source of joy. We’re also thankful and hopeful for change – both at a personal level and within our community.
4. You have been Ziran clients since Day 1 and you both supported my first collection. Why?
RACHEL: It has been amazing watching you turn your passions into Ziran (your excitement about your Chinese History classes, you taking up being vegan, you deciding on your MBA / FIDM). It so represents who you are and it's rare to see someone lucky enough to be able to take multiple things you're passionate about (fashion, your Chinese heritage, sustainability) and create such a perfect vision of it. Plus the clothes are like really pretty.
WILL: Because we love you Kelly. And we’re proud of the work you do and the things you create. It’s that simple. Also, the silk is really soft. So there’s that.
5. Ziran means "natural, spontaneous, and free." To push away outside influence and embrace your own authenticity. Do your relate to this in any way?
RACHEL: Ha! I always tell Will that my friends (like you) make me much cooler than I am. The more responsibilities and stress I have the more I feel like I'm less natural, spontaneous and free than I was in college, but your clothes are a great reminder that we should strive to be a little more natural, spontaneous and free.
WILL: I’m not sure how spontaneous or free either of us are, but we both try to be as real as we can be with how we speak and how we interact with others. And don’t try to take ourselves too seriously.
Subjects: Rachel and Will Ehrman
Photography: Kelly Wang Shanahan
San Francisco, June 2020.