Briarcliff Manor NY

Photography by Valeda Beach Stull

Featuring Eva Masaki Soroken

Where are you from and where do you currently reside?
I grew up in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. I recently moved to the village of Briarcliff Manor, NY from Brooklyn.

Please describe who you are and what you do?
A friend called me a navigatress. I design my own eyewear line here in New York, which I’m producing in Italy. Currently I’m working with Ichi Antiquites from Fukuoka, Japan and Rakuzapatos, from San Cristobal de las Casas Mexico, to navigate their sales in North America. I’m also helping Mabo clothier with domestic and global sales, something we started working on together since Covid. I continue consulting for brands and distributors in the action sports/outdoor industry between the US, Canada and Japan.

What are you working on, interested in at the moment?
It is such a new challenging experience creating something under my own name but fortunately overseeing sales for brands like Ichi and Mabo guides me in a lot of ways as I develop my own eyewear line. Specifically, regarding my eyewear, it’s been interesting working on visuals for my line the past year. Unable to travel, I’ve been collaborating with photographers near and far to create beautiful photos of friends and close collaborators wearing my frames and continue telling my story. Fortunately, the glasses could fly around the globe on my behalf when I couldn’t.

When do you feel most whole?  
For a long time, I’d say I felt most whole being on the move, running to catch flights, flying back and forth to Tokyo, being busy, having two cell phones. I guess I enjoyed being jet lagged. Ah the beauty of youth! Now I feel the most whole just staying in one place and being at home with my family in our woodsy surroundings.

How do you find your center when you've spiraled out?
I find it at night once my daughter is sound asleep beside me. These hours are when I feel myself breathing calmly and I have time to think with ease - which is what I’m doing right now as I type this to you.

Describe a time:

a. You came full circle.
Sitting at the kitchen table with my grandmother in Japan, sipping on green tea, and speaking (and finally understanding her) in Japanese as she told me the story of my mother leaving for America. Hearing how she felt and what she imagined for the future. I didn’t grow up speaking Japanese, I studied in college and then living/working there my language abilities developed naturally. It was challenging for a lot of reasons, but I was able to create a foundation of the language fortunately. Prior to moving there, I couldn’t communicate with my Japanese relatives at all. My parents would send us to Japan as kids, we visited as a family, but the communication was highly gesture based.

b. You closed the circle. What was the significance of that ending?
I have yet to. I guess this is regarding my relationship with Japan, thinking that finding some understanding of the culture and language would help me close the circle in a way, find some understanding of myself (growing up mixed race in Massachusetts with a Japanese middle name) but it hasn’t closed the circle but all in a very positive sense. I continue to be intrigued and inspired by my mother’s country - I’ll forever have a crush on Japan.

c. You began again.
After the birth of my daughter (as generic as this might sound) and figuring out how to juggle motherhood with entrepreneurship and how to make her a co-pilot of Masaki Ave … which is something I hope to pass off to her someday (if she’s interested in it all!).

Is there an interest or desire you’ve been circling around but have yet to explore?
Living abroad again. In so many ways I miss it. I loved the perspective of the US from the outside. Not sure I can imagine living in Japan again, I’m excited for shorter trips there, a month now and then, but I can imagine living in Italy. There are so many cultural aspects about Italy that remind me of Japan which I love. So, I dream of buying a small place there amongst the grape vines in the Prosecco region of Italy where my glasses are made. Eat drink and be merry and work a little bit now and then.

Which of Nature’s cycles – the moon, seasons, harvest – do you feel most aligned with and why?
I’d say seasons just because I love the change in scenery, the foods, the smells. Japanese culture puts such emphasis on the changing of seasons with festivals, foods, etc. There’s a deep respect for this which was something I learned living there and now hold on to being back in the US.

Describe the circles you move in, and what community looks like to you?
I’ve always worked in lots of different business communities: different industries, different countries, different cultures and languages. I love each community I get to interact with daily and I’m often striving for ways to collaborate, and cross pollinate across industries I’m in touch with.

What does sustainability mean to you in your work and life?
The need for less and a deeper appreciation of quality (things getting better over time) … again a perspective I’d say I developed while living in Japan.

With travel slowly becoming possible again, is there a spot on the globe you long to see?
In Gifu prefecture, the village (at the base of the Japan alps) where I first lived out of college. The sound of the roaring river flowing down from the mountains, seeing the fishermen deep in these waters, driving along rice fields, dipping into hot springs, the warmth of the people in the village, hearing their dialect of Japanese, relaxing together around a table covered in delicious, seasonal and regional foods. Seeing bright stars in the dark sky after rounds and rounds of beer, shochu, sake. I find such richness and peacefulness only there.

Describe a time you saw something familiar with fresh eyes…
I’d say going home to the Berkshires in the summer, packing a picnic from Rubiner’s in Great Barrington and driving to Tanglewood, sitting on a soft blanket listening to James Taylor live under the stars with my husband just before our daughter was born.

Eva is 5.5” tall and wears the Diamond Robe CLOVE in medium