Monday, July 11, 2011
Is the rise of Asian American Designers a Phase?
There has been a notable change in the world of American fashion – the ascent and prominence of Asian-American designers. Anna Sui and Vera Wang have long long been stalwarts of Asian-American design but in recent years the fashion world has seen a large influx of high profile and highly talented Asian American designers. Do the names Richard Chai, Alexander Wang, Jason Wu, Thakoon Panchigul, Prabal Gurung, Philip Lim and Derek Lam ring a bell?
There’s no doubt that these designers have earned their place in the fashion elite but what’s behind this change in the tides? These designers are fashion’s new breed. Not only have we seen an increase in the amount of well known and revered Asian designers but US design schools have also seen a significant increase in the amount of Asian students enrolling. Legendary design school Parsons reports approximately 70% of international fashion design students are Asian and at the Fashion Institute of Technology around a quarter of their students are of Asian descent. So why such a huge change? Part of this Asian wave can be attributed to the huge success of Asian designers Anna Sui and Vera Wang. But that’s only part of the story.
For a long time Asian Americans were expected to follow conventional career paths such as dentists, doctors or lawyers but slowly and surely that culture is changing.
But Asian-American designers haven’t been without their critics especially among their fellow Asians. Most of these designers prominently use caucasian models with the exception of Vera Wang who regularly uses models of Asian heritage. Asian models are still severely under represented on the catwalk (as with a lot of races I must add) and many feel that Asian designers should help rectify this problem by using more Asian models. But is this really the responsibility of these designers? Or is it systematic of the fashion industry as a whole? Should black or mixed race designers be expected to use models of their own race too? I’m not sure but one thing is for sure – these are exciting times for the new breed of fashion designers and only time will tell if the ascent of Asian American designers continues or not.