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?
Jason Wu
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.
Many of the current breed of Asian designers have been tempted into fashion by their own families. Asian Americans have long been involved with the production of clothes on the manufacturing side. But the new generation of Asian Americans are embracing their creative side and coupling it with their clothing production background garnered through an upbringing that was deep rooted in the creation of clothing.
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.


  1. I think that all races should take part in the fashion business, not only caucasians. And it's really important, that designers that are not caucasian, should give the opportunity to models from their own race to participate to their fashion shows. It would be a great start for models of all races to do catwalk for the big designers.
    Thank you so much for your comment on my blog! Hope to see you soon! :)

  2. Darling, you write the most interesting posts! I love this discussion, it is such an important one. Thank you for bringing it up. And your blog looks amazing. Love, Anika

  3. I just want to say that they are talented fashion designers, and its not because their Asian. I feel that, yes, we have seen an upsurge of Asian designers. And I feel that it won't be a phase as long because these Asian designers are really opening up the idea that creative jobs like fashion design are acceptable to Asian families. So its becoming more acceptable to work in fashion design for Asians. And that just means that there will be more talented Asian designers to come. This is a really great discussion, and since there are more Asian designers we should help further it one step more by including more models of different colors not just Asians, and that goes for all designers not just the Asian ones.

    <3 Kelly

  4. This is so crazy...seriously I've been running into this conversation and as an APA it is a subject I'm obviously really close to. Hell yes, I think it's the responsibility of the designers to do what they can to promote their people, I'm sorry I just do. It doesn't necessarily have to be through models, in my opinion it has to do with community and helping lift that community up whether that is mentoring or just speaking freely. What I find kind of frustrating about the highly talented new crop of APA designers is kind of their lack of acknowledging that this is out of the ordinary. It is really really difficult to break out of tradition and while I'm lucky to have had parents who eventually supported all my crazy whims most APA's I know do NOT have that family and I think if these designers would step into their community and show them the possibilities they could help in opening people's mind.


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