Emerging Asian designers discuss their representation at New York Fashion Week
The Asia Fashion Collection returned to New York Fashion Week for the ninth consecutive year, this time with a fresh set of new voices and amid calls for Asian representation in the worlds of fashion, art and entertainment, following a wave of hate crimes against the community in the United States.
Over the past two years, fashion industry leaders including Prabal Gurung, Jason Wu, Ji Oh, Alexander Wang and Phillip Lim have drawn attention to the issue and expressed the need for more great representation. In one Vogue UK editorial last year, Gurung wrote, “The fashion industry has failed to represent us on so many levels, but more than that, they are simply not aware of it.” And Lim said in a statement, per WWD, that the work of fashion houses “should represent the world we want to see”.
This Fashion Week, the AFC answered the call by honoring a group of emerging designers, all of Asian origin. WooLeeX, Sung Ju, DOKKA vivid, Glenda Garcia, Yuuna Ichikawa and Cocotono showcased their latest collections, including womenswear and menswear, at Spring Studios on February 15 and spoke with BAZAAR.com on what it was like to represent their cultures.
Ichikawa opened the show with a layered gray and white tulle dress, and followed with flared pants, big jackets – also with tulle – and lots of drama. She said the concept behind her designs was always to “create a shock” with contrasting colors and surprising shapes, and to dress “strong women who stand up for society”.
For Ichikawa, the challenge is not just to be included in the new wave of recognized Asian designers these days, but to stand out with his own unique perspective. “I think the influence of Asia in the fashion world is immeasurable,” she said. BAZAAR after the show, “but I don’t think Japanese womenswear designers have overcome the momentum yet, so I want to establish my own worldview and spread it not only in Japan, but also around the world.”
On the catwalk, Japanese brand DOKKA flaunted sweeping skirts in vibrant pinks, reds and yellows, as well as ultra-embellished sweaters and dresses, floral headpieces and long, intricately patterned hooded coats. Models paraded down the catwalk with traditional Asian lanterns as bags, celebrating the designers’ heritage.
At one point, two models walked the runway side-by-side, wearing sleek but “spicy” monochromatic looks, as designer Akiho Ka put it: one in a hot pink spectrum, the other in cold blues.
“I met a lot of Asian creators from the same generation on this show. Even though we are from the same Asian regions, we reaffirmed that we have completely different personalities and sensibilities,” Ka said. “Through the show, I was able to grasp the heart of my brand more clearly.”
Sung Ju Lee of Seoul-based label Sung Ju brought streetwear and sportswear to the fore, featuring brightly colored deconstructed tracksuits, balaclavas, oversized puffer jackets and fuzzy slippers with matching pencil skirts.
Lee said it was a “great honor” for him to showcase his collection in New York, and his biggest motivation is knowing he’s taking action for his community. “There are talented new designers and brands in Asia, and they can have a lot of influence,” he said.
Taiwan-based WooLeeX designers Cynthia and Jerry Hsieh have a similar view of the potential of Asian creatives. They said that after showing their collection in Taiwan and Tokyo, they were grateful to be able to “represent the Eastern (Asian) fashion powerhouse” in the United States. “Bringing Asian culture to the world is one of WooLeeX’s biggest projects,” they said.
The duo graced NYFW with a collection of suits, blazers and dresses featuring colorful and busy graphic designs, paired with hoodies, shorts, long socks and trainers for the men and floral heels or boots elegant for women. The mix of patterns would be dizzying if it weren’t so incredibly well done.
Japanese designer Kotono Fukazawa of Cocotono also showed a laid-back yet refined aesthetic with his collection, except much more trippy and somehow also preppy. There were airy gingham blazers paired with matching shorts and varsity jackets paired with cropped pants. And the crowd let out a real shared laugh when they saw the models’ accessories: bottles of whiskey, ice cream cones and beer.
“The concept is Cocotono LOL, which is based on the idea of oogiri, a form of comedy that is unique to Japan,” the creator said. “At the same time, I tried to make it easier for people overseas to understand the concept, including the style.
It was Fukazawa’s first time showing his designs outside of Asia, and he said he was happy to be part of the wave of Asian designers making their mark in the United States.
Glenda Garcia of Jakarta, Indonesia made her NYFW debut with a series of black, white and earth-toned looks with lots of cutouts, belts, trench coats and rain boots. “First NYFW. A big thank you to @asiafashioncollection for this amazing opportunity and the amazing show they put on,” the designer wrote in an Instagram post after the show, sharing a video from the show.
“I feel like the Asia Fashion Collection and the wave of Asian talent being showcased really shows how global the industry is and how diverse cultural backgrounds and perspectives enrich the fashion landscape. “, she said. BAZAAR.
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