Asian Invasion

A new generation of designers is taking over. This piece also appeared in the Fall 2009 issue.

By Lauren Dulay

Ten years ago, no one had ever heard of Alexander Wang, Phillip Lim or even Jason Wu.  At the time, Vera Wang and Anna Sui were the most recognized Asian designers, known by those inside and outside of the fashion industry.  In 1996, Filipino designer Monique Lhuillier, gained popularity from designing wedding dresses for fashion forward brides and celebrities.  Yet, even with the presence of a few gifted designers within the industry, the number of mainstream Asian American designers was still small.  The recent generation of Asian American designers can be credited to their upbringing in America.  Instead of focusing on stable occupations, which is anticipated in Asian culture, it gave them the opportunity to pursue their artistic careers.

Today it seems as if Asian designers have appeared out of nowhere and dominated the runways.  According to the Wall Street Journal, 25 Asian designers presented their collections at September’s New York Fashion Week, which is the biggest number thus far.  Many Asian American designers have included trends in their collections that have greatly impacted the fashion industry.  For example, Alexander Wang’s oversized metallic sweater dress that has sheer “moth hole” patches, influenced a grunge revival once it hit the Spring 2009 runway.  More affordable stores have now begun selling merchandise that imitates his other pieces, such as a mesh overlay dress and fringe peep-toe booties.  Even Rihanna has been seen wearing his clothing on a regular basis.  Lately, Wang’s high-fashion popularity has given him the opportunity to create a more mainstream collection for GAP, which launched in summer 2009.

Another notable designer, Phillip Lim, started the zipper trend.  Once his little black dress with zipper-edged ruffles debuted, celebrity clients, Kate Bosworth and Lucy Liu were seen wearing his dress to red carpet events.  Since then, decorative zippers have been seen on shoes, hair accessories and leggings.  Even other designers, such as Catherine Malandrino, have been influenced by Lim’s designs and have incorporated zippers into their own collections.

The recent popularity of Asian designers can possibly be attributed to a cultural stereotype.  Asians are commonly known to be hard-working and goal oriented.  Junior Fashion Design Major Kitiya Phongsuwan says, “A lot of Asian designers now have made a great name for themselves.  They’re all very innovative and doing something great for the industry.  Personally, I like being able to dabble in my culture and use it as inspiration!”  Most Asian Americans, like Phongsuwan, are diverging from the standard occupations held by Asians to those that are more creative oriented.  Asian Americans are able to assimilate to American culture, yet retain their family heritage.  This is the same for Asian American designers.  It gives them the ability to see things from different points of view and apply it to their collections, which is constantly seen within their work.

Although new designers are making fashion headlines, don’t count out veteran Asian designers just yet.  This fall, Target collaborated with Anna Sui to create a collection inspired by the CW’s hit show, “Gossip Girl.”  Each look was based on one of the four main female characters and all of the pieces are under $70.  Anna Sui launched her line in the early ’80s and still serves as an inspiration for success to these new designers.

The influx of Asian-American designers may be a trend at the moment, but it seems like they are here to stay.  It is a step in the right direction that the fashion industry is becoming more accepting of cultural diversity in regards to designers of varied descent.  Hopefully, this can lead to a breakthrough for other designers and continue to increase ethnic variety within the industry.

It’s obvious that Syracuse is notorious for having extremely cold weather that lasts from mid-fall to early spring.  With all of that wind, rain and snow how do students remain fashionable, yet warm, throughout Syracuse’s frigid fall and winter weather?

Ashley Owusu: “Layers — I wear a tank top and a loose sweater, usually a cardigan.  I don’t like to over-accessorize, so I just pair it with a small belt and necklaces.”

Thomas Tze: “I only use earmuffs.  I’m not scared of the cold.  I only want to protect my ears.”

Rongmai Jiang: “I wear my Merrell boots.  They’re very important.  I’m also known for my famous white scarf that I use everywhere.”

Quang Nguyen: “I wear spandex underneath my jeans and knit hats with ear flaps.  Also, I cut thumbholes into my sweatshirts to protect my hands.”

Courtney Taddonio: “Lots of layers.  I always use a tank top, a long-sleeved shirt, a hoodie and a coat.  I also love wearing cute scarves and hats from Rhododendron!”


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