Weaving the Way: Asian Americans in the Fashion Industry

 

Asian Americans have made contributions to society in the field of science, civil rights, medicine and even technology. Among these contributions is to the American fashion industry. The recently held exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City entitled “Asian Americans in New York Fashion: Design, Labor, Innovation” showed the fabulous creativity of Asian Americans from garment factory workers up to the high-end designers. The exhibition gave emphasis to the variety and depth of Asian American design.


Photo Courtesy: Fashionunited UK

Labor is one of the focus of the exhibition with one section being dedicated to it. There is a video feature on garment workers on strike at New York City’s Chinatown in 1982. Women who come from Asia comprised most of the 20,000 garment workers who were present at the strike to protest against unfair labor conditions. The outcome of the protest was a victory for garment workers as well as a pivotal point for their association.


“Chinese Garment Workers at East Broadway Factory”
Photo Courtesy: Harvey Wang

Ruben Toledo, a Cuban-American artist based in New York City, has his illustration entitled “The Tug of War Continues” displayed in the exhibition. Created in 1994, the sketch tells how Asian American designers became pillars of the American fashion industry with persons supporting one another.


Ruben Toledo, Photo Courtesy of Ceramica Bardelli


“The Tug of War Continues…”, Photo Courtesy of Ruben Toledo

Toledo was born in Havana, Cuba. He eventually moved to New York as a child with his family. Known as a painter, sculptor, illustrator, reporter and fashion chronicler, Toledo’s works are renowned. He is married to Isabel who is a skilled stylist and fashion designer. They both live and work at the Museum of Fashion and Technology in New York City.


Ruben and Isabel Toledo, Photo Courtesy of Digital Austen

Thakoon Panichgul, a Thai-American designer, has his work of garments also showcased in the exhibition. A multicolor printed dress he created was worn by former First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Panichgul is known for his feminine collections with simple lines crafted that are made in a complex process.


Thakoon Panichgul, Photo Courtesy of Fashion Elite

Naeem Khan’s dress featuring an embroidered bodice, a prominent feature in his designs as well as paying homage to his parents’ embroidery company in India, was also put on exhibit. Khan is an Indian American who is a world premier designer of luxury apparel. Known for his intricately designed gowns, Khan also creates ready to wear, evening wear and bridal collections. He has dressed former First Lady Michelle Obama and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.


Naeem Khan, Photo Courtesy of Monet360 Fashion and Little White Dress Bridal Shop

Descending from her Chinese roots, Sandy Liang’s video display of a runway show featuring her work concluded the exhibition. Liang’s style is inspired from the local community she came from by observing the elderly women in Chinatown to think of fashion inspirations.


Sandy Liang, Photo Courtesy of Tatler Asia, South China Morning Post

Growing up, her mother didn’t let her spend money buying clothes. After getting her allowance when she was in high school, Liang bought clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch. She loves to draw and would sketch whenever she watches a red carpet event on television.

These Asian American designers surely have made their mark in the fashion industry by creating their own unique designs that come from their creativity and by taking inspiration from their roots of origin.

References:

Business of Fashion
Ceramica Bardelli
South China Morning Post
The Museum at FIT
NBC News

Written by Jan Marbella

Jan Marbella is a Digital Marketing Intern of PS Media Enterprise and a 4th year Bachelor of Arts in Communication student of De La Salle University Dasmariñas.

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