New Emissary

A Light on Fashion and Asia

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New Emissary

A Light on Fashion and Asia

The ‘East meets West’ theme has been done to death by the fashion magazines. What other stories are out there?

Finding in-depth news and insight on Asia and fashion isn’t always easy. Of course there’s plenty of the usual fashion magazine references to the obvious ‘Eastern’ influence on this season’s runways—whether its traditional Indian fabrics, Chinese character prints or the like. But the superficial East-meets-West commentary on the fashion world has been told over and over again so many times in the past few decades that it seems a little, well, unoriginal—surely one of the worst sins in fashion and design.

There’s more extensive editorial coverage from time to time in the more content-heavy publications like Vanity Fair. But sadly, even in some of the high brow publications it’s getting harder to find good coverage, with much of it these days seeming to be increasingly replaced by stories relying on celebrity names to attract readers and interest in the latest range of clothes.

Another kind of Asia fashion coverage that’s often included in mainstream news and magazines are the market-driven updates—such as looks at which large corporate or luxury fashion retailers based in Europe or North America are making inroads into the fast-growing region. Just this month, for example, it’s been widely noted that Italian fashion house Prada has announced a boost in its luxury sales, thanks in large part to rising Asian demand. Another bit of news that got a lot of play was that Spanish business empire Inditex Group—which owns the Zara clothing retailer chain—has made clear its high expectations for the Asian market, especially having just opened 8 new stores each in Japan and South Korea and 42 in China. The list goes on…

But surely there must be more to the dynamics of fashion across the fastest growing and developing region in the world than just the raw numbers?

Take China, which long ago discarded the traditional Cheongsam as everyday wear and now has a burgeoning middle class that’s quickly dropping cheap domestic knock-offs for foreign luxury brands. And what about Japan? Are Japanese still known for having an affinity for niche fashion items like limited edition jeans and luxury brands despite years of economic stagnation?

The notion of the West being at the centre of fashion, especially high-fashion and couture, (excluding the manufacturing end of it all), is quickly being overturned with changes in Asia. High-profile international events like Tokyo Fashion Week, Hong Kong Fashion Week, Beijing Fashion Week and even Karachi Fashion Week, for instance, are now joining the ranks of not-to-be-missed major worldwide industry showcases.

So with all this in mind, starting next week I’ll be looking in more depth at the idea of Asia and fashion in a new series. I’ll be touching on topics such as what ‘Asianness’ might mean in fashion, how generations of Asian immigrants have ‘fought’ major battles to topple conventional fashion notions, and how Asian fashion designers and consumers in the West approach what they wear. I’ll also share thoughts on how what people wear is still tied to their identity and culture.

And to get readers a little in the mood for next week’s fashion discussions, here’s an interesting quote from late fashion icon Coco Chanel: ‘Since everything is in our heads, we had better not lose them.’