When Lady Gaga strutted across the stage at her Born This Way Ball tour last year, the Asian accents were unmistakable in her “Origami Crane” pink dress, spun by Japanese designer Masanori Morikawa’s Christian Dada label.
Likewise, at Japan Fashion Week, running until March 24th in Tokyo, diverse Asian motifs cross with couture in designs from around the region, from Morikawa’s Fenghuang collection inspired by the mythological phoenix to a line of clothing with traditional touches by Mongolian designer Ariunaa Surenjav.
“Personally I am a huge fan of Asian influences in fashion. There is so much beautiful craftsmanship,” Ana Sieger, a German fashion designer based in Shanghai, told The Diplomat. “I love the mix of traditions and new trends, and finding ways to combine them to make something new.”
In Tokyo this week, Morikawa has drawn on the phoenix to assemble an androgynous collection of outfits, which he claims are inspired by the male-female mix seen in the phoenix. Similarly, Surenjav’s offerings drew on the raised shoulders and bunched sleeves associated with Mongolian nobility in the past.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about these various takes on tradition is that they are being targeted to consumers within the region. In particular, Asian designers have cast their gaze on China, the world’s top luxury market. Indeed, even amid the sluggish global economy, the U.S. $280 billion global luxury market grew by ten percent in 2012, largely driven by China.
This leap forward for fashion doesn’t only apply to consumption either. China-based fashion designers are growing in stature for their own ideas as well, with Shanghai at the center of this rise.
“Worldwide, China is now considered not only a place to produce fashion, but also design and develop new trends,” said Sieger, who is heavily involved in Shanghai’s independent fashion scene through her own Frau Ana label. “In particular, Shanghai is becoming an international hotspot.”
But this is not a zero-sum game. As Sieger sees it, the rise of multiple fashion centers within Asia is good for the region as a whole. “I don’t think it should be either one or the other (Tokyo or Shanghai),” she said. “Both cities are different. There can never be enough influence and inspiration moving the fashion world forward.”
She added that the growing recognition is nice all the same: “People are really becoming interested in what’s happening in Shanghai now. It’s about time. There is great talent to be discovered here.”