While Louis Vuitton and Prada may be household names for many in the West, all but the most devoted fashionistas remain blissfully unaware of names like Chinese designer Liu Fang and Taiwanese fashion house Shiatzy Chen. Soon, however, this could change.
Late last week in Paris models strutted down the catwalk to flaunt the latest apparel imagined by a new crop of global designers. And if the Parisian runway is anything to go by, Asia’s voice is becoming louder in the Western world of fashion.
“I think the Western world is looking more and more towards Asia and the creative influences on the world of fashion and design over here,” Ana Sieger, a German designer who launched the fashion label frau ana from her home in Shanghai, told The Diplomat.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
“Not only great talent but also the globalized world is one big reason for this. Many young people from Asia go to Europe or the U.S. to study and vice versa. It’s logical that the attention comes as well to Asian designers and their work.”
She continued, “Society and our surroundings play a major role in developing new trends, but location doesn’t play such a key role anymore and the world itself inspires creative people no matter where they are coming from or live.”
This eclectic, globalized mix is clearly on display in Paris right now. Alongside a walk-by in a Versace sequin tuxedo by 43-year-old supermodel Naomi Campbell and appearances by Mick Jagger and Pete Doherty, the line-up of Asian designers last week was impressive.
From Japan, a healthy turnout included young up-and-comer Yusuke Takahashi and Junya Watanabe who wowed the audience with the colorful use of traditional dyeing techniques for the Issey Miyake Men label and conceptually brilliant variations on a single concept, respectively.
Compatriots, monochrome footwear maestro Miharayasuhiro and veteran Yohji Yamamoto, whose black/gray couture came with splashes of yellow and sky blue, exhibited their latest creations as well. As did the LVMH-affiliated label Kenzo and Rynshu.
Meanwhile, from South Korea, female designer Wooyoungmi displayed her “scorched desert” style of stark threads woven into men’s outfits described as “sharply tailored” and “stiff-bodied”. Fellow Korean designer Juun J. gave a visual download of his own aesthetic: spacious, layered military-inspired garments, which are a throwback to his time spent in compulsory service in his nation’s armed forces.
A detailed schedule of the menswear on show through Sunday can be seen here. From today, women’s fashion will dominate the stage.
Asian designers first made a splash in the Western fashion world, transforming aesthetics on a fundamental level in many ways, with the arrival of Japanese designers like Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo in the 1980s. These luminaries “changed the occidental way to look at fashion,” said Didier Grumbach, chairman of the association that organizes Paris fashion week. “Since then, there is a special relationship between France and Japan. We have the same vision of what a fashion show must be.”
While Japan continues to exert a significant presence from Paris to New York, as well as the domestic fashion mecca of Tokyo, since the 1980s one crucial development has taken Asia’s influence on global one giant leap further: the rise of China.
“Japan for sure is still a strong influence, but China is emerging in big steps,” added Sieger, whose colorful, comfortable brand of street apparel for men and women has become a mainstay in the local fashion scene. “Products used to be known for being ‘made in China’, but more and more they are becoming known for being ‘designed in China’. There is great talent here.”
Sieger added, “I still think most trends are coming from the west, as this is still where most of the leaders of the fashion world are from. But there seems to be a growing focus and interest in China within the Western fashion world. For example: using Shanghai’s skyline in the background for advertising shoots.”
Increasingly, the two-way exchange is showing in the designs of the clothes themselves. Liu Fang, Masha Ma, and Huishan Zhang, among many others, are but a few on a growing list of China’s rising fashion stars. More eyes are on the mainland’s sartorial shows each year as well, with China Fashion week getting more attention each year. In the thick of this creative ferment, Sieger says she has been duly influenced by her surroundings.
“For me, since moving to China the biggest difference I’ve seen in street fashion was the obviously more feminine way Chinese women dress compared to the ones back home,” she said. “Seeing embroidered dresses covered in sequins in a supermarket is nothing unusual over here. This is perhaps an over-the-top example, but I am definitely influenced by the feminine styles I see daily both in my collection and in my every day wardrobe.”
Editor’s note: The text has been updated from the original.