Week 13 Pre-Post

“The Cultural Economy of Asian Chic” talks about how the influence of Asian fashion has had on European and Western clothing.  It also talks about the financial capitalization these nations have gained by marketing Asian inspired fashions.  According to the chapter Asian chic was at its height before September 11 2001.  One piece of evidence I can think of that supports the views of this chapter is Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Lovers fragrance line.  Stefani became somewhat of a spokesperson for cultural Japanese fashion.  Asian chic is compared to other eroticized fashion movements in American and European fashion trends such as tribal African inspired chic and Native American chic.

How has Asian inspired fashion reemerged into American fashion trend within recent years?

“Material Mao…” chapter 4, discusses how Asian fashion designers used their ethnic identities as a way to authenticate there fashion designs and capitalize as well in a western or European market off of their own heritage.  Asian designers participated in the Asian chic demand in a number of ways.  Some obvious, some unobvious such as creating designs that had more historical mean behind it.  These designers who took a more subtle approach to Asian chic fashion sought out to not only provide style but to educate the people who would buy them.  These designers had several agendas that they conveyed through their fashion on dealing with both political and social views.

From reading this chapter I thought of the question: Would it be considered conforming to western and European ideals of Asian culture by partaking in creating Asian chic clothing appealing to those markets?  Or where these designers using western and European fascination with Asian fashion as a way to correct these societies on their misconceptions of its many cultures?  Those questions  tied into the readings on “Asia on my mind…” on how cultural and historical genealogies played into Asian chic fashion.


12 thoughts on “Week 13 Pre-Post

  1. Your first question about whether creating Asian chic clothing conforms to Western and European ideals of Asian culture is a complicated question to answer. I’m honestly not 100% sure on my opinion on this. I think it is interesting that there are designers who are taking an approach to Asian chic in order to educate the people who are purchasing the clothing. However, I wonder how effective that this tactic actually is. Do people buying the clothing notice the subtle differences? I feel as if most people, when buying clothes, are only concerned with how the garment looks, the fit and feel and the price. I don’t think most people think about the culture of the designer or the political undertones the clothing may hold. So, although I think the idea of educating people who are buying the Asian chic fashion items, I wonder if it actually is effective.

  2. I agree with the above comment. I am not sure whether there is a large enough difference between Asian-american designer’s clothing and other designers take on Asian-chic to know the two apart. If these designers partake in the Asian-chic movement I do not think it is necessarily them conforming but rather participating in the popular fashion of the season. If they were making very similar style Asian-chic clothing as another designer then perhaps I might agree there was a level of conforming simply to hit the mass market and gain a profit. However, every designer brings a different background to the table with their individual design and can add a little bit of themselves into the mix.

    Another example of the rising popularity of Asian-chic is Gwen Stefani’s clothing line Harajuku Girls. She had been working with this type of Japanese couture and really immersed herself into the culture of not only wearing the clothes but pulling from it inspiration not only for this line but also for her first solo album L.A.M.B.

  3. It must be very difficult for Asian American designers to find their individual voices in the Western markets. As we discussed in class, and from our readings, we found that designers of Asian origins are expected to design with an Asian influence. But what if that is not their particular style? Many of the designers are first or second generation Americans, meaning that they grew up in the states and are completely “westernified.” They grew up seeing what all other Americans see as the ideal beauties and to be successful they have to produce what the typical American wants to buy and wear. In many circumstances, this means clothing based on Western designs. Their market appeal might be greatly limited if they were only to produce Asian inspired garments. And as mentioned in the readings, once the phase of Asian designs came to an end, designers went bankrupt as their designs were no longer in demand. Since they did not appeal to the wider masses and show that they can produce other genres of design, they were forced out of business. Also, those that don’t conform to this mindset that since they are Asian, they should produce Oriental designs, (such as Chloe Dao) were criticized as “race traitors.” I guess what I’m saying is I feel bad that these designers are pigeon holed and limited in their creativity due to their ethnicity. Hopefully consumers and designers in the future can move past this stereotype and encourage people of all races to produce garments based on any inspiration they desire, not just their own histories.

  4. As suggested by our readings in My Beautiful Generation, Asian Americans are positioned differently in the fashion industry and because of this in someways had to conform to certain western ideas of fashion in order to gain recognition. And an example of one of these western ideas would definitely be Asian Chic. I wouldn’t say that they were fixing misconceptions of Asian-ness in asian chic fashions, but more so using their ethnicity and their “assumed ability”( by westerners) to design Asian clothing as a way to enter the fashion industry. Although Asian Chic became so popular as a way of competing with growing powers in Asian countries and soon fading away, I see Asian Chic as a lowered barrier of entry into the fashion industry for Asian Americans.

  5. I think it’s interesting that you bring up Gwen Stefani and her Harajuku lovers collection. I always thought it was really really creepy. She is this tall blonde with this strange entourage/cult of small, short Asians girls all wearing the same thing. Gwen poses in the middle of them, tall and blonde, always wearing something different from the others.I understand that she was attempting to represent the Harajuku style, but I think the way she presents the women undermines this and just emphasizes a European/western idea of exceptionalism. To me this sort of says that these Asian girls are like commodities. They look so similar with hair, clothes and height almost the same. One could be replaced with out anyone knowing. I don’t think this does a lot for Asian chic- it just gives off the idea that Asian women are clones of one another and don’t have individual style.

  6. I don’t believe when designers make Asian chic clothes they are trying to correct cultural misconceptions. When consumers become fascinated with new fashion styles its because they are trying to keep up with the latest trends, not because they have a need to learn about the particular culture. It simply becomes dress up and if anything I think it creates more misconceptions because people will continue to think that “all” Asian women dress like this or so on. Also I agree that the Western market is hard for Asian designers to make a breakthrough because they are somewhat kept in a small box. They are urged to make clothes that appeal to a certain group or make clothes that show their culture off but as some of the other responders said that may not necessarily be the path they want to go down. Just because I am African American does that mean that I only want to appeal to an black urban crowd? Of course not. It is stereotyping in the fashion industry and I find it unfortunate that some designers feel confined within their cultural background when it comes to creating new fashion styles.

  7. I strongly agree with the statement: “Asian chic is compared to other eroticized fashion movements in American and European fashion trends such as tribal African inspired chic and Native American chic.” I can definitely see how Asian chic fashion is similar to tribal African inspired chic and Native American chic since it employs elements that are stereotypically associated with a particular culture to create fashion trends. I believe that this type of fashion can be offensive because it devalues and reduces an entire culture and its traditions in order to essentially create a sort of costume that is deemed fashionable in Western culture. That is not to say, however, that this type of fashion cannot be employed to enlighten or educate others about a culture. In other words, I believe it is possible for Asian chic fashion to actually counter any misconceptions that western culture may have. For instance, rather than refusing to create Asian chic clothing that appeals to markets with western and European ideals of Asian culture, Asian fashion designers can choose to create Asian chic clothing that is truly representative of Asian culture and clothing. In this manner, Asian fashion designers would not be conforming to western and European ideals of Asian culture, but rather educating these cultures about real Asian culture and traditions.

  8. I agree with Josey. I also questioned this Harajuku movement. She seems to be using the Asians who represent her clothing line, especially in the picture above, as objects or commodities. I doubt that Gwen Stefani even knows too much about Asian fashion, or talked with or knew any of the girls who represented her line. I am not sure, however, how much knowledge she actually has about Asian culture or the clothes and accessories she designed. Those comments are pure speculation.

    I also agree with one of the other comments above. Asian American designers are very limited given their ethnicity. They are criticized if they try to conform to Western ideals and fashion, but also looked down upon if they do not design anything other than Asian chic clothing.

    I think that it is hard to tell the subtle differences between an Asian American designer and an American designer. Unless you are really informed about the designers and can recognize their names and know their country or origin or heritage, you are buying clothes simply based on brands you know you like or styles you are comfortable with. It seems like this has little to do with the designer and more to do with the current fashions.

  9. I also thought it was interesting that you brought up Gwen Stefani and her line. I think it’s interesting that designers are trying to do more with different cultures and how they are making clothes geared towards a certain audience. Like we discussed in class and in the readings, Asian Chic has been very popular especially with the designers here. I don’t know how I feel about it because I do feel that when people buy clothes they might not be thinking about how the certain item of clothing was inspired by a culture. I think people usually just go shopping and find what they like or what looks good on them. There are other fashion movements like African inspired clothing or Native American chic like you mentioned. This type of fashion that is inspired by different cultures can be good or bad. Some people from that culture may find it offensive because the clothes they are inspired by might mean something in their culture or some people may find it as a way of promoting their culture to others and that might be good. I feel like Gwen Stefani has always been a fan or has been promoting Japanese culture and inspired by that type of design. Even in her music videos, you can tell that she really likes the fashion and culture.

  10. To answer your first question, I find it complex to question if Asian culture is conforming to western and European ideals when marketing to those cultures because of a particular reading we explored earlier in the semester. This reading, and I forget which one, discussed how many Asian markets borrow influences from European design to make their clothing more appealing to the European market. However, in contrast to a blog post written previously one can say that European markets borrow influences from Asian culture’s as well. In class we took a look at the tribal prints and the “FOB” fashion. I feel as if FOB fashion is very in style currently. There is not a corner you can turn without being presented with beenie caps, oversized t-shirts and other patterns that have a Asian style influence. I feel like it is both cultures pulling from each other to create the newest and trendiest.

  11. It seems that Asian Chic is being used as a tool that designers can use to differentiate their lines from other western looks. Designers, regardless of race, use foreign figures and take parts of cultural aspects that they feel will be appealing to the western/European consumer. Lady Antoinette would romanticize the dragon robe for certain details of its “Asianness”. I don’t see how this is any different from Asian Chic designers.
    I’m not really sure if I understand what Asian Chic really is. When we say “Asian fashion” are we talking about the modern Asia styles or are we reminiscing fashion from the B.C era? Harajuku fashion is definitely out there in all its qualities and correlated with Japan. But the only “Japanese” thing that I see about this style is that Japanese people wear them…and so its Asian Chic? Interesting…

  12. Asian American designers, in a way, have conformed to the western and European ideals. I think that most American designers coming from many cultures collaborate with typical fashion norms to create their own personal styles. The Asian chic phenomena has experienced similar things. These designers try to remain true to their cultural roots but at the same time aim to please the demands of American society. The clothing can appear to be very similar to other styles but then we see differences as well. The patterns or layout on how a garment is worn all makes a difference. Asian Americans can be seen as taking a political stance because they have tried to retain the authenticity of their attire. It is a difficult struggle because our society can eventually break down the cultural significance of the garments made. Asian American designers have come along way from working in the garment industry factories to actually producing an item that is sold in mainstream America. These designers tend to have a strong connection with their cultural background which may be a reason for their continuing success of producing unique attire.

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