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The CFDA Fashion Awards took place last night in New York, and there were Asians all up in the joint. (Have you ever wondered what it is about our people and fashion design?) Doo-Ri Chung, Peter Som, and Phillip Lim were in attendance. Alexander Wang took home the Swarovski Award for Womenswear–given each year to an up-and-coming designer–after beating out Thakoon Panichgul and Jason Wu.
Michelle Obama was given a special tribute award for supporting American designers, which was an indirect nod to Thakoon and Jason Wu, whose profiles were elevated significantly after the First Lady wore their designs at two major events during the election (the last night of the DNC and the Inaugural Ball, respectively). Jason Wu was also at Monday night’s CFDA’s. Here he is with awards presenter Diane Kruger, in his design:
And again with Jack White:
Hey! That’s not Jason Wu! (That’s another little Asian person, Anna Sui, who received a lifetime achievement award.)
But the similarities are striking, we have to admit.
Filed under: Alexander Wang, Asian Fashion Designers, CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award, Doo-Ri Chung, Fashism, Jason Wu, Michelle Obama Fashion, Mistasian Identity, Peter Som, Phillip Lim, Thakoon Panichgul
Most of the news we receive about China in the States is baaaaaaaaad news. And almost all of that news pertains to the Chinese government, making it easy to forget that there are actually people in the People’s Republic. Who are these people? What are their hopes and dreams? What kind of music do they listen to? What do they wear?
The last question, at least, has its answer in Stylites in Beijing, a two year-old street-style blog by Nels Frye that I only recently discovered, much to my delight. Back in the mid-90′s, when I was teaching in China, Beijing was pretty cool and cutting-edge compared to the rest of the country, but it was still rare-ish to see people there with unique style. I was rocking a Jenny Shimizu buzzcut and regrettably dark lipstick at the time, and most people mistook me for either a boy–despite the lipstick!–or Japanese (because looking different equaled Japanese, apparently). I definitely stuck out like a shorn thumb.
But the times, they are a’changing, and Frye is documenting it all. What I love about Stylites, though, is that it doesn’t just show fabulous people roaming the narrow hutongs of Beijing, it tells mini-stories of their lives, why they’re in Beijing, what their professions are, what they’re shopping for in the food markets, regular people-stuff that you’re just not going to hear about on CNN.
And that is very good news indeed.
40 year-old Lucy Liu graces the April cover of Vogue China, looking oddly like a can of Sprite.
Why She’s a Babe: Well, for one thing, Chanel, who was named after Coco Chanel and the supermodel Iman, is only 19, so she’s actually a babe, as in a babe-in-the-woods. And while she’s been modeling since she was 13, she’s maintained a certain fresh-faced innocence about her (Flashing peace signs! Winking at Anna Wintour!), a fact that made Tyra cry on her talk show and has been widely attributed to the hands-on involvement of Chanel’s mama, China Robinson, who is half-Korean and half-black. And while she’s being billed as the new Naomi, she’ll still put unflattering photos of herself on her MySpace page and give them cute captions like “
Recently, Chanel signed on to co-host an updated version of MTV’s awesomely awful ’90′s show about fashion, House of Style. We’re betting Chanel won’t be as wooden as the show’s original host, Cindy Crawford, although we’re praying the new House of Style will be just as kitschy and bizarre as ever.
A few months ago, model/indie darling Agyness Deyn–who can pull off fug clothes–was photographed in a memorable Henry Holland dress that made her look as though she were on her way to entertain at a children’s birthday party before snorting rails with Boy George, having a colorful breakdown, and then checking herself into a mental institution.
Last night, a 9 months-pregnant M.I.A. performed at the Grammys with Jay-Z, Kanye, T.I., and Lil Wayne in the same dress. While some are hating on the garment–as though a model out on the town was still wearing it rather than an artist about to pop–I think it could quite possibly be the bitchin’est maternity dress I’ve ever seen.
His line for Target has been out for about a week now, and the vultures have already absconded with the pretty $40 dresses (like the batik number I’m wearing at left, don’t hate…I’ll let you borrow). But there are lots of cute skirts and bikinis left, and nothing’s over $50, so hop to it.
My apologies for posing by the bamboo–I know it’s horribly cliche but it was the easiest place to take the snap. Next time, I’ll try to scoot a panda in the shot to perfect the ching-chongery of it all.
Can I call you Alex? I feel like I can, since you’re Chinese-American and I am, too, and we have the same last name, which means we’re practically related. First things first–congratulasians on winning the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award! You rule! Your clothes–a clever mix of grunge street urchin and 80′s lady—are the bomb! Anna Wintour has found room in her icy, unsmiling, chinchilla-clad heart to love you! In other words, you have arrived.
And now that you’ve arrived, you really don’t need advice from anyone, except your CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund mentor who comes with the prize. But allow me to make one small, albeit bold, suggestion–as bold as those raggedy denim cut-offs you designed for fall and had the balls to charge $285.00 for when they look like that item of clothing one feels is too trashed to even donate to the homeless–please start saying our last name right. “Waaaang” is waaaaack. “Wong” is right. There is, I’m afraid, no middle ground. Think of this as your Demi Moore moment. Remember back in the late 80′s, circa Ghost, when Demi Moore went from being known as “Dem-ee” to “Duh-mee,” seemingly overnight? Of course you don’t, because you were just a wee lad back then. But, look. It happened. And everyone got with the program. And instead of people being, like, WTF is up with that, they threw money at this born-again creature “Duh-mee” and she became the highest-paid female movie star in the land (until she did The Scarlet Letter, Striptease, and G.I. Jane in that order and all but killed her career, but that’s another story).
You’ve made it, sweetie. Which means that people have to start saying your name right. You could even pull a Prince and start going by a symbol, and people would have to respect that (please don’t). And you don’t want to mistaken for, like, Vera Waaaang’s relasian, do you? She’s so yesterday’s news. And you, my friend, are the future.
love you Wang time,
For those of you unfamiliar with the makeover episode of America’s Next Top Model, know that it typically brings out tears, and I’m talking Niagara-like lacrimation. When Cycle 11′s aired last week, the person who did the most crying over her new look was Elina Ivanova, a 19 year-old originally from Ukraine, to whom the show inexplicably gave the hair of the creepy, ‘roided-out comic Carrot Top. Elina hated her fiery weave–which was heralded as a first in “Top Model History,” undoubtedly for its aggressive fugginess–but she managed to move past that and win the swimsuit photo shoot in the end anyway.
As a rule, the previous week’s winning shot goes up in the contestants’ house the following week to motivate the other girls. Elina’s photo was shown several times over the course of last night’s episode, with some flattering quotes from the judges captioning it, one of which was “ethnically ambiguous.” Tyra had told the aspiring model the week before that that was how the new hair made Elina look, and she meant it as a compliment.
The phrase “ethnically ambiguous,” however, strikes me as praise of the backhanded variety. Often, it’s really just a gentrified way of saying “not too ethnic.” Or “not too dark.” Or “not too slanty-eyed.” Or “not too flat-nosed.” In August, before New York Fashism Week, a top casting director for the shows told Models.com that one thing the fashion world is embracing right now is precisely that imprecise look:
“Another thing this season is trying to discern from all the girls out there the ones that are ethnically ambiguous. Girls and boys that have faces that you can’t just put in a certain place or race or geography. I think it’s very helpful to see those types of faces in our conflicted world because you can see that we’re still evolving as humans and they are the results of people willing to go beyond the socially constructed notions around race…“
And, you know, he may be onto something, in terms of “socially constructed notions around race,” but what about our socially constructed notions around beauty? Is this latest notion of beauty a reflection of globalization and the world getting smaller or is it spin on an old idea, that “ethnic” faces are beautiful so long as they still conform somewhat to Western standards of beauty (i.e. so long as they still look kinda white). If faces that can’t be put in a certain place, race, or geography are desirable right now, what about faces like mine that most certainly can? Are they yesterday’s news? Are they a bit played? Should I stow my face for a few seasons like all those smock dresses I wore in 2006 until ethnic specificity makes a comeback? This comment about ethnic ambiguity was cited as the second key fall trend; the first was “the tomboy look.” Now it’s easy to go out and get a bowl cut and boyfriend jeans and copy Katie Holmes, but it’s not quite so simple to change your ethnic makeup. And since ethnic ambiguity is considered a “trend,” that means it’s only a matter of time before people tire of it and it will be replaced by something else. What will the “ethnically ambiguous” do then? Make themselves “more ethnic”? Play up the racial drag–kink that hair, chink that make-up? Go into hiding?
I think I have some space for the ethnically ambiguous in the back of my closet when that time comes, somewhere alongside all of my pointy-toed flats, boot-cut jeans, knee-length A-line skirts, those smock dresses that made me look preggo, and that pair of purple McQueen corset boots that would look killer on a pirate moonlighting as a hooker. In the meantime, it’s here in the dark, cluttered recesses of my closet where you’ll find me and my ethnically unambiguous face, as we wait for everything old to become new again.
Filed under: America's Next Top Model, ANTM, Elina Ivanova, Ethnically Ambiguous, Ethnically Unambiguous, Fashism, Mixed People, People as Accessories, Stupid Fashion Trends, Trends, Tyra Banks, Ugly Weaves
On Wednesday, during London Fashism Week, Naomi Campbell put on a Fashion for Relief charity runway show featuring her hot Blasian model friends, Chanel Iman (who is a quarter-Korean) and Tyson Beckford (who is a quarter-Chinese):
And we were curiously left off the guest list. Hmm. Maybe we should be nicer to our favorite phone-thrower-nista?
Avril Lavigne debuted her new fashion label, Abbey Dawn, in Tokyo this weekend,
ripping off paying homage to every major rock and pop icon of the late 20th century. Everything from punk to pop and glam to grunge was sent down the runway in the singer’s first juniors’ collection for Kohl’s.
There was a nod to Sid Vicious:
Hmm. Did I say that she paid homage to “every major rock and pop icon of the late 20th century”? I guess what I meant was that Avril gave big-ups to “…many major rock and pop icons of the late 20th century, and one marginally-talented, tie-wearing random.”
Nicole Scherzinger on wearing a sari:
“This is my first time in a sari
because somebody told me Bollywood is really hot right now. It feels amazing but not quite as sexy as latex pants. I feel like a whole nother person. I put this on and I feel so beautiful and just in touch with all the different cultures and backgrounds that I’m made of. And now for an awkward, non-sequiter shout-out to my fans: Just be true to yourself and stay beautiful.
…I’m so honored if people think that I’m Indian or look Indian
instead of a plastic surgery nightmare. Growing up…I didn’t always have a lot of people to look up to who looked like me [cue world's smallest violin]. And I love that everywhere I go [everywhere??--Ed.], even in India, people think, wow, she belongs to us. [Please, for the love of God, India--take this crazy bitch off our hands.--Ed.]“
DIANA’S MOM: Stuck in the second row. And behind this girl with so many freckles and her skinny boyfriend. Ghê quá! Who are these people? What do they do? I thought they put movie stars in the front row.
JEN’S MOM: And loyal customers. Like us.
DIANA’S MOM: Not anymore they don’t. How things have changed. Young people these days–no respect.
JEN’S MOM: I’m never coming to Fashion Week again. After this, Fashion Week is dead to me. I disown Fashion Week like I did Jennifer when she told me she wanted to be a writer.
DIANA’S MOM: Like Diana, when she told me she wasn’t going to medical school. Or law school. Or not even…architecture school.
JEN’S MOM: Not even architecture school?! Ai ya.
DIANA’S MOM: (shakes head) I know. Such a waste. She could have been bigger than Maya Lin. But instead she chose…er…
JEN’S MOM: What do our daughters do again?
DIANA’S MOM: I have no idea.
JEN’S MOM: Me neither.
DIANA’S MOM & JEN’S MOM: (in unison) Such a waste.
DIANA’S MOM: Who are these people in front of us? Why do they get special treatment?
JEN’S MOM: As hard as it is to believe, Freckle Girl is a movie star. Well, she used to be, anyway. And that is her girlfriend. I don’t know what she does. She looks to me like a punk off the street.
DIANA’S MOM: That boy is a girl?! Are you trying to give me a heart attack?
JEN’S MOM: I read it in the Chinese newspaper. They are girlfriend-girlfriend.
DIANA’S MOM: They were in the Chinese newspaper? I don’t believe you. That is a boy.
JEN’S MOM: Ai ya. I’m telling you. That is a girl.
DIANA’S MOM: What about that haircut?!
JEN’S MOM: Don’t ask me. It’s today’s “fashion.” Girls look like boys, boys look like girls, girls date girls, boys date boys, the gay can get married…
DIANA’S MOM: Ghê quá! The world is changing so fast.
JEN’S MOM: Changing for the worse, if you ask me.
DIANA’S MOM: At least our daughters don’t have girlfriends.
JEN’S MOM: And they’ll give us grandchildren one day.
DIANA’S MOM: That’s the least they could do. (beat) But what if they want to focus on…um…
JEN’S MOM: Whatever it is that they do, instead of giving us grandchildren?
DIANA’S MOM: Uh-huh.
More awkward silence.
JEN’S MOM: Ai ya!
DIANA’S MOM: Ghê quá!
JEN’S MOM & DIANA’S MOM: (in unison) Such a waste!