Monday, June 1, 2009

de ja vu - reperasian

i've had this little corner in cyber space for a couple of years now and since a lot of you kats are new readers i figured i should re-post some old ish that i had done when nobody read it, and also cause i'm way too busy to constantly post new things all the time. for reals i need a job where i don't have to fold clothes eight hours a day. this entry was posted just over a year ago and i thought it was still relevant. because i still don't see any of my asian kin properly represented.

hye park, philip huang, ling tan, han jin

du juan, devon aoki, ai tominaga, daul kim

considering that the two strongest emerging markets in the world are china and india, one would assume that to target these enormous potentials, advertisers would obviously use asians to promote their products. so why is it that mega fashion houses like gucci or louis vuitton, companies that owes more than half of its profit as a result of asian consumption, never uses any asian models? as someone who grew up in an asian country and where i spent the better half of my childhood and has experienced first hand asian society, i think i'm allowed to say this: asians in asia don't want to see people who look like them. they want to look at what everyone else considers as perfection. ergo, like the rest of the world, they want to see alabaster skin with angelic blue eyes and golden blonde hair. in asia, the west is this dream, a fantasy world they all want to be a part of. a utopian society where money grows on trees and everyone is beautiful. just a look at young people in asia today and you see the complex influence western culture has had on them. they dye their hair blonde, dress like over zealous western teenagers, and in more extreme cases go under the knife to acquire a more prominent nose, or something as banal as a crease on the eyelid. there is this tug of war that pulls them from one side the tradition of their families, and on the other side, the hedonistic allure of the freedom the west promises. most of us who actually lives in a western society knows for a fact that things on our side of the world are far from utopian. i can honestly say that my parents had a way better life back home where they had maids and drivers and where my mom didn't have to commute two hours to work every day. but i digress. in asia the standards of beauty strives to be the one closest to western ideals: the fairer skin, the wider eyes, the slimmer body, the perfect symmetry. they want to project themselves in a form based out of western images. the idealistic hope they naively believe is readily available on the other side of the world is really what they're buying. logos become status symbol to let everyone know that they to have managed to achieve the great western dream. as a result they become on par with the very images they are seduced by. as much as the image of the west can be intoxicating to the east, the east is as seductive to the west. the power of eastern art and imagery has provided inspiration to movements that gave birth to modernism. what would the paintings of van gogh or monet have looked like if they never encountered traditional japanese art? or where would have the ballet russes derived inspiration for their costumes for? granted that many of western interpretations of eastern ideas are exploitative, there are some artists who have really shown an earnest appreciation for eastern beauty. in fashion, the early mavericks of modern fashion were the first to use asian models in their fashion show. pierre cardin, one of the most influential designers of the sixties chose japanese model hiroko matsumoto as his muse. cardin, courreges, and saint laurent were among the first to use models of all ethnicity in their runway presentations. during a time of optimism and an urgent need for change, these designers envisioned a world where fashion has been democratized into something not reserved for white european and american socialites, but to a woman of any nationality. as saint laurent's popularity rose during the seventies, his universal appreciation for beauty flourished and he continued to use black and asian models for his shows. eventually more designers followed the direction of saint laurent and during the eighties a fourteen year old of asian and black heritage by the name of kimora lee became the face of chanel. the eighties was also the time of philippine's (yes i'm being patriotic) anna bayle. the model who was widely touted as "the model of the eighties" with an infamous walk that graced the catwalks of gianni versace, oscar de la renta, thiery mugler, carolina herrera, chanel, valentino, lanvin, jean patou and worked with photographers from helmut newton to gilles bensimon. when the waif movement gained momentum in the nineties and the demand for fairer skinned girls rose, asian models were once again few and far between. but during the end of the decade, malaysian model ling tan, navia nguyen from vietnam, irina pantaeva, the striking russian with mongol heritage, and the other wordly beauty of devon aoki reminded the fashion world that asian models can offer something to the camera their white counterparts could not. recently, the fashion world has witnessed a succession of asian models in the business. tom ford launched the career of ai tominaga, and miuccia prada cast korean hye park for her normally all white runway. chinese model du juan has been in high profile ads like yves saint laurent and roberto cavalli and has walked for basically every designer that matters. and in the world of male modeling, philip huang is one of the most recognizable models in the business right now. as fickle as fashion is, and it does appear the fad for asian models are quick to come as it is quick to go, hopefully the realization that beauty isn't reserved for western archetypes will finally seep in and more importantly, one day an asian can represent the market the big houses are aiming for. but it'll take asians demanding to be represented for any change to manifest. will an all asian vogue italia make a difference? i would buy it. but to be honest, i don't know if it'll sell in asia. i mean, they did need gemma ward sandwiched between asian models for the first two issues of vogue china.

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