For decades, the Aryan blonde, blue-eyed man and woman were synonymous with the uniformed definition of ‘beauty.’ Fast forward 100 years and you’ll find porcelain doll-faced, black haired Asian models gracing the runways of Victoria’s Secret, Michael Kors and Givenchy. As they march down the runways, we can’t help but wonder: Is this just fashion’s temporary fixation on Eastern culture or are they making history by redefining beauty and desire?
Thanks to K-Pop Stars
Ever since the internet began connecting people from across the world in the late 80s, early 90s, the Western culture were introduced to the daring, androgynous street fashion styles of K-Pop stars. G-Dragon, a South Korean rapper, singer, producer and fashion icon is the most known in Western culture, his chameleon style often characterised as “quirky and experimental”.
The Asian Models’ Elite
Out of the 1.3 billion people who currently call China home, Liu Wen is the first Chinese supermodel. She’s also the first Asian model to walk in a Victoria’s Secret fashion show and the first Asian global spokesmodel for Estée Lauder. And with her sculptured cheekbones and adorable dimples, our team at The Black Market aren’t surprised at all. In The New York Time’s 2015 September issue, they affirm that “Asian models and designers are the future of fashion”. And Liu Wen seems to agree, confirming, “Asian, especially Chinese, models have become a stronger presence. Just a season or two ago, there weren’t many models for me to talk with backstage in my native Mandarin. Now I usually have no trouble finding someone at any show.” She joins the elite with others such as Tokyo’s, Tao Okamoto who redefined femininity with her Beatles bowl cut. And London raised, South Korean born, Sang Woo Kim who has walked for Burberry and Kenzo. This combined with the black clothing, street fashion aesthetic of Asian designers such as Alexander Wang, Phillip Lim and Yohji Yamamoto clearly exemplifies their impact.
The Significance of Asian Models
As an Asian woman having been raised in a Western society, there was no guidance or role models with whom I could identify with. The term ‘Oriental’ seemed like a buzzword that would seldom appear in magazine spreads and often portrayed as a fantasy. Angelica Cheung, editor in chief of Vogue China explains, “traditionally the Chinese favored a classic kind of beauty—big, round eyes, cute small mouth, a high nose, and very fair skin. The Chinese models who have made it internationally are not beauties in the traditional sense, so they are modernising the concept of beauty in China.”
Nevertheless, the movement could be closely attributed to commercial factors as luxury fashion labels are recognising the importance of global markets, especially in China, Taiwan and South Korea. With an exponentially growing number of middle class and culture who are obsessed with displaying signs of wealth, China alone spent $116 billion on luxury items.
We have a feeling Asian models and designers are here to stay as their presence have undoubtedly challenged the norms of what beauty is in both the Western and Eastern realm.