Wednesday, May 25, 2022




High-fashion brands have been repeatedly lambasted for the rampant cultural appropriation that they perpetuate in their runway shows, with Asian cultures among their most common targets. Countless times, these major labels have besmirched the rich history of the Far East by reinforcing racial stereotypes and reducing the distinct myriad of Asian cultures to an amorphous monolith. Now, Asian designers are reclaiming their cultures’ legacies in the fashion industry by popularizing more ethnically authentic garments.


Contemporary Asian Fashion

K-Pop, or Korean pop music, reached the Western world in the 2010s and garnered massive acclaim. The genre’s trendily-dressed performers soon became fashion icons. 

Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto has established himself as a pioneer in the fashion industry with his asymmetrical, unisex style. He has earned various accolades, such as a collaboration with Adidas to produce the brand’s Y-3 SS20 footwear. 

Even the Metropolitan Museum of Art respectfully elevates Asian fashions. It showcases them in their most accurate forms and distinguishes between the various nations that created them.

A Return to Tradition

The resurgence of the hanfu exemplifies the artistry that arises when Asian creators rightfully represent their own traditional attire. Hanfu refers to ancient clothing worn by China’s predominantly Han population, which typically consisted of long, flowing robes over pleated skirts. This style of dress has made a remarkable revival in its country of origin, with the hanfu industry amassing over 4.52 billion yuan from the 3.56 million citizens who have rediscovered and adopted the elegant garb. 

When Appreciation Becomes Appropriation

Asia’s monumental influence on the fashion industry is the result of centuries of cultural exchange between the East and the West. For eons, Europeans have been intrigued by the exquisite patterns emblazoned upon delicate silks, and this fascination has inspired innumerable recreations across the globe. 

However, this enjoyment turns into disrespect when imitators commodify sacred clothing, thereby stripping the items of their cultural significance. The qipao is a Chinese symbol of women’s liberation that is also worn casually by those ignorant of its history, the sari and bindi are periodically worn outside of the Indian weddings to which they belong, and the Sikh turban is religious headwear that ornamented the heads of White Gucci models who showed utter disregard for its great importance.

Righting Past Wrongs

Fortunately, the fashion industry is finally heeding criticisms of racial insensitivity, as a number of brands have begun hiring more models of color and diversity consultants. Western designers are beginning to understand that clothing pieces pertaining to certain cultures are best represented by those who belong to the respective ethnic groups. These designers pledge to do more extensive cultural research in the future.