On Orientalism

Read an article on the new wave of Asian-American designers at Bryant Park today, which was pretty interesting. Got me thinking though, again, about why we put so much effort into categorizing designers like that. It’s not as if all “Asian” / Asian-American designers uniformly churn out a particular style/cut. Some days I’m happy the mysterious Asia is getting some sort of recognition, others I think it reeks of Orientalism (Edward Said’s work has its limitations, but I will not discuss them here).

L-R: Alexander Wang, from glamour.com; Phillip Lim, from fabsugar.com

L-R: Alexander Wang, from glamour.com; Phillip Lim, from fabsugar.com

Back to my point, it’s like how Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go) gets classified under “Asian Literature” a lot — doesn’t matter that he moved to England when he was 6, and is famous for writing about English butlers, not Japanese geishas. In the same way, we get a bit more excited when a designer is Chinese, Japanese, or Korean… even though he was born and bred in the USA. I get the feeling we conveniently drop this last bit when we market these designers because the Asian thing is still quite a sexy angle: think woman warriors and joy luck clubs. I don’t know when this romance with the concept of Asia will end, but for now I shall openly declare my love for Alexander Wang, and all the wonderful things he creates.

Still, my beating heart.

This entry was published on May 24, 2009 at 5:16 pm. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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