Amid an upsurge in anti-Asian hate crimes in America, a new exhibit at New York’s prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology will celebrate the contribution of Asian-American designers to the fashion world.
Asian American in New York Fashion: Design, Labor and Innovation will run through March 27 and feature the work of Shail Upadhya and Vivienne Tam. Designers Anna Sui and Zang Toi, meanwhile, feature in a sketch by artist Ruben Toledo.
“With everything that’s happened recently, we really didn’t want this exhibit to be a space where people think about the negatives,” co-curator Zoe Taylor told Women’s Wear Daily. “We wanted it to be a celebratory space, a space where people from the Asian American fashion community could come and see the real faces of people who have been influential in the fashion industry. People who are like them and who have had an impact.
In December, a Chinese American died after being injured following a brutal attack in April. The hate crime is part of a rise in attacks on Asian Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China. There have been other high-profile attacks, including on the New York City subway.
Earlier this month, a report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found that anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States rose 339% in 2021 from a year ago. Major cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles all saw jumps from 2020 levels.
Designer Philip Lim said he believes the Donald Trump administration has stoked this anti-Asian sentiment during the coronavirus pandemic with racist statements about its origins.
“The former administration deliberately channeled the cause of the virus into the Asian community using vile phrases like ‘kung-flu’ and ‘Chinese virus’. It has caused so much lasting damage and it has clearly led to an increase violence in our community,” he said.
Fashion designer Prabal Gurung added, “It is frustrating to see the leaders of this country openly inundating the American public with this type of xenophobic rhetoric.
The new FIT exhibition will be divided into two sections: the first explores the use of materials in the design process from the 80s to the 2010s, and the second looks at the variety of designs from the 50s to the present day.
“The reason we wanted to do this exhibit was a celebration of the Asian American community and the impact it has had on the New York fashion industry,” Taylor explained.
Taylor added: “While in the past these designers may not have been recognized as much for their contributions, it’s really exciting to know that we can now display their achievements and accomplishments, and show that these designers Asian Americans aren’t a monolith or an identity. They don’t create the same thing. They have so much diversity and are multi-faceted in how they think about design, why they create and what they do. inspiration that they come to use.