Asian-American fashion leaders focus on power of storytelling – WWD

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It has been a year of growing attacks on the Asian community, particularly those perceived to be of East Asian descent, as former President Donald Trump and other officials escalated inflammatory rhetoric around the coronavirus pandemic .

Last month was marked by the tragic mass shooting of eight people in Atlanta-area spas, six of them of Asian descent. This week, a widely released video showed an elderly Filipino woman punched to the ground and attacked by an assailant outside a building near Times Square in Manhattan, as building staff watched without interfering, then appeared to shut down the door as the woman struggled to get up.

During the past year, the Shut down the AAPI hate reporting center, co-founded by a group of Asian policy experts, recorded some 3,795 incident complaints from March 2020 to February 28, 2021. “The number of hate incidents reported to our center is only a fraction of the number of incidents of Hateful incidents that actually happen, but it shows just how vulnerable Asian Americans are to discrimination and the types of discrimination they face, ”the group said in its report released on March 16.

Asian-American fashion designers and leaders, who experience the trauma and heartache of their communities, say it’s also a time for urgent cultural change.

“It’s scary. I alternate between hope and despair, back to hope,” said Phillip Lim, creative director and co-founder of 3.1 Phillip Lim, during the Fairchild Media Group virtual diversity forum. hope those moments turn into movements. “

In the aftermath of such attacks, some fashion brands have turned to their MOs to make statements and publish themed merchandise, intended to raise awareness and collect donations for groups such as Stop AAPI Hate. Leaders of the forum stressed the need for the industry to also engage in long-term investments in Asian talent and workforce that boost the drivers of creativity and production in fashion.

We want to tell our stories, we want to have some ownership there, some accountability for our results.

“The Asian American experience is the human experience,” said Tina Craig, founder of U Beauty. “This is the American experience, it should be beyond Month, Heritage Month and then.… It is the responsibility of all of us, especially companies with large platforms, to going beyond the norm – although very welcome and appreciated – donations. ”

Kimora Lee Simmons, fashion veteran, executive and founder of the Baby Phat label, explained how the industry can design perceptions and cultural dynamics that fuel discriminatory attitudes, and observed how owning your own stories can counter these. negative forces.

“We are our best storytellers, we are creative,” she said during the panel. “You like everything that we bring culturally. You love our food, you love our style.

“I say ‘our’ to mean a lot of different things… we want to have a place at this table,” she added.

“We want to tell our stories, we want to have some ownership there, some accountability for our results,” she said. “We tell our stories in the best and most authentic way, so that we don’t watch representations of ourselves or movies about us that don’t come from us. Or stories that were taken from us and told in another way.

It’s the power of fashion – the visual medium that can affect billions of people.

Academics have also contextualized the rise of violence over the past year in America’s long history of systemic marginalization of its Asian communities. In a century in which the United States waged wars in the Philippines and Vietnam, discrimination against Asians in America also took the form of official policies, most notably the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which ended the immigration of Chinese workers and the internment of Japanese. descent during WWII.

In a Washington Post essay in March, Professor Janelle Wong and Professor and author Viet Thanh Nguyen made connections between these formal policies and wars abroad and the daily violence faced by Asian communities in the United States. United.

“The laws were the official expression of many years of anti-Chinese violence, including the 1871 massacre of 17 Chinese men in Los Angeles and the 1887 murder of 34 Chinese miners in Deep Creek, Oregon,” they wrote. in the room. “During World War II, many Americans assumed that Japanese Americans were no different from Japanese and therefore posed a subversive threat; more than 120,000, many of them citizens, were interned. Thirty years later, Vietnamese refugees have faced hostility, including racist attacks on Vietnamese fishermen by the Ku Klux Klan in Texas.

The fashion and media industries have a vital role to play in changing entrenched cultural attitudes towards the Asian community, Prabal Gurung told the forum panel.

“To the public, to the consumer, who has read your newspaper or consumed your fashion, who has been brainwashed to accept a Eurocentric and colonial point of view, when you tell our stories, it normalizes us in the media and everything,” he said, “It’s the power of fashion – the visual medium that can affect billions of people.”


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