‘A space for celebration’: exhibition focuses on Asian-American fashion

Show caption Anna Sui is one of the designers featured in the FIT exhibition. Photograph: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP Fashion ‘A space for celebration’: exhibition focuses on Asian-American fashion Fashion Institute of Technology show will highlight technique and talent at a time when anti-Asian hate time is on the rise Priya Elan Tue 1 Mar 2022 10.00 GMT Share on Facebook

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Amid an upswing in anti-Asian hate crimes in America, a new exhibition at New York’s prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology will celebrate Asian American designers’ contribution to the fashion world.

Asian American in New York Fashion: Design, Labour and Innovation will run until 27 March and features 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 going on recently, we really didn’t want this exhibition to be a space where people were thinking about negatives,” co-curator Zoe Taylor told Women’s Wear Daily. “We wanted this to be a space for celebration, a space where people from the Asian American fashion community can come and see the actual faces of people who had been influential in the fashion industry. People who look like them and have made an impact.”

Designer Vivienne Tam’s work will be featured. Photograph: Richard Drew/AP

In December a Chinese-American man died, after sustaining injuries following a brutal attack in April. The hate crime is part of an increase 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 subway.

A report earlier this month from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism revealed that anti-Asian hate crime in the US increased by 339 percent in 2021 from a year ago. Large cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles all experienced jumps from 2020 levels.

Designer Philip Lim said that he believed the Donald Trump administration had stoked this anti-Asian sentiment during the coronavirus pandemic with racist statements about its origins.

“The past administration deliberately channeled the cause of the virus towards the Asian community using despicable phrases like ‘kung-flu’ and the ‘China virus’. This caused so much damage that is lasting and it has clearly led to an increase in violence in our community,” he said.

Fashion designer Prabal Gurung added: “It is frustrating to watch the leaders of this country blatantly gaslight 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 until now.

“The whole reason why we wanted to do this exhibition was as a celebration of the Asian American community and the impact that they have made on New York City’s fashion industry,” Taylor explained.

Taylor added: “Although in the past maybe these designers haven’t been recognized as much for their contributions, it’s really exciting to know that we can display their accomplishments and achievements now, and show that these Asian American designers are not a monolith or one identity. They don’t create the same thing. They have so much diversity and are multifaceted in the way they are looking at design, the reason they are creating and the inspiration that they come to use.”