Wear WE Are: First Row – Chinese American Designers

First Row: Chinese American Designers

Some call it a new creative force but we of the oriental clan know the art of fashion has been an essential part of Chinese culture and history. The history of Chinese fashion was a versatile one. Totems, colours, forms and fabrics formed different work of art representing each dynasty. When it comes to contemporary Chinese fashion, the most memorable part might be cheongsam or classic pieces sporting traditional embroideries, ink or Maoist characters. Yet these Chinese designers are the missing link between our splendid heritage and modern time, which is well defined by the ‘First Row: Chinese-American Designers’ exhibition, curated by Mary Ping, ongoing at Museum of Chinese Americans (MOCA) in New York c- an important chronicle of Chinese designers who pursued their fashion careers overseas.

The first-rowers often expect distinctive oriental elements from these designers, but this retrospective has proved that their common Chinese root means more than history and archaism. Despite their Chinese roots, there is not a common ground among their aesthetics. Rather, their cultural versatility gives each of them a different kind of depth – a fusion of intelligence, cultural heritage, wonder and personality. Like Mary Ping said, the exhibition is not about their similarities; it is about their differences.

Also a New York-based Chinese designer, Mary Ping picked work from 16 Chinese American fashion designers who emerged in different times. There are established names like Vivienne Tam, Anna Sui, Derek Lam, Vera Wang; and there are also young novas like Zang Toi, Jason Wu and Philip Lim.

Anna Sui, Silk Party Dress from the Pirate Collection, Spring 2007, photographed by Thomas Lau
Anna Sui, Silk Party Dress from the Pirate Collection, Spring 2007, photographed by Thomas Lau
Zang Toi, Chinese Folk Art-Inspired Lacquered Red Knit Gown with Hand-beaded Flowers and Butterflies, Spring 1991, photograph courtesy of Museum of Chinese in America
Zang Toi, Chinese Folk Art-Inspired Lacquered Red Knit Gown with Hand-beaded Flowers and Butterflies, Spring 1991, photograph courtesy of Museum of Chinese in America
Wayne Lee, Black and White Optic Print Halter Dress, Spring 2012, photographed by Dan Lecca
Wayne Lee, Black and White Optic Print Halter Dress, Spring 2012, photographed by Dan Lecca
: Vivienne Tam, Skeleton print stretch netting cheongsam with black satin piping detail, Fall 2007, photographed by Dan Lecca
: Vivienne Tam, Skeleton print stretch netting cheongsam with black satin piping detail, Fall 2007, photographed by Dan Lecca
Peter Som, Dress detail, Fall 2010, photographed by Dan Lecca for Peter Som Inc.
Peter Som, Dress detail, Fall 2010, photographed by Dan Lecca for Peter Som Inc.
Phillip Lim, Coat: Grapefruit embossed neoprene overcoat with detachable leather bib; Pullover: Camel roll neck cropped pullover; Shirt: Blue pinstripe cropped sleeveless shirt; Skirt: Cognac leather layered mini skirt; Shoes: Black ‘Ora’ over the knee boot sandal, Fall 2013
Phillip Lim, Coat: Grapefruit embossed neoprene overcoat with detachable leather bib; Pullover: Camel roll neck cropped pullover; Shirt: Blue pinstripe cropped sleeveless shirt; Skirt: Cognac leather layered mini skirt; Shoes: Black ‘Ora’ over the knee boot sandal, Fall 2013

FRONT ROW: CHINESE AMERICAN DESIGNERS

Museum of Chinese in America
April 27 – September 29, 2013
215 Centre Street
New York City

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