Designer Uses Only Asian Models at the NY Fashion Week to Redefine Asian Diversity

In a bid to celebrate Asian individuality and highlight cultural diversity, a designer pulled off something that’s rarely done at the New York Fashion Week: feature only Asian models in the runway.

New Zealand-born designer Claudia Li made her bold statement on Sunday during her first-ever runway show at the prestigious fashion event.

 

In an interview with HuffPost, Li revealed why she chose to showcase her Spring 2019 collection on the runway with a cast of 35 all-Asian models.

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“I feel like often the fashion industry just tries to check a box — i.e., ‘We need an Asian girl for our show.’ But what kind of Asian girl? A Filipino girl? Singaporean? Chinese? Korean? ‘Asian’ doesn’t mean one thing,” Li was quoted as saying.

“I feel like the word ‘Asian’ just means one thing to a lot of people, and we are not just one note. There’s incredible diversity.”

 

According to Li, she grew up in an environment where people would categorize her within the model minority mold, a stereotype associated with people of Asian heritage.

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Li said that early on, she had defied common Asian stereotypes, playing field hockey and singing in a metal band in her teens. When she was in high school, she even ran away with a “surfer” for a month.

Image via Instagram/claudia_li_official “Visibility matters: @awkwafina sits front row at the Claudia Li Spring 2019 runway show and meets our cast backstage. Sitting next to and styled by @avoyermagyan, her fuchsia look is from the Fall 2018 collection — now in stores and available via private order. #claudiali #nyfw #awkwafina #crazyrichasians”

“As an Asian woman, I am automatically seen in a certain way. For me, it’s about recognizing that within a race, there is diversity as well,” she explained.

Image via Instagram/claudia_li_officialJust over a week ago, I presented the Spring 2019 collection with a big, singular idea: open up to the world. That it was finally time to be confident, to let go of my fear that I wasn’t ‘enough’, and to stop hesitating. This idea touched everything we presented: from using a motif of hand-drawn florals that I pulled from childhood memories of New Zealand — all the printed fabrics you see in the collection are unique to us, and were custom-made off of original artworks we designed — to the powerhouse casting of thirty five Asian women who I could not be more proud to have had walk my show. In the past seven days, we’ve heard from women and girls all around the world who have personally connected with this vision and statement. The response has been unexpected in its volume and overwhelming in its depth. As a female entrepreneur, I say from the bottom of my heart: Thank you so much for your support, and the best is yet to come.”

“There is not one standard Asian beauty. Every Asian woman looks different, and there are different personalities. Asian girls do listen to punk rock and heavy metal and hip-hop. There is not a singular way of defining what Asian is.”

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Li stated that as a designer, it makes her proud to see an all-Asian runway, an effort similarly done by Kenzo designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon for their spring 2018 show last year.

“I feel excited for the future of Fashion Week because this is an important conversation that needs to happen — not just for New York Fashion Week but for every Fashion Week,” she noted.

Featured image via Instagram/claudia_li_official

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