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.
“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.
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.
“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.
“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.”
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