Tag Archives: Anna Sui

Review: The Beautiful Generation: Asian Americans and the Cultural Economy of Fashion

By Guest Contributor Catherine A. Traywick, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine

Perhaps the most celebrated Fall collections to debut at this year’s Fashion Week were those that creatively incorporated technology. Several designers showcased computer-generated prints, retooling traditional craft textiles into computerized patterns comprising ultra modern garments. But even as fashion critics overwhelmingly celebrated this preponderance of technological innovation, most seemed similarly enamored of Ralph Lauren’s far less pioneering embrace of one of fashion’s oldest tropes: Shanghai Chic. Critics eagerly dedicated valuable column inches to the collection, which featured all the mainstays of Asian-inspired fashion: jade jewelry, golden dragons, cheongsams. While some candidly wondered whether the designer’s invocation of China was a statement about the nation’s growing economic competitiveness, others were simply happy to break out as many tired euphemisms for “Eastern” as possible. (Not only did the “Orient Express” make several stops but East, inevitably, met West.)

The familiar scenario aptly reinforces a key observation made by culture critic Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu in her newly published book, The Beautiful Generation: “Even when freed to dream and invent,” she writes, “[designers] seem only to return to long-held ideas about an exotic and erotic orient.”

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