Saturday, March 15, 2014

Women's History and Diversity in Fashion

Besides March being the women's history month, this is also the time the fashion industry seems to reflect on its own lack of diversity -- even Anna Wintour's letter in March Vogue was dedicated to lamenting the harrowing whiteness of fashion. It seems especially interesting since fashion industry, traditionally dominated by women and gay men, has often found itself in the fringes in terms of respectability. And yet it remained perfectly content to exclude people of color, apart from occasional breathless infatuation with, say, Lupita Nyong'o, bordering on fetishistic. But I digress.

Diversity is one of those concepts that is fairly easy to pay lip service to, and it is also easy to complain about lack of diversity on runways etc. I am however a strong believer that while "voting with your wallet" might not always be the best strategy, directly supporting women- and especially women of color-owned businesses is a realistic way of effecting change. To that effect, here's a quick roundup of fashion designers who deserve our support.

1) H+OKO -- I heard about this new company recently, and fell in love with their edgy and yet work-appropriate minimalism.

How gorgeous is this top? While it's slightly reminiscent of Jil Sander, Nigerian-American Cin Oko and Korean-born Kay Ha are bringing their own sensibility and aesthetic to their first collection. The clothes are gorgeous, well-constructed, and appropriate to a variety of situation -- 9 am to 5 am, as the creators call it. They are currently running a Kickstarter, and I hope it gets funded. And this is a great, direct way to actually have an effect on increasing diversity in the fashion industry, not to mention, domestically-produced (they are based in NYC) clothing.

2) Another New York brand I wrote about before is Mandarin & General, which continues to produce lovely clothes inspired by traditional Chinese garb, by Taiwanese-born Peggy Tan. This is a line created by a cultural insider, and as such represents true authenticity as opposed to appropriative "inspiration".
It is also gorgeous, and the pieces, while beautiful by themselves, can be combined into unexpected proportions and interesting play on textures:

3) Finally, our perennial favorite -- Van Hongo, by the Japanese-born Izumi Hongo. You can find the review od her 2013 collections here, as well as links to reviews of all previous seasons., Her newest season, SS 2014 demonstrates her continued commitment to increasingly simple silhouettes and attention to textiles:

This collection is called The Layered Garden, and the layered looks and the pastel colors do evoke an image of a watercolor, with slightly blurred outlines and the colors ever so gently diluted. I appreciate how with every collection there are always references to what came  before (crossover tops, slouchy trousers) but also always something new, and how it seems to be progressing toward cleaner and simpler shapes. I really have been enjoying very basic yet interesting shapes lately, and this collection really hit a sweet spot. Her online shop has a great selection of knits, and those are amazing -- layered and complex, and truly unusual in their texture and technique.

So here you have it. For those of us who are interested in a plurality of viewpoints represented in fashion, it's a great time to step up and support independent designers. 


Wendy Wagner; said...

Oh, those pieces from Van Hongo are just lovely. Swoooon!

What a great post. Thanks!

Oranges and Apples said...

big fan of the Van Hongo stuff as well! said...

Thanks for this interesting article!
Yann & Charles

Alyssa said...

great piece. Food for thought :)