I’ve been trying to figure out what it is about Takada Kenzo that I’m so drawn to, and I think what it really comes down to is the designer’s legacy of color, vibrancy, and fabric expressions of a love for life. The sway of a Kenzo skirt or a floral scarf flapping in the wind is certainly the material substance of good advertising, or a glimmer of a reason to get up in the morning, but if there are fashion editors out there who try to justify their work by conveniently suggesting fashion designers are the harbingers of things to come, or a thermostat to the reckless mood of the times, then the House of Kenzo should give them a reason to think again. For Spring 2012, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim paid tribute to Kenzo’s legacy with a no holds barred display of color, cut and proportion. Theirs is a fashion universe of orderly cheerfulness, an interesting concept to play around with in a world where we must constantly worry about what tomorrow may bring.
Fashion, like any other creation, seems to tell a story about a designer, or in the case of the Spring 2012 collection, his legacy. For decades Kenzo has been a Japanese designer shrouded in the whirlwind that is Paris couture, but for his fans he always stood out with his ever-so-subtle expressions of Japanese aesthetics. For myself, it’s something of a guilty pleasure to find a hint or two of Eastern influence in the mist, like the accessories shown here, re-envisioned for a fashion crowd with a discerning eye. The House of Kenzo is a rest stop for the weary, perhaps even the fashion-weary. And I wonder if it’s because this collection is a nod to influences in the designer’s childhood, when he read through his sisters’ magazines in Japan. It’s an outlet of happy escapism that looks backward rather than forward at one designer’s transcultural legacy.
A reminder that sometimes even nostalgia is enough to move us forward.
It’s interesting to think what scientists have proven to be true — that viewing a beautiful work of art can affect the brain as much as being in love.
Apparently art triggers a surge of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter, that results in feelings of pleasure. Perhaps even happiness.
If that’s the case, I really should be paying more attention to fashion designer Prabal Gurung, a Nepalese New Yorker who began his own breathtaking collection as recently as 2009. And he’s been gathering accolades like berries off low-hanging trees ever since.
And who could blame those who worship at his feet? Gurung clearly knows what he’s doing.
For Fall Winter 2011, Gurung sought and found an unlikely muse in classical literature. The dresses in this collection were inspired, he says, by the heartbroken Miss Havisham of Great Expectations. To Gurung, heartbreak is something that’s also transcendently beautiful.
I love the dresses and the accompanying details, and the bold use of red, a color in Himalayan and Tibetan prayer flags that denotes fire. Here it seems to highlight Gurung’s passion for what he does. There’s also black leather belts anchoring many of the pieces in place, a latter-day nod to the Japanese obi that also have all the elements of timeless chic.
(From L to R, top to bottom) Chinese supermodel Ming Xi, a peaceful protest in Dalian, a Geisha of nylon and styrofoam, modern architecture in Korea, a basketball brawl, and KARA's new Japanese commercial
@Evan Osnos witnessed history in the making, as Vice-President Joe Biden made the rounds in Beijing, all the while doling out some quirky, off-hand comments to his Chinese counterparts.
@Peter Foster of the Daily Telegraph reports on a middle-class protest in northeast China that ended peacefully, where everybody went home safely after getting what they wanted.
@FP Passport summarizes the ugly but mesmerizing brawl between two basketball teams. Hopefully this isn’t an augury of U.S.-China relations.
@Speaking of ugly, self-entitled reviewers on Yelp can now have their fifteen minutes of fame, thanks to a new satirical Tumblr.
@Change of topic: the Beijinger has an inspiring story of two expats who founded a shelter for visually impaired orphans in 2002.
@More inspiration: 15-year-old Madison Gunst won the first annual K-Pop contest in New York, and her K-pop idol Jang Woo-hyuk wants to meet her!
@On the subject of K-pop, girl group KARA is now starring in a Japanese television commercial for a diet, vinegar drink, but something tells me that’s not the only reason they stay so enviably thin.
@More diaphanous women: Chinese supermodel Ming Xi smiles shyly for Bonae’s Blog in Central Park.
@dezeen magazine showcases a nature-centric, modern residence in Gyeonggido, Korea, away from the madding crowds of Seoul. Very nice.
@Trendland profiles a Brazilian sculptor with a sense of fun when its comes to nylon rope and Styrofoam.
@I just started a new Tumblr, #KoreanPeopleProblems, and frankly speaking, it’s been very cathartic. Very.
(From L to R, top to bottom:) Pearl Buck, a Karakuri puppet, Japanese Izakaya food in Beijing, Singaporean designer Peir Wu's FW 2011 Collection, Korean thriller 'Poongsan', and the cast of Korean musical '200-pound Beauty''
@The great train tragedy in Zhejiang China continues to unfold. The death toll is now 40, and the government has decided to nearly double compensation for the families of victims.
@NYC’s MTA Chairman Jay Walder announced to quit in October, and who can blame him, when Hong Kong’s subways look like this.
@Great news for book lovers. ‘Pearl Buck in China‘ (Simon & Shuster, 2010) is now out in paperback. Buck, by the way, is probably the most fascinating “blond-haired, blue-eyed Chinese girl” who ever lived.
@LaughingSquid posted a video of Karakuri, or the Japanese art of clockwork puppets that run without electricity. Let’s just say these puppets blow me away!
@WOWSAN introduces SAI, unusual shelving system from South Korea that’s customizable and perfect for city dwellers.
@Koreaboo reports hit romantic comedy ’200-pound Beauty’ will be remade into a musical that will then ambitiously begin a tour across Asia. Kara’s Gyuri and Supernova’s Sungje are involved.
@Hollywood Reporter likes Poongsan (2011), a Korean thriller that “injects new life into Korean North-South espionage thrillers with its edgy portrayal of a mysterious man.”
@Whatever happened to luxury brand Chloé’s online push in China?
@Hip fashion mag Dazed profiles London-based Singaporean designer Peir Wu whose latest collection is based on an “alien tribe of men from an imaginary planet.”
@The Beijinger reviews a new Izakaya restaurant in China’s capital, with a nice woodsy Izakaya vibe but where the food is a little bit hit-and-miss.
@Shanghai Shiok! blogs about how Singaporeans are frowning at the latest influx of Chinese immigrants. But Singapore, isn’t that how you got started?
2011 has not proven to be an easy year, not for Japan, Norway, or even China, despite that country’s rising reputation as a juggernaut of growth. Politicians falter. Media empires crumble. So who’s going to run the world now?
I’ve been keeping up with the news, and am now led to believe the heir apparent who will salvage this world from millennial malaise just might be the 21st century Chinese woman. That’s right. She’s finally emerging from the shadows of anonymity and stepping up to the mantle of social responsibility. Whether it’s pushing foam pies away from defenseless husbands, or raising children to out-excel their peers, there’s been some unanimous agreement that there is a new heroine in town. Tiger Mom, Tiger Wife, call the phenom what you want. Whether you like it or not, these woefully polemical stereotypes are here to stay. But that’s hardly bad news.
Unlike many of my Asian American peers, I actually don’t mind the Tiger Mom heat wave. Sure, it’s died down a little, but just when we thought we’d heard the last of Yale Law professor Amy Chua, along comes Wendi Deng Murdoch and her killer volleyball spike. Already famous for her drive and towering ambition, when Deng fended off her husband’s courtroom attacker, she made herstory. Rupert Murdoch is not your average media mogul, but then Wendi Deng is hardly your average third wife, especially when it’s clear she can effectively out-Murdoch Murdoch. Even Vanity Fair took on the last-minute rigmarole of a side-by-side comparison between the Trophy Wife (hello, VF readership!), and the Tiger Wife as personified by Mrs. Murdoch. A daunting trend? I think not.
If 5,000 years of Chinese history is any indication, Chinese women have not exactly been on equal footing with their male counterparts. And please, don’t give me the look of daggers when I say this, because I can only sympathize – that’s a challenge when your feet were subject to a cultural treatment designed to catapult you to the upper echelons of “pretty and dainty.” A woman’s allure can take her far, but when she couldn’t even reach the front gates without wincing from the pain, far was probably not far at all.
But that was the bad old days. And we’ve come a long way. I hear now that Chinese women buy three times more Maseratis and twice as many Ferraris than Western women. China’s best and brightest are included in the entering classes of America’s top business schools, many of them women. Prominently successful Chinese women aren’t getting married at the conventional age, but why bother, when they have so much else going for them? Pretty and dainty worked back then, but when women can work for themselves, maybe men are becoming a side concern rather than the principle reason for their existence. After epochs of social inferiority, perhaps the survival instinct that have been passed on for voiceless generations are now surfacing in full force. Being a brilliant achiever is now just a matter of willpower for many willing to join the ranks of powerful women. And, many do.
There’s no doubt gender inequality still exists in China, and Asian communities around the world. And it’s daunting to think Asian American women between the ages of 15 and 24 have the highest number of suicides among all US women in that age group, perhaps owing to various social pressures. Success also comes at a price for Chinese women who feel compelled to marry, and owe their families children to continue the bloodline. But when 220 million people are lifted out of poverty in China in less than three decades, there’s bound to be consequences. Better education and changing social perceptions of women (and what they’re capable of doing), are the reasons why things are changing for the better.
Which brings us back to Chua and Deng-Murdoch, and the timeliness of their arrival. Are they role models, or just another pair of stereotypes that pigeonhole Chinese women? Will the image of an aggressive, go-getting, and fiercely driven Asian woman adversely affect perceptions of a people already befuddled with stereotypes?
There are no right or wrong answers, but it’s nice that the old notions of Chinese women are fading fast. She is no longer Suzie Wong, waiting to be rescued by her white knight, or the long-suffering wife of a brutal husband. She’s not even the girl who was told her brother would be the only child to attend college. If she chooses to, and she almost always will, she can create a life for herself, set her own goals, and finally know what it means to be on equal footing with the men.
I won’t lie. I’m an evangelist for the globalization of Asian culture. And I’m not just referring to Hallyu in Thailand, or kimchi taco trucks multiplying in prolific numbers. I’m talking about seeing more Asian faces in the movies, the media, and magazines in America. Imagine, for a moment, a more equitable representation of humanity [...]
@The New York Times has a very succinct summary of the work and life of Dr. Chalmers Johnson (1931-2010), the renowned Asia scholar and Korean War veteran, whose work on Japan, China and the United States is all too relevant today. @David Pilling of the Financial Times captures Dr. Johnson’s scholarly essence in a neat [...]
Early bird that I am, even on a Labor Day weekend Sunday, I stopped by the neighborhood bodega to pick up a copy of the Sunday Times, which in the Internet Age is purely irrational behavior. Why drop hard earned money in the bucket to read articles available online and outdated by the last paragraph? [...]
The couture houses are obviously in love with China (see here and here), but like an awkward adolescent fumbling for expression, their odes of love are also getting tangled with clumsiness and impulses of another kind. If it’s not Prada’s implacable mandarins, then it’s Chanel’s take on take-out! Clearly, these companies are trying to break [...]
Are you ready to be inspired? Jason Wu’s 2011 Resort Collection is a delicious exploration of classic French style à la Coco Chanel. Each piece suggests what it means to be a 21st-century lady. Of course, no one is better equipped than the Taiwanese-born Wu to define what a lady is. Wu came to fame when [...]
There is an opportunity to build the next Facebook, the next Google right in front of you. Why do I know this? One: its obvious; Two: its always been true. You just have to find it”. -Eric Schmidt, CEO Google