Does This Outfit Make Me Look Asian?

We send you off into the glorious weekend with another post about all things Asian and adorable, this time from our dear friend Whitney Klomp. But before I tell you more about how awesome she is, let me remind you that there is free shipping (free shipping!) on orders from The Silk Road right now this very minute. So order away!

And let me also remind you that today is the very last day (very last day!) for our Dare To Design contest. So design away!

You guys are going to be busy!

And now, I'll pass it over to Whitney, who is a tall glass of water with a most enviable sense of style, which she developed at a tender age. Toting around her mother's Vogue, she wondered how on earth a blouse could actually cost $900? She was, of course, a practical and resourceful little person, borrowing scraps of cast-off fabric and trimmings to sew Barbie clothes. She eventually landed in New York with a stint in design school at Pratt Institute and later at the Fasion Institute of Technology, which convinced her professors that she was much better suited to work in the fashion industry and they lovingly punted her to the garment district. She clicked her sparkly heels and worked her way into kate spade, assisting the designers of the jack spade line, and loved every day working among some of the fashion world's most renowned and creative minds. She moved on to work for Holly Dunlap of fairly departed Hollywould, a small but substantial Italian-made American shoe and clothing line. Her fate was sealed when a pair of ballet flats was named for her (which consequently have never left the box); so she learned to construct shoes and handbags, and to embrace the stickiest substance known to man - shoe glue. Her friends report that she is the world's best deal finder. She now works in finance, how drab, but it pays the bills while she sketches, paints and sews on the side, and walks her Yorkie in Central Park.

And with that, take it away Whitney!

The global marketplace has made fashion accessible to everyone, everywhere, ALL DAY LONG (yes, I shop at 2 a.m.). Influences of culture, politics, religion, and taste pervade the racks of clothes we may flip through without a second glance as we often shop with purpose: “I need______ (fill in the blank) in _____ (color) for ______ (event).”

Did you ever notice the Maltese crosses on the backs of Habitual jeans? According to these ladies, the symbol dates back to ancient Greece and represents courage, honor, bravery, and truth. What a way to adorn your derrière! What I find most interesting is this: as consumers we choose to start fresh each season, or perpetuate the stereotypes of style as we sometimes fall prey to being super trendy, or gimmicky, and less unique (I’m speaking to the Blair Waldorf headband-obsessed).

So, I pose this question to all of you: Can you find the kimono in the below picture?

No? Seriously? Just kidding. You could also have searched for mandarin collars and silk frog button closures. Today we are discussing Asian fashion, which is only as Asian as we presume it to be. And really, do any of you own a kimono? (Halloween costumes don't count.)

Let’s consider how many of our favorite major designers are of Asian descent: Vera Wang, Anna Sui, Yohji Yamamoto, Jimmy Choo, Richard Chai, Thakoon, Prabal Gurung, Phillip Lim (fave), Doo-Ri Chung, Peter Som, and our latest darling – Jason Wu. Interestingly, only the very early handful of Asian designers to hit Bergdorf in the 1980s actually sought to be extremely unique and set apart simply because they were different, and presented amazingly unique collections. In the last 10 years a lovely transition has occurred as the same designers can be found in New York as well as Australia and Greece. Specifically, Asian and Asian-American designers have sought to simply be innovative, memorable, and unexpected – for the sake of the clothing and not themselves.

On the heels of Fashion Week Fall '09, a Wall Street Journal article echoed sentiments I have read elsewhere: this elite core of designers is quite content not to band together as a group as they seek to let their individual work stand alone. It almost seems comical to ask you, “What is French fashion?” since those frenchies are everywhere! Jimmy Choo Yeang Keat got his start making shoes in Malaysia at the tender age of 11, even though he launched his company in London. One would hardly consider Choo “Asian” any sooner than calling H&M “Swedish.” Clothing is simply clothing, as beautiful and impeccable as it can be produced, wherever it can be purchased.

Perhaps the specific nuances we are after can be voiced in terms of style. Asian women have a very refined and delicate style. The phrase “gilding the lily” has never been more appropriately applied than to the fashionable of Kyoto. French women have notoriously effortless style and grace. Italian men exude refinement and elegance by donning Ferragamo loafers and Persol frames. Do they even consider themselves to be cultural icons? My guess is, no. They just look good! And we love to mimic.

We all borrow from different cultures, and this is my point. If we really want to distill the finest parts of Asian style, I would say look for gorgeous floral small prints on a feminine silk dress, and then pair this with slim-fitted woolen ponte pants or soft tights and saddle-tone knee-high boots, then layer on a luxurious camel-colored sleeveless sweater (belted) or a scrumptious sweater coat. The key notes here are floral, soft, feminine, and understated. Friends in the “know” hint that Asian women dress to meld, and not to be abrasive.

{Bloomie Dress by Rebecca Taylor/Blanket Sweater by Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent}

Or pair a demure floral blouse with a ruffle sleeve and your favorite soft cords, and a metallic snakeskin flat for some texture. It’s a “global salad” people. Go with it.

{Lisette silk top by Milly, J. Brand Pencil Cord Pants}

If you scan the fall looks at Uniqlo, which my friend says are “like 7-11 in Tokyo,” you might actually think you’ve stumbled upon a global J.Crew or Madewell spin-off.
Don’t you love this cute little Uniqlo wool swing jacket?

One of my favorite Asian-inspired silhouette’s this season is the obi top or anything with a dolman sleeve. Pair this beautiful obi top from Anna Sui for Anthropologie with this gorgeous butter-soft leather pencil skirt from Akris, or your favorite straight leg jeans (keep the thighs and hips fitted since the top is flowy).

{Anna Sui for Anthropologie}

{Skirt by Akris Punto}

You must decide for yourself if you identify more with a renegade Harajuku girl and a little bit of punk and a lot of saucy, or the woman in pastel tweed who wouldn’t dare leave home without stockings on her stems and a pressed compact in her baguette. The same brands that adorn Madison Avenue, rue du Faubourg St. Honoré, or Ginza Chuo-ku are re-imagined at your neighborhood Zara, H&M, and now through the fabulously accessible lines of Target.

Be an icon, but with your own flair!


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