Korean American Designer’s Unlikely Hit at Fashion Week

Story by Y. Peter Kang.

Korean American designer Richard Chai sent a revamped version of every homebody’s favorite garment, the bathrobe, down the runway at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York, triggering an unexpected buzz.

The New Jersey native unveiled the Fall 2014 collection for his Richard Chai Love clothing line on Thursday. A writer on the fashion blog Pattern called the plaid bathrobe an “impressive surprise.”

“I couldn’t believe my eyes. I checked my Twitter feed. Yes, others had seen it, too. Then, the pictorialevidence started pouring in. In fact, no one was tweeting any of the other looks for a while,” wrote fashion photographer Charles I. Letbetter. “The audience was stunned with amazement. Richard Chai sent a bathrobe down the runway. And it was an immediate hit.”

Described as having a hipster or grunge aesthetic, Chai graduated from Parsons the New School for Design in New York and also studied at the Lissa School in Paris, according to the Wall Street Journal. He previously worked as a designer at Marc Jacobs before starting his own line.

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Chai also showed a green version of his bathrobe.

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Richard Chai takes a bow.

This story was originally published on iamkoream.com.

New York Fashion Week: Less Than 10% Asian Models

With New York Fashion Week behind us, Jezebel decided to conduct a study on the diversity of the models, or lack thereof, who walked down the runway at New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2014.

In previous years, people have commented on the lack of representation of models of color. In fact, the Fall/Winter 2013 collections were subject to heavy criticism due to an alarming number of companies — Araks, Assembly, Belstaff, Calvin Klein, Elizabeth & James, Gregory Parkinson, J Brand, Jenni Kayne, Juicy Couture, Louise Goldin, Lyn Devon, Threeasfour, and Whit — 13 in all, that featured only white models.

So naturally, we were eager to see what would happen this past Fashion Week. Companies had to try and remedy this diversity gap, right? And there were nearly 5,000 looks. That’s plenty of opportunity for models of color to take on the runway.

The results? Almost 80 percent of those 5,000 looks were modeled by white women, a number that has pretty much remained static since 2008.

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This is not to say that all designers completely ignored the criticism of previous years. Anna Sui, Pamella Roland, Jeremy Scott, Dennis Basso, Vivienne Tam, KaufmanFranco, Rachel Comey, Alice + Olivia, Ohne Titel, Tracy Reese, Thom Brown, Diane von Furstenberg and Zac Posen are on the list of designers who featured at least 30 percent models of color. While this number may still seem rather low, it is unfortunately the best we’ve got.

Many of the designers who were critiqued for having no models of color tried to remedy this by adding three to five non-white models. (We know. We’re rolling our eyes, too.)

Some designers tried to trick the crowd and give the illusion of a more diverse set of models. While this season seemed to be more diverse, the same models of color were being booked and were simply walking the runway multiple times.

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From left: Liu Wen at Jason Wu; Ji Hye Park at Nicole Miller; Tian Yi at Monique Lhuillier; Yumi Lambert at Y-3.

The Asian models above prove this. Tian Yi walked 15, Yumi Lambert was seen in at least 13 and Ji Hye Park and Liu Wen walked 12 shows. Rather than book a variety of models of color, companies relied on the same faces.

Somali supermodel Iman Abdulmajid was part of the crowd watching this season’s New York Fashion Week and noticed the lack of diversity on the runway.

“I’ve always said runways and photos are important to shape our young girls,” Abdulmajid said in an interview last week. “To see models of color on the runway is important to the self-esteem of our young girls. To see otherwise makes them feel like they can be in or out.”

We can only cross our fingers that those in power in the fashion industry also begin to understand the importance of diversity on the runways.

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Asian Models Round-Up: NYFW FW12

Liu Wen in Alexander Wang FW12.

Ming Xi in Badgley Mischka FW12.

Twenty-two-year-old Ming Xi found a boost in her career just two years ago and now she is one of the top Chinese models. Walking for shows such as Zac Posen, Y-3 and Badgley Mischka, she is one of the most sought out Asian models both for the runway and for print.

SHU PEI


Shu Pei in Diane von Furstenberg FW12.

Coming at a close second, Shu Pei walked almost as many shows as Liu Wen for names like Vera Wang, Michael Kors, DKNY, Herve Leger, BCBG Max Azria, J Mendel and Helmut Lang.

SO YOUNG KANG


So Young Kang in Cynthia Rowley FW12.

Making her debut runway in the US in 2010, So Young Kang now walks for over 10 shows at NYFW. This Korean model has been seen in the shows of Badgley Mischka, Cynthia Rowley, Proenza Schouler and Creatures of the Wind.

Newcomer

LINA ZHANG


Lina Zhang in Marchesa FW12.

Chinese model Lina Zhang walked the runways of 3.1 Philip Lim, Tory Burch, Marchesa, Herve Leger, Ralph Lauren and more. That’s quite an accomplishment for a relatively newcomer; she made her debut just last year.

SUNG HEE


Sung Hee in Vivienne Tam FW12.

With so many famous Chinese models, Sung Hee is one of the few top Korean models to appear in NYFW. She walked the shows of Vivienne Tam, Tory Burch and Creatures of the Wind to name a few.

SUI HE


Sui He in Donna Karan FW12

I first noticed Sui He when she walked the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Now in the recent NYFW, she has been seen in Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Peter Som, Helmut Lang, Proenza Schouler and more.

TIAN YI


Tian Yi in Rachel Zoe FW12.

At only 17, Tian Yi is a new, young face that we should look out for. Walking for shows such as Vivienne Tam, Rachel Zoe and Rebecca Taylor, she sure has a lot of potential to become a big name in modeling.

XIAO WEN


Xiao Wen in Jill Stuart FW12.

Last but not least, we have Xiao Wen, who’s only 19! Appearing in approximately fifteen shows, she can be seen in 3.1 Philip Lim, Oscar de la Renta, Vera Wang, Jill Stuart and DKNY.


Lina Zhang (left) and Sui He (right) in Ralph Lauren FW12.


Xiao Wen (left) and Liu Wen (right) in Oscar de la Renta FW12.


Shu Pei (left) and Xiao Wen (right) in Vera Wang FW12.


Liu Wen in Diane von Furstenberg FW12.


Sui He (left) and So Young Kang (right) in Proenza Schouler FW12.


So Young Kang in Badgley Mischka FW12.


Shu Pei (left) and Lina Zhang (right) in Hervé Léger FW12.


Liu Wen in Victoria Beckham FW12.


Sui He (left) and Shu Pei (right) in Helmut Lang FW12.


Shu Pei in BCBG Max Azria FW12.

All photos courtesy of Asian Models Blog.