When we see the title “supermodels,” the first people who come up in our minds are Heidi Klum and Victoria’s Secret “blond bombshells.” But a new group of Asian models including Du Juan and Shu Pei are making their way into the supermodel scene, led by 23-year-old Liu Wen - the most booked model of color during New York Fashion Week 2011 and the first Chinese model to walk a Victoria’s Secret runway show.
In an interview with Wen, she explains her excitement:
I feel the world is smaller, and the fashion world is getting bigger for any girl. Before you have black girl, white girl. Now you have kind of yellow-skinned girl. So it’s Western meets Eastern.
However, the “Asian revolution” on the runway stirs controversy. While Vogue has recently featured an article showcasing Asian models, the magazine explains that
Asian models are redefining traditional concepts of beauty.
Blogger Jen Wang retorts:
That’s a little bit like Vogue saying, ‘It’s 2011 and we finally think Asian women are beautiful.’
In Wang’s opinion, the fashion industry is attempting to capitalize on the booming Asian market and the increased buying power of the Asian consumer. Additionally, the Vogue spread features Asian women who were stylized similarly in their hair, makeup and dresses - playing into the stereotype that all Asians look alike.
On the other hand, Joe Zee, creative director of Elle magazine, praises the projection of Asian faces on the runway. However, he comments that grouping a bunch of Asian models feels like a “fad or a trend,” as a opposed to a “melting pot of beauty.”
While it is groundbreaking to have Asian models showcased at New York Fashion Week, the greater issue at hand lies in what next steps the models and the industry will take in this “new” brand of beauty. Wen added that she did not particularly care whether the trend of Asian models was about diversity or the market. As the leader in this revolution, however, she needs to care. There is no doubt that the Asian market will consume her image and success that the Western world has helped illuminate, but Wen and the other models in this Asian revolution need to decide what their Asian images stand for. The Asian image should not be used for profit; instead the branding of the “Asian supermodel” should have a message for every Asian in the world. What that message is and if the Asian supermodel revolution can truly make a difference beyond the fashion world? That will be up our new Asian supermodels.