In the last few years, a new generation of designers has asserted itself in New York, Asian-Americans have been at the forefront. Here are some names that are likely to represent the future of fashion.
After helping launch the Marc by Marc Jacobs line and revamping a tired TSE, Richard Chai introduced his eponymous line of highly tailored, quietly feminine pieces to industry raves in 2004. An Ecco Domani Award followed a year later, but it wasn’t until 2008 that Chai’s work reached new heights—he launched a menswear line, designed a capsule collection for Target, and made it into the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund’s top ten finalists. Referenced as one of the “new Asian” influences on modern design (alongside fellow up-and-comers Derek Lam and Peter Som), Chai creates casual clothes that pair surprising fabrics—like silks mixed with wools and twill with georgette—reined in with architectural touches like French seams and origami folds, earning his work a reputation for minimalist, menswear-inspired touches.Richard Chai was awarded this year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America as the best new designers of the year: for men’s wear .
A former Narciso Rodriguez intern, Jason Wu launched his eponymous line in 2006 and quickly became a favorite of downtown starlets who appreciated his signature brand of fuss-free elegance. From full-length gowns to more casual daywear, Wu’s pieces have clean, classic lines and incorporate bright colors and prints without being flashy. The result is modern and wearable but consistently noteworthy. Case in point: Out of an elite cast of wannabe Michelle-dressers, it was Jason Wu—or rather his white, one-shouldered, silk-chiffon-and-Swarovski-crystal gown—that was selected by the First Lady for her inaugural-ball appearances.,Since his triumph with Mrs. Obama, Mr. Wu has been invited to return to Taiwan in October to help design a residential building, and he is developing a line of eye shadows with Shiseido that will be sold throughout China. Mr Wu was awarded this year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America as the best new designers of the year: for women’s wear.
Parsons dropout Alexander Wang launched his first full women’s collection in 2007. The label embodies casually cool downtown style, drawing inspiration from the eighties, French chic, and rock grunge—always finished with a slouchy rolled-out-of-bed edge. Wang launched a diffusion line of pre-weathered cotton tees, tanks, and T-shirt dresses in spring 2009, T by Alexander Wang, as well as a footwear collection of towering platform sandals. He won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2008, an honor accompanied by a $20,000 award to expand one’s business. Mr Wang was awarded this year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America as the best new designers of the year: for accessories.
Phillip Lim launched his collection with start-up cash from friend and fabric supplier Wen Zhou in 2004. Almost overnight, his line became both a critical and commercial darling. Lim’s coveted dresses were quickly spotted around town on “It” girls Natalie Portman and Kate Hudson, fueling demand upwards of $12 million wholesale by his third season. His womenswear look combines girlish refinement and laid-back ease with moments of quirky romance. Headbands splashed with Swarovski crystals and shift dresses adorned with pearls exemplify his burgeoning arty side and were rewarded with a CFDA award in 2007.
Derek Lam began his career at Michael Kors, and his designs manifest Kors’ desire to reinvent American sportswear without making it too scary or directional. Since his 2003 debut, the CFDA-award winner has mastered precise silhouettes with soft, womanly leanings and a subtle seventies homage. Lam also designs a resortwear collection that brings his love of classic shapes and pretty patterns to sundresses and silk robes. He developed a clothing and accessories line for the luxury brand Tod’s. During a recent trip to Shanghai and Beijing, he said, he was stunned by the level of awareness of his work there. Mr. Lam said he had been invited to return to China next month to appear as a judge on “Creative Sky,” a popular new reality television competition.
Thai-born, Omaha-raised Thakoon Panichgul unveiled his debut womenswear line—a whimsical ten-piece presentation of metallic taffeta skirts, beige separates, and ribbon-tie jackets—in 2004 at the age of 29. With a nod to his Asian heritage and a talent for intricate detail, Panichgul has a knack for the ethereal—billowy organza and silk-linen dresses—and a recognizable wit. Just ask his high-powered fan base.Thakoon was one of the stars of the documentary “The September Issue,” about Vogue magazine.