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Chinese Fashion Designers: Questions of Ethnicity and Place in the Twenty-First Century

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As Asian-American fashion designers have become better known in the USA and globally the media has highlighted their achievements collectively. What, this article asks, are the implications of second- and third-generation Asian-Americans having attracted such attention? If new, young fashion designers are being identified on the basis of their ethnicity how might they enter into or negotiate a position within a larger global fashion world, and what impact might this have on the identification of other Asian designers, not least those from mainland China, whose work is little known in the West? The argument is framed by the concept of habitus, seen from two perspectives, one the significance of place in the global fashion industry, and the other related to the discourse of “ethnicity” that surrounds the designers. Examples are discussed of Asian-American and mainland Chinese fashion designers whose work has become known more widely through the press, exhibitions, and commercial activity. We are, it is suggested, at a point of transition regarding the wider knowledge and reception of Chinese fashion designers.

Keywords: Asian-American fashion designers; Chinese fashion designers; JNBY; Ma Ke; ethnicity; habitus

Document Type: Research Article


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Publication date: May 1, 2012

More about this publication?
  • Fashion Practice is the first peer-reviewed academic journal to cover the full range of contemporary design and manufacture within the context of the fashion industry. Fashion Practice provides a much-needed forum for topics ranging from design theory to the impact of technology, economics, and industry on fashion practice.

    Interdisciplinary and wide-ranging, Fashion Practice addresses the entire business of fashion, including: innovation in fashion design and practice; sustainability and ethical decision making within the industry; micro- and nano-technologies within the fashion context; “smart” textiles and digital fashion; materials, design, concepts and interdisciplinary process; fashion consumption and production from retail/e-tail to performance fashion; new developments in fashion and clothing retail.


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