While we tend to create a negative association between fashion and Asia, largely on account of instances of poor environmental and labour conditions in the manufacture of consumer projects, there’s always a risk of turning a reasonable resistance to “Made in China” (or some other Asian country) into an unfair, prejudicial complex that ignores the needs of foreign workers. In this globalized economy,then, the decisions we make on what we buy often require a global perspective.
I ultimately take a classical perspective on the issue, based on the idea that what you can do for yourself, you should do, and you trade with people who do what you can’t do. (Is that sentence Rumsfeldian enough for you?) So: go local when possible, go beyond when necessary. And always try to support the good companies who are sustainable and fair in their practices, whether local or abroad.
Of course, we might be tempted to think that when it comes to fashion there’s nothing out there that we couldn’t already find in our own North American stores. But giving in to that temptation would lead you far astray. Asian fashion, undoubtedly owing to cultural differences that I won’t speculate on, has a different character than Western fashion. The consequence is a fusion of influences that excite the imagination and boldly go where Western designers seem afraid to go unless they’re safely on the runway or in an expensive boutique. Is this a surprise? Not really. Consider cosplay, gothic Lolita, and street fashion in Japan.
As I browse through websites like AsianScent (it's more of a directory than a shop) and, better yet, YES STYLE, I’m amazed at the enthusiasm of women’s fashion. I’m astonished, however, by what I can find on the men’s side, especially since Asian fashion for men is not only unafraid of dandyism, it actively embraces it. That’s great news for guys who are tired of the same-old same-old year after year. The lesson: if you can’t find clothes that are daring enough for you here (even in that shrinking violet known as Los Angeles), then it’s worth turning to Asia to find what you’re missing. Of course, due diligence is always called for in seeking out ethical companies to support...
Focusing on style, here’s a small – tiny! – sampling of fashionable delights I found while perusing YES STYLE. Starting with the ladies...
EYESCREAM (Taiwan) Two-Tone Asymmetric-Hem Top - $35
EYESCREAM Contrast Hem Elasticized Pleated Skirt - $35
Cookie 7 (South Korea) Wrap Detail Low-Crotch Pants - $62
Dodostyle (South Korea) Floral Hoodie - $60
This clothing label by philosophy major turned fashion designer Kim Hyo Jin aims to blend Korean and Japanese sensibilities.
Moving on to men (yes, men)...
REENO (South Korea) Gingham Cropped Harem Pants - $48
REENO Dolman Sleeve Patterned Top -$75
I admit I've never seen a shirt like this before. It's...interesting.
REENO Button-Front Wrap Skirt - $95
Yes, we're still taking about men here.
Free Shop (Taiwan) Patterned Striped Cropped Pants - $38
Free Shop Inset Patterned Leggings Shorts - $48
deepstyle (South Korea) Cowl-Neck Top - $52 - and buttoned culottes - $85
An avant-garde Asian brand by designer Lee Hwa young, who aims to create "sharp and subtly edgy designs that exude soft vibes without crossing into androgyny."
deepstyle Shirt with Buckle Vest - $82
Finally, a pair of wooden sandals from Mizutori, whose history of crafting handmade geta sandals goes back seventy years. These beauties will cost you $240 through YES STYLE, but may be less expensive elsewhere.
Exciting, yes? For more, you’ll just have to mouse on over to yesstyle.com and enjoy yourself. I’d love it if you shared your favourite discoveries in the comments below!
Note: Images borrowed from YES STYLE for illustrative purposes only. If the copyright holder of these images would like me to take them down, I will.