Fashion designer casts all Asian models for historic NYFW runway show

Fashion designer casts all Asian models for historic NYFW runway show

In a historic moment during New York Fashion Week, Claudia Li‘s Spring 2019 show featured an all Asian model cast. This is a monumental step forward in fashion’s diversity movement.

As an Asian designer, Li felt it was the right time to do this. “People are starting to realize that there is diversity within the Asian group…not just a single…perspective [or] kind of beauty” says Li to Yahoo Lifestyle. Li grew up in New Zealand where she was “surrounded by the mountains, fields of flowers and low-lying clouds,” but she was still a minority in this vast sea of nature. Nor did she represent the stereotypical version of how western society views Asian people.

“I had maybe three Asian girls in my high school and so people always thought, you know, you’re good at math, you’re good at science, you’re smart, you don’t go out at night, said Li. “Well, guess what, I drove without a license…I played field hockey…I sang in a metal band.” At one point, Li said she ran away with a “cute surfer for a month.” A month later her dad had to drag her home.

Still, she’s far from what people might expect from her as an Asian women. “We all have different personalities,” says Li. “There are Asian girls [who] listen to punk, Asian girls who listen to hip hop.” There are many layers when it comes to Asians and Li wanted to represent this diversity within Asians in her show.

This moment was monumental for Li not only because of its diverse model cast, but this was Li’s first runway show ever. She’s presented eight collections at NYFW in the past, but never a runway show. Growing up in New Zealand and memories of her mother’s lush garden inspired this very personal collection of hers. When the designer was a child, her room had a sliding door which opened straight in her mother’s flowers. “When I was a toddler… I would walk around in my mom’s garden and all the flowers just seemed gigantic to me.” The flowers in Li’s collection were inspired by New Zealand’s Mount Cook lily, a soft buttercup yellow flower which was reimagined as embroideries and 3D lace floral appliqués on dresses, blouses, and coats.

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