Fashion: East Versus West

East v West

Fashion: East to West by Brandon Tsou. Guest Blogger

As a third cultured Asian American, I have had the privilege of living all over the world. Perhaps, the most interesting part of the experience is the cultural diversity. Modern technology can get me on a plane, at NYC’s JFK International Airport, and fly home to Taipei. Taiwan in 15 hours. Today, the world seems much smaller and interconnected. Although going to the other side of the world is easy and convenient, traveling is much more than going to another country. Each time I return to Asia, I am transported to  “another world”. This other world has vastly different cultural practices, customs and and values compared to the US. I was educated at an English speaking ex pat school in Taipei City, but my move to NYC was mind blowing. I had expected to see more similarities with American peers. Language and my US raised parents are the two commonalities which I seemed to have had with my American counterparts. Yet, as life in the Big Apple began, I was a foreigner. It took me about a year to become fully accustomed to life in the United States.

Fashion is a beautiful form of art and self expression. Major fashion brands are universal, but Asian fashion is another animal, compared to the American styles. The fashion trends in Asia have a western influence, but are unique. How? It starts with pop culture. American hip hop has dominated the fashion industry, but in Asia, it has taken style by storm. Asian fashionistas, from all walks of life, wear the latest street wear. Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Givenchy, Vetements, Balenciaga, Supreme, Adidas and Nike are seen on all ages. I have observed that streetwear is an Asian status symbol. Young people wait in line for Kanye West’s Yeezy’s Boot sneakers. Executives collect streetwear inspired trends from the high end designers, US streetwear is popular among the millennials, but not amongst the older generations. CEO’s tend to wear more traditional clothing and do not buy the streetwear “hip hop” look.

In Asia, streetwear has become so mainstream it has a counterfeit and replicate market. Knock offs have become an accepted place in the fashion marketplace. The street style has become exclusive and a brand such as; Supreme, has limited edition collections which are available only in Japan. They sell for thousands of dollars and then resell in the global market. Perhaps, the most notable difference between eastern vs western is trend development. Asian fashion trends change rapidly. People do not value the classic designer as much as the latest creations. Being fashion forward is in the forefront, whereas in the US, wearing previous collections is acceptable and encouraged. In Asia, a trend passes and “older” designs depreciate and are harder to find on the racks. What is classic and in demand in America, is outdated in Asia.

Fashion is a status symbol in Asia and what one wears defines their worth and societal stance. Before streetwear, fashionistas would try to buy high end fashion brands and value was placed on higher end couture. Often, it is not the person wearing the clothing, but the clothing wearing the person. Thus, I prefer American fashion diversity and that people wear what their hearts desire. Americans seem to focus less on what others will think if I wear brand x. The US values uniqueness and individuality in style, price and monetary value matter less.

If you are a fashion aficionado, I highly recommend to travel the world. To see diversity in fashion and cultures is fascinating and broadens one’s view of style. Fashion is one of the best ways to become a global citizen. Appreciating differences and learning from them, will help us to come together. The world needs global citizenship and fashion can break down barriers. It allows us to to respect each other and embrace diversity and uniqueness.

Brandon Tsou is Vice President of Cloak Market, a fashion tech start up company. He is an entrepreneur who emphasizes his bicultural heritage. Brandon focuses on creative writing, editing, blogging, digital marketing and jazz music. UpCloak Market has a blog on the website which he writes and edits. Currently, he is an entering senior in New York University’s Gallatin Program.

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