Then & Now: The Culture Evolution of Historic Fashion

By Rachel Min

The China Institute Young Associates, an organization comprised of students and young professionals, hosted “Night of Fashion: Then & Now”, where they fascinated fashion enthusiasts with traditional Chinese dresses tempered by the contemporary styles of four rising stars in the fashion world – Asian-American designers Ann Yee, Arbitrage, Cody Sai, and Janet Zheng.

CUE Art Foundation, located in the heart of Chelsea, provided the venue for this evening of fashion. The event’s unique theme was to showcase the Chinese cultural evolution from the costumes of the Zhou dynasty, the longest dynasty in China’s history, starting roughly in 1046 BC and lasting through 246 BC, to the 21st century. The new, young Asian-American trendsetters brought a fresh look to old styles, some showcasing pieces from their 2011 lines.

Food, libations, and flashing cameras circulated throughout the entire night. The guests were delighted by an endless stream of cocktails and a variety of dim sum. Goodie bags filled with Popchips, the new fad in healthy junk food, as well as copies of our very own Asian Fusion magazine. Designer Cody Sai entertained the evening’s event guests in addition to the catwalk surprises.

Clothing was not the only aspect of fashion being showcased during the event. The high-contrast white space provided a simple, yet fabulous background for accessories as well as clothing. From the row of seating lining the runway, guests could stay close to the action and still be able to see the additional wares available. Ken + Dana design, an NYC-based design collective exploring the art and language of body decoration, showcased an extensive array of fashionable jewelry to accompany the clothing alongside the runway. The glittery gems and baubles caught the eye of not only the audience and press, but designers gravitated towards the one-of-a-kind designs, perhaps finding inspiration for a future clothing creation.

The evening’s crowning jewel from the historical lineup was a traditional Chinese wedding gown embroidered with silver and gold thread. While guests and press alike were attracted to the wide variety of historical Chinese fashion from the Zhou Dynasty through to the Early Republic period, the highlight of the night were the young Asia- American designers’ clothing lines. It began with Cody Sai’s pieces: a casual, ready-to-wear line, focusing on subtle details, comfortable fabrics, and natural colors, and proved just as relaxed and beautiful as the show itself. Janet Zheng’s refined, yet avant-garde menswear followed in quick succession. After Arbitrage showed off the best-fitting and most flattering dress shirts for all body types, which come with exceptional customer service from their FIT experts, the show closed with architectural cuts juxtaposed against soft draping women’s wear by Ann Yee. Ms. Yee’s line was visually provocative, yet completely wearable!

Everyone in attendance made use of the opportunity to enjoy the emerging designer’s big night firsthand. Models and designers mingled with the guests, chattering away until the lights went out, signaling the end of the evening. A successful, fashion-filled and educational night was had by all.

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About the Author: Rick Lin

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