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West Meets East: An Outlook on Fashion's Rules

Updated: May 31, 2023

A woman wearing a blue blazer and yellow bag

Fashion is an ever-changing realm that captivates us with its dynamism, day after day. As we bid farewell to Asian Heritage Month, it becomes crucial for us to explore the cosmopolitan scale on which fashion trends have evolved. Traditionally, fashion trends in the Eastern and Western hemispheres have showcased striking differences—or so we thought.

Asian countries have long embraced a more conservative and gender-based approach to fashion. When we think of Asian trendsetters, images of women adorned in feminine ruffles,delicate laces, and elegant dresses come to mind. However, in recent years, we have witnessed a fascinating transformation as trends have veered toward a hip-hop-inspired looks characterized by oversized, vibrant, and graphically - driven pieces. Walking along the bustling streets of many Eastern countries, it's now possible to identify distinct styles that embody the influence of these current fashion trends on devoted fashion enthusiasts.

Whereas, the fashion scene in the Western hemisphere feels more familiar to us—a versatile approach that encourages individuals to embrace the freedom of self-expression through clothing. From an Asian perspective, the Western approach is often perceived as more liberal, open-minded, and reflective of one's unique personality. At a somewhat comparable level, the American style allows individuals to truly embrace their own distinctive fashion sensibilities and moods—it serves as a medium of personal expression.

However, as we venture into the second decade of the twenty-first century, a significant shift in fashion trends is becoming evident. For instance, in Canada, we can observe the influence of a minimalist look that was previously more popular among Asian women—featuring wide-leg pants in neutral colors paired with basic tees. This particular aesthetic, which has long been a go-to look in Korea, has found its way into the Canadian fashion industry through brands like Oak and Fort, founded by Min Kang. These Asian-Canadian brands have been instrumental in blurring the lines between distinct fashion worlds.

The list of creative collectives that bridge different fashion trends across the Americas is truly extensive. What's fascinating about these amalgamated fashion movements is the absence of rigid rules. Cultural constraints that once hindered traditional Asian women from embracing more revealing styles have gradually dissolved, thanks to the reciprocal influence of Western and Eastern trends.

As an Asian woman growing up in a Latin culture heavily influenced by North American fashion, I often found myself unsure of what I could or couldn't wear. The magazines would showcase the "hottest looks of the year," but they rarely resonated with the experiences of I had as a third culture kid. However, the advent of social media platforms has revolutionized this landscape. Now, with a simple scroll through TikTok or other platforms, we can instantly find relatable individuals who inspire us—an "A-HA!" moment that was once elusive.

This year's Asian Heritage Month has celebrated the "Stories of Determination" that underpin countless immigrant experiences, showcasing their unwavering resilience in an ever-changing world. Fashion, as an industry, has played a vital role in fostering inclusivity by gradually dismantling social norms. Each passing day brings us closer to a world where fashion embraces diversity and empowers individuals to express themselves freely, unbound by societal expectations.

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