Best of 2006: Style Makers

March 20, 2007

Style Makers

Best of 2006: Style Makers

By Ana La O

APA looks back on some of the biggest Asian faces and fads to hit the fashion world this year.

In no particular order:

1. Du Juan: With looks that range from sweetly innocent to fiercely sultry, it’s no surprise that Du Juan was declared one of the top ten new models of fall 2006 by Style.com. The former Miss China (2003) got her big break when she became the first Asian model to grace the cover of French Vogue in 2005. Since then, she has appeared on the Olympus Fashion Week runway, modeling collections from Anna Sui, Versace, and Carolina Herrera. Juan’s entry into the mainstream fashion world is extremely rare since she is the only model of Chinese descent among other Asian models like Anna Bayle (Filipina) Kimora Lee (African-American, Korean, and Japanese), and Irina Pantaeva (Siberian), who paved the way before her.

2. Geisha Glamour: Whether you loved or hated Memoirs of a Geisha, you can’t deny that the costumes were fabulous. They were so fabulous in fact, that Western courtiers and retailers couldn’t seem to get enough of obi belts, kimono sleeves, and large Japanese floral prints in 2006. In addition to Banana Republic and Fresh cosmetics releasing their own Memoirs lines at the tail end of 2005, modern Geisha-inspired wear popped up on the Spring 2006 runways of Hermes, Dries Van Noten, and Lanvin.

3. Doo-Ri Chung: Korean designer Doo-Ri Chung became high fashion’s newest it-designer when she won the top prize at the third annual CFDA/Vogue fashion award in November and the Swarovski Perris Ellis award for Emerging Talent in June. Chung started her clothing collection in her parents’ New Jersey dry cleaning shop after graduating from Parson’s. She debuted her line Doo.Ri at New York Fashion Week in 2003. This year, Chung impressed audiences with her spring 2007 collection, which delved beyond her usual jersey knit draping and added sophisticated satins and sequined detailing to the mix.

4. Bollywood Basics: India showed transcontinental appeal this year. Olympus Fashion Week welcomed India-inspired collections from Indian-born designers like Anand Jon (Jeanisis), Ashish Soni (Ashish N Soni), and newcomer Sabyasachi, who debuted his modernized take on traditionally garish Bollywood style in September 2006. In fact, Indian style is so hot right now that spring 2007 collections from Lanvin, Carolina Herrera, and Michael Kors are also offering Eastern-influenced pieces like silk kameezes (Indian tunics) and opulent brocade skirts.

5. Shu Uemura: Japanese makeup brand Shu Uemura loves to push artistic boundaries and last year was no different. Known for their lash products — particularly their eyelash curler (a fashion industry favorite) and their outrageous fake lashes — Shu Uemura stunned us in 2006 with perhaps their most indulgent lashes yet: a custom pair of mink lashes adorned with diamonds, created for quintessential material girl Madonna. For those who can’t shell out ten grand for mink lashes, 2006 also marked the opening of two new Shu Uemura Tokyo Lash bars in Boston and Costa Mesa, where clients try everything from natural lashes to funky neon colored lashes fit for a Harajuku girl.

6. Chloe Dao: This past spring, Vietnamese designer Chloe Dao became the first Asian woman and the least dramatic contestant to win Bravo’s Project Runway (fans can attest to the catty attitudes of season one winner Jay McCarroll and season three winner Jeffrey Sebelia). Dao played it nice off and on the runway during the show, often creating minimalist and classically tailored clothing. Since winning Project Runway’s $100,000 prize, Dao has been expanding her contemporary women’s line Lot 8, which she established in 2000.

7. Don and Jin Sook Chang, Forever 21: Before Sweden’s H&M invaded the U.S., American girls and recently guys, looking for a quick fashion fix, turned to Los Angeles’s original fast fashion couturier, Forever 21. Established in 1984 by Korean immigrants Don and Jin Sook Chang, Forever 21 releases up to 200 trendy new designs into its stores on any given week and in spite of its European competition, seems to be doing stronger than ever: Forever 21 expanded into menswear in 2006 and is the top-earning privately owned fashion company in L.A., according to Los Angeles Magazine.

8. Thakoon Panichgul: Thakoon Panichgul hit it big with the stylish elite and masses alike in 2006. The Thai-born designer was a runner-up for the CFDA/ Vogue fashion award, thanks to a show-stopping spring 2007 collection inspired by peonies at New York Fashion Week. Far from the Olympus Runway, Panichgul also reached a more mainstream audience with a capsule collection of affordable shoes for Nine West’s 2006 Project Front Row. He joined designers Sophia Kokosalaki and Vivienne Westwood.

9. The Asian Mullet: It’s not exactly a “style maker,” but the mullet has been so widespread among Asian youth that Asia Times actually published a satirical article about it three years ago. And today, I still see the mullet being rocked by hordes of Asians, boys and girls, in trendy neighborhoods and Indie and Emo concerts everywhere. Perhaps, an even greater testament to the mullet’s unwavering grasp on Asian heartstrings is Josie, the only Asian contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef, who made a statement with her Vietnamese inspired dishes as well as her badass faux-hawk mullet. Call it kitschy, but the mullet proved it still had its cool in 2006.

10. Rinko Kikuchi: It’s not often that we see Asians working the red carpets and if we do, it’s usually Zhang Ziyi in a classic gown from Armani. This year, however, breakthrough Babel actress Rinko Kikuchi decided to shake things up. At the Cannes Film Festival, Kikuchi clashed modern punk with Japanese tradition, wearing a lilac kimono and her hair pulled into frizzy, orange-tinted bouffant. Kikuchi took her punk-aesthetic even further at the Los Angeles Premiere of Babel, where she rocked the same lightened hair and a funky black and white dress over skinny jeans. Now that Kikuchi’s been named one of Variety’s Ten Actors to watch, it’s likely that we’ll see more of Kikuchi’s funky fashion in 2007.

Back to APA’s “Best of 2006” issue

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