Top CFDA Fashion Awards Go to Three Asian Americans

Shifts in immigration and labor policy may be at the heart of the new trends.

By Jorge Rivas Sep 09, 2010

For the first time ever, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) awarded all three top honors to Asian-American designers Jason Wu, Richard Chai and Alexander Wang.

Founded in 1962, CFDA is a trade association whose membership includes the country’s top fashion and accessory designers. Their annual awards ceremony is recognized as "the Oscars of fashion." Past CFDA honorees include household names like Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs.

Klein, Lauren and Jacobs along with other industry leading American designers like Donna Karan and Michael Kors are all Jewish. Maybe the 2010 teen years will be lead by Asian-American designers?

Four out of five of the latest CFDA emerging designer awards for women’s wear have been Asian American.The women’s wear award tends to be the most watched honor because its winner is anointed the next ‘It’ designer.

There have been several hypotheses floating around to explain the recent phenomenon. The Wall Street Journal accredited the model minority myth and even cited the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, which ended policies that put quotas on the numbers of Asian immigrants allowed into the country. Last February, in "Gaysians Take Over New York Fashion Week," ColorLines writer Alex Jung noted that the ability to acquire social and economic capital is clearly a deciding factor. This past weekend NY Times fashion writer Eric Wilson came up with the latest theory:

Throughout the 20th century, generations of Jewish immigrants had created a thriving garment district in New York, first as laborers, then as factory owners, manufacturers, retailers and, eventually, as designers. Many of today’s Asian-American designers say they experienced a similar evolution from the factory to the catwalk, since some of their parents and grandparents were once involved in the production of

Fashion Week begins today and we’ll undoubtedly hear even more theories in the coming weeks about why we’re seeing more designers of Asian descent. Regardless of what’s behind the emergence of these young Asian-American designers, it didn’t come easy. Let’s hope the runways this week start reflecting this new diversity.