STAND UP FOR IMMIGRANT DESIGNERS
I am a fashion lover and I am the child of immigrants.Probably most of you can make similar statements because they would be the truth. While unfortunately for us the new U.S. administration has divorced it's self from the truth. Under the leadership of President Donald Trump they are actively demonizing individuals, nationalities and religions.
The Presidents ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries is on hold by the court . But this fight is not over.While the administration will either fight this in the court, or release a new order.Therefore it seems that America is divided , fighting for civil liberties and constitutional rights.
The American Fashion Industry
Especially relevant is that immigrants built the American fashion industry .The fashion Industry in America has gone through many changes over the years. While nothing stays the same there exists one constant in the fashion industry, immigrants.New York city is home to the fashion industry. Hence the New York garment District has also changed with the times. Yet it still is a vital Industry. Most noteworthy is that this Industry still attracts many immigrants.
In 19th century many German and Eastern Europeans came with business experience and manufacturing skills. This was just at the time that clothing manufacturing on a large-scale was starting to take off . Since the days where women made their own clothes and men went to local tailors were ending. Mass production was now the norm for clothing manufacturing.Because most of these new immigrants did not speak english the immigrant run factories were their livelihood. Therefore Italians , Germans , Russians and others were fundamental in creating a dynamic industry.
Since those days much of the manufacturing has moved overseas seeking cheaper labour. Consequently the industry is changing. Yet there still exists a huge American fashion industry. This new industry is fueled by designers , with showrooms and ateliers. While these designers employ many in boutiques and photography, as sample makers and models , the factories have mainly closed.The New York garment district is now only 50% fashion related businesses, but these businesses are the backbone of an exciting American Fashion Industry. Most noteworthy this industry, like the American society at large , employs many immigrants.
Many of the designers working in America were born in far away lands . The designers that are now household names like Diane von Furstenberg , Oscar De La Renta and Carolina Herrera are all immigrants. Especially relevant is that they brought their knowledge , world view and talent withthem when they immigrated. Consequently their gifts enrich American fashion . In addition these immigrants have made great contributions to American culture.
There also are a new number of immigrant designers , young men and women forming the next generation of designers .I am shining the light on these new immigrant designers and their talents. As we look , shop and enjoy the fashions of these talented designers we may question the industry's future. Where will the diversity of ideas come from ? While the doors to America are closing , so are the exchanges of cultures, ideas and diversity.
THE NEW GENERATION OF IMMIGRANT DESIGNERS
The new immigrant designers come from a very diverse range of backgrounds and countries. Yet being different is seen as an advantage .Dozens of fashion designers ,models and other celebrities came together at NYFW to protest President Donald Trumps executive action on immigration. Therefore at the urging of W. magazine they gathered together to make a united and defiant statement on video. One by one they face the camera and say :"I am an immigrant"..
Meet Our New Generation of Immigrant Designers
Meet Joesph Altuzarra , born and raised in Paris to a French father and American-Chinese mother, Joseph Altuzarra has been keenly interested in the transformative power of fashion since a young age.
Altuzarra is a luxury women’s ready-to-wear brand launched in New York by Joseph Altuzarra in 2008. Altuzarra was born out of the desire to make the sophisticated modern woman feel seductive, strong, and confident.
Since the launch of Altuzarra, Joseph has received numerous accolades for his work, from Forbes’ 30 Under 30, Swarovski Award for Womenswear Design and the Woolmark Prize. In 2014, Altuzarra was named by the Council of Fashion Designers America as the Womenswear Designer of the Year.
His multicultural upbringing and keen interest in French culture including art, ballet and film are key influences throughout his collections. As an immigrant to America Joesph brings his unique vision to the American Fashion Industry.
From Vogue Magazine March 31, 2016 by STEFF YOTKA ;
“Personally, I am supporting Hillary because I believe she represents the future—and has the experience and knowledge to carry out change on issues that matter to the country, such as equal pay for women, LGBTQ equality, climate change, and energy,” said Altuzarra. His design, a bold black-and-white stripe logo, calls to mind the monochrome details from his recent spring show—in fact, we’d say this top would pair nicely with the slouchy, drawstring trousers in the collection. “I was inspired by Hillary’s campaign logo and its graphic quality,” he said. “To me, it represents her straightforwardness and her unwavering vision for the country.”
“Altuzarra is a multicultural and diverse organization, and we have employees from around the world working in our New York offices. We are committed to upholding our values of inclusiveness and diversity.” Joesph Altuzarra.
This quote was made at NYFW February 2017, Altuzarra and 80 others appeared in the video "I am an Immigrant" made by W magazine.
Prabal Gurung with Huma Abedin
The Nepalese Amercian fashion designer Prabal Gurung launched his line in 2009 at New York Fashion Week. Since then the designer’s line is sold in over twenty countries, is featured in fashion’s top publications and is regularly worn by those in the public eye. The designer counts Michelle Obama, The Duchess of Cambridge, Sarah Jessica Parker and Anne Hathway as fans.
As well as designing for his own line Gurung is Chief Designer for Onward Kashiyama's ICB brand, and collaborated with Target as the retailer’s 2013 designer collaborator.
Born in Singapore and raised in Kathmandu Gurung began his design career in New Delhi, before moving to New York to complete his design studies at Parsons The New School of Design. While Gurung got his formal education in America many of his influences are international.
Gurung joined Cynthia Rowely straight out of Parsons, the designer spent two years in the design and production teams before being appointed design director at Bill Blass. Gurung stayed a Bill Blass for five years, leaving the company to start his own label.
While this young and exciting designer expresses his multicultural background through his fashion design .Gurung has made strong political statements through his fashion . He was a declared supporter of Hilary Clinton .
Something changed after Donald Trump’s Inauguration: during this year’s Fashion Week, politics spilled onto the runways. Prabal Gurung created an entire collection of slogan t shirts (“The Future Is Female,” “We Will Not Be Silenced,” “Nevertheless She Persisted”),which he paraded in front of Huma Abedin, the former vice-chair of Clinton’s campaign, to cheering and applause. (Some of the proceeds from the collection will go to the A.C.L.U., Planned Parenthood, and Gurung’s own Shikshya Foundation Nepal.). As a result Gurung has been acclaimed as an immigrant designer who has contributed so much to American society.
When Barack Obama was named the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party eight years ago, the future first lady stood beside him wearing a dress featuring black and burgundy flowers. The designer, Thakoon Panichgul, made a name for himself with that dress. Premier department stores, including Barneys New York, began stocking his clothes.
After his parents divorced, his mother and her two sons moved in the mid-1980s to Nebraska, where her sister lived. Thakoon was 11 years old then. The U.S. had amended its immigration law in 1965 and ceased its practice of giving priority to European immigrants. This was followed by a surge in the 1970s and 1980s of Asian immigrants drawn by the affluence and opportunities in the U.S. Thakoon and his family were among them.
Life in the U.S. was hard for the family, who did not speak English. Thakoon's mother got a low-wage job at a sewing factory. He was unable to make friends and spent his time avidly flipping through fashion magazines he discovered at a local bookshop. He was 13 years old then. "All of a sudden, I started picking up fashion magazines" at the bookshop, he said. "They looked so beautiful."
Thakoon won a scholarship and majored in business administration at Boston University. After working for a major clothing company and a magazine publisher, he got the urge to create something himself. At Harper's Bazaar magazine, "I interviewed designers and I realized that I was more interested in that side of the work than being a journalist"
He attended evening classes at Parsons School of Design and made his debut as a designer in 2004.
Many Asian immigrants who worked at factories or ran small stores dreamed about having their children graduate from college and get a job at a large corporation. Therefore Thakoon did not dare tell his mother he wanted to become a designer. "Sewing, being a seamstress, was just a way for her to put food on the table," he said. "I had expressed an interest in fashion when I was younger, but she didn't think of fashion as a career. She just saw it as a factory job."
A Strong Immigrant Vision
Thakoon went on to become a fashion designer, favoring brightly colored decorative prints. "Every time I look at fabrics, and I see prints, I really like them, I really respond to them," he said. "I think that comes from my background. Thai people love colors and prints."
Thais take colors seriously. Some Thais choose the colors of their clothes by the day of the week. They make their statements through the colors they wear. Consequently Thakoon's uniqueness as a designer owes much to this culture of color.The president’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries has been halted by the legal system, but the fight is not over. The case is positioned to reach the Supreme Court, and the country will more than likely be embroiled in another battle over constitutional rights and civil liberties.
Thakoon Panichgul from Vogue Febuary 2017
“When I was a young kid in Thailand, I always looked at America as the epitome of freedom and open-mindedness. I was drawn to this ideology. The natural and inalienable rights of all Americans to think, to speak, and to express freely have allowed me to grow into the creative person I am today. As a U.S. citizen and American designer, I’m proud that I’m contributing to the American culture and spirit. I hope that we never lose sight that tolerance and diversity is woven into the fabric of our country. Limited policy will not only impact our young, creative minds, but also the ability to grow and be inspired by each other’s diversity.”
Immigrant Talent Makes Us All Stronger
In conclusion not just the fashion industry , but the country at large that is stronger because of immigrants . As America moves further away from it's values it is hard to see a happy future. It is up to us all to stand up and to bullies, and protect those who have been and will be targeted in the future.
Finally in addition the fashion industry is progressive and inclusive .Therefore let's make sure that future talents can have the same opportunities.Hence we need to support immigrant designers. Let's also make sure we protect transgender students. Ciao for now Jandrew