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For generations, cities like Paris, Milan, and New York have set the scene for tastemakers around the globe to curate the fashion industry. Trends are birthed in these so-called “fashion capitals,” and broadcasted to the world due to the booming manufacturing industries which turn designers’ ideas into reality. Many of these manufacturing hubs are located in Asia, with China being the largest garment manufacturer since 1993, producing over half of the world’s clothing. While manufacturing has been huge for China’s economy, bringing in an average of $118 billion in revenue annually for the country, the nation is now seeing a strong push towards creating its own trends. This effect can be seen throughout Asia with the rise of new fashion capitals like Shanghai, Seoul, and Tokyo.
Asian influence is already prevalent in the fashion industry. High-end designers draw on Asian culture and street style, incorporating them into their designs for years. Gucci has famously capitalized on Chinese influence with the implementation of tigers, dragons, and koi fish on their handbags and clothing. Presently, many Asian nations are creating their own seat at the table, instead of allowing Western designers to profit from their unique couture.
The rise of K-pop in the early 2010s provided Korea with the perfect opportunity to break into the European and American markets. Since then, Korean culture has dominated the world through shows and films like Squid Games, Parasite, and through Korean skincare. In the past year, Korea’s entertainment industry exports, including games, music, and movies, have risen 6.3%.
As a result, Western taste has undergone changes in ways most consumers don’t even realize. The wave of minimalism currently taking over closets originates from Korean runways, and modern Korean Spring Summer lines are filled with deconstructed tailoring and the reemergence of pleating that is expected to be seen around the world.
Similarly, kimonos, patterned silk, and other forms of Japanese fashion have been implemented by Western designers for years now. But, Japanese designers are now making names for themselves internationally, bringing both their traditional Japanese clothing and their modern takes on fashion with them. Issey Miyake’s geometric boa boa bags began in the Asian markets, but are now sold at Bergdorf's and can be spotted on the streets of New York and London. The company’s value has grown exponentially over the past five years, currently valued at $93 million. Another example is Comme Des Garçon, a Japanese contemporary brand based in Paris, which made a name for themselves in America after their collaboration with Converse.
While Asia has always been home to the intersection of innovation and fashion, certain factors have made it hard for Asian designers to create the platform that many Europeans and Americans have been able to culminate. Many consumers in Asia, specifically China, continue to fawn over luxury imports from Europe and America, making it hard for designers to make a name for themselves within their own nations, let alone abroad.
In many Asian cultures, creative expression and the arts aren’t as widely supported as they are in other cultures. However, the circumstances are changing, providing a gateway for new fashion capitals to become hubs of fashion creation. As the world of fashion evolves and becomes increasingly Asian-centric, this new taste cannot be satisfied any better than by the people who create the trends themselves. The digital age has made it easier for consumers in the West to see what trends are being created halfway around the world, and are now curious for more. As fashion becomes more global, the rise of these new influential hubs provides greater opportunity for those who create the trends to profit from it themselves.