It’s hard not to miss the Asian model invasion that’s happening in the fashion industry. There’s Liu Wen looking luminous in the Estee Lauder billboards and Shu Pei in elegant repose in the Vera Wang ads. There’s a group of them in a modern remake of a Cecil Beaton photograph in the pages of American Vogue (December 2010). Tao Okamoto and Ming Xi show off the season’s must-have maxi coats in the fall 2011 issue of T magazine while Sun Fei Fei stars in the Carine Roitfeld-directed campaigns of Barney’s New York. This ubiquity of female Asian models begs the question, Where are their male counterparts?
Is men’s fashion just as slow to embrace models of Asian descent as it is new trends? When will there be a Chinese man on the cover of GQ or Details? Where is the male equivalent of Liu Wen, the gentleman who’ll sell millions of grooming products to Asian men? Where is the Asian male model who will set a new masculine ideal?
When I was growing up, the male models of the day were Markus Schenkenberg and Mark Vanderloo, men of Nordic looks and muscled physiques. The impact this had on an Asian boy like me lingers to this day. I wanted soft, wavy hair like theirs but what I had was stiff, coarse mop that has been likened to steel wool. I wanted their angular features with the prominent jaw line and narrow nose, instead my face is all cheekbones and a barely there jaw, and a nose as wide as a landing strip. And while I have been able to sort of tame my hair with countless bottles of Kerastase potions, there are days when I still crave for that leonine European mane. I digress.
There have been efforts in fashion to be more inclusionary of Asian male models. There’s Francis Lane in the Tommy Hilfiger fall/winter 2011 ads, but you have to look hard to find him in the group photograph of mostly white models wearing WASP-y clothes. It’s the same with the Dolce & Gabbana and Givenchy ads featuring Daisuke Uede and Paolo Roldan, respectively. Turn the pages of the magazine too quickly and you might just miss them. Are these efforts merely to be politically correct? Are they choosing Asian models who look more white than Asian to somehow blend with the mostly Caucasian cast?
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