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In His Own Words: Asiatorialist Founder David Leung

In His Own Words: Asiatorialist Founder David Leung

Perennially chic in ensembles of head-to-toe black, David Leung is the walking embodiment of fashion as a global culture industry. Born in Hong Kong and educated in the United States, he has been a creative force behind a slew of legendary European and American fashion labels from Versace (where he designed the fabulous Medusa logo) to Zoran and, most recently, Natori. This year, the globe-trotting industry veteran struck out in the editorial world, launching the online fashion journal Asiatorialist, devoted to Asian design and cultural exchange. Featuring emerging as well as established Asian designers, models, stylists and photographers, the journal is a visual ode to David’s exquisitely honed cross-cultural and cross-genre eye. “Each post reflects my own lifestyle and aesthetic to create an emotional connection between me and my followers,” he explained to FSJ over high tea at the Asia Society’s Garden Court Café. Here, David gives us the lowdown on his newest venture, his tumultuous relationship with his Asian cultural heritage and the Asian talents you should be stalking right now.

On the inspiration behind Asiatorialist…

I was asking myself, how often would I and the creative people here in New York pick up any Asian fashion and lifestyle magazine or explore any Asian blogs to see what’s going on in the East? We’re always excited to see how American or European designers interpret Asian references – the Metropolitan Museum’s “China: Through the Looking Glass” exhibition is a great example – but we rarely see how Asian designers and photographers express their visions of the modern world. These Asian artists take absolute references from rich Asian heritages and repackage them, totally deconstruct them, or fuse different cultures, arts and aesthetics with the goal of establishing new identities in design and storytelling. I wanted to celebrate them and to ignite awareness about the fashion, creativity and beauty coming from Asia.

On being an Asian designer…

You know, when I was young, I kept trying to escape from my Asian cultural heritage. I wanted to free myself from the weight of tradition and the responsibility of using Asian references to inform my design sensibilities. Now, I appreciate and nurture my Asian heritage more than ever. I embrace it and draw on my amazing Asian heritage with an understated and subtle voice. I don’t feel like I have to validate that I’m Asian, to yell and scream Asian [laughs]. 

On the Asian creatives you need to know…

In terms of designers, Qiu Hao. He’s the most avant-garde emerging Chinese fashion designer, the Martin Margiela of the East! A subtle Chinese philosophy underlies his signature, conceptually driven designs. Among female models, Liu Wen represents modern Asian beauty, elegant and strong, and among male models, former athlete Hao Yunxiang whose stunning looks speak volumes about the new Asian masculinity – handsome and classy. In fashion photography, Asiatorialist follows Bikramjit Bose (Indian), Kim Kyoung Soo (Korean) and Sun Jun (Chinese). Bose weaves vivid colors into images rich with heritage. Soo puts his audience into a contemplative mood – his lyrical, imaginative compositions are pure visual poetry. Jun recreates the sensuality of traditional Chinese landscape paintings with a modern edge. Each designer, model and photographer tells stories of national and personal identity in their own unique voice.

On the future of Asian design…

Back in the early 1980s, the Japanese avant-garde trio of Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo rocked the fashion world: their “apocalyptic clothing,” characterized by monochromatic and deconstructed layering ensembles played opposite to the power dressing in vogue at the time. The current wave of Asian designers are still massaging these ideas and continuing to experiment with how to bridge cultures, ideas, theories and lifestyles. What will the next wave bring? I’m betting on the incorporation of heritage into technology. 

 

(David was in conversation with our Weeklies co-editor, Elena X. Wang. Image courtesy David Leung.)

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