InTents: New Kids on the Block

Just as in 60's music there was the English Invasion, for new millennium fashion there is the Asian Invasion. Asian-Americans are the cool kids, a new tribe of fashion titans.
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And a little child shall lead them. In the religion that is fashion, one of the seven stations of the cross plays out on the runways of New York City's Bryant Park. And each season there is a new little child/wunderkind who catches the imagination and proclaimed by the disciples/editors as the new one to follow.

This season there are two. One is a young Nepalese-American named Prabal Gurang. Another is Joseph Altazurro, a young Chinese-French-American. Both of them offered sophomore collections of sophisticated, ladylike clothes that wowed the women-in-black (the editors) who decide these things. How they will do with retailers is a whole other matter. But the editors, and this blogger, loved them.

Last year's wunderkind, Jason Wu, was catapulted out of the stratopshere thanks to the patronage of Michelle Obama and her hometown Chicago's fashion guru Ikram Goldman. Remember the inaugural ballgown? Back a few years before that it was the Thai-American Thakoon Panichgal, another Obama favorite. And before that it was Alexander Wang, the darling of downtown. And Philip Lim"s creations are to be found in every fashionista's closet. Derek Lam, a personal favorite, has actually become the establishment. Aside from his own line, he is the designer for Tod's.

Just as in 60's music there was the English Invasion, for new millennium fashion there is the Asian Invasion. Asian-Americans are the cool kids, a new tribe of fashion titans who are following on the heels of Oscar and Donna, Ralph and Calvin. Although, thanks to the new and frighteningly fast cycles and iffy financing in the current retailing world, it's hard to say whether any of these newbies will ever have the staying power of their predecessors. But they're the ones the the young fashionistas will flock to and the fast fashion stores will knock off. How many of them will stay hot in this A.D.D. addled world is hard to predict. I find it somewhat ironic that former coolest kid, now all grown up, Marc Jacobs' latest show had a distinctly Asian vibe.

Naturally, these aren't the only young designers who have caught the attention of the Fashion Flock. Chris Benz has a strong sense of color and line that is exciting. Maria Cornejo is a young Chilean with all the right stuff who is also creating some buzz. And when it comes to downtown cred, Rag and Bone and Band of Outsiders have both developed a devoted following. And there are others, more commercial, who are also making waves. Nanette LePore, Tory Burch, Tibi, and Milly are young firms growing like wildflowers here in the fashion jungle.

But more than any other time in recent memory, there seems to be a changing of the guard. Maybe because in this economy, only the young are brave enough to jump in. Or perhaps it's the arrival of the new millennium in the fashion world ... ten years later. But for those of us with our ears to the ground and our hangers held high, there really is a seismic shift. Like the song says, "Something's happenin' here, what it is ain't exactly clear."