Fashioning Asian Identities

Speakers at the Center for Asia Pacific Studies’ public symposium, “Fashioning Asian Identities,” represented two different kinds of diversity: not only were they from all over the country, but they came from backgrounds in K-Pop, cosplay, Japanese masculinity, 19th century Chinese fashion and more. The event on April 4-5 was focused on Asian fashion and its influence on global trends and markets and was co-sponsored by USF’s Master of Arts in Asia Pacific Studies program.


The symposium kicked off with a keynote address delivered by Kyunghee Pyun, assistant professor of art history at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Pyun was the first of seven invited scholars who came from the University of Washington, Northwestern University, City University of Hong Kong and others.


Dr. Melissa S. Dale, executive director of the Center for Asia Pacific Studies and assistant professor at USF, who was the driving force behind organizing the symposium, said that the event was designed to give an expansive look at Asia. “The symposium was designed to explore the links between dress, fashion, and identity in modern and contemporary East Asia [in order] to promote research and dialogue on topics that promote cultural understanding [among USF students],” she said.


We thought this topic would be a great way for students to learn more about Asian history, culture and politics, especially contemporary Japanese and Korean pop culture. Hopefully, when they see examples of Asian fashion in the future, they will have a better understanding of the ideas behind the designs,” Dale said. She recalled that the idea came to her as as she was reading a book called “Chinese Dress: From the Qing Dynasty to the Present.”


Dale stressed that the event wasn’t just for scholars and professors – student involvement was always at the forefront. For example, the symposium had a student fashion contest and a live musical performance by a current USF student, DJ Jasper.


Our Tokyo Street Fashion Meets San Francisco fashion contest attracted a lot of students. It was the Center’s first fashion contest and the audience loved seeing the contestants walk the runway representing their favorite style (lolita, maid, etc.) to the music provided by USF student DJ Jasper,” she said.


USF student Ethan Christian Torneros was grateful for the focus on identity with the framework of Asian culture. “As an Asian student on campus who considers himself to be somewhat fashion-oriented, it was really nice to see an event that really emphasized the importance of fashion in Asian culture,” he said. “It matters on a cultural level, but it also functions on an individual level as well. That’s really where I think the ‘identity’ concept comes into play here.”


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