“I feel like the word ‘Asian’ just means one thing to a lot of people, and we are not just one note"

Designer Claudia Li has cast all Asian models for her New York Fashion Week runway show.

Highlighting diversity, Claudia Li cast only Asian models in her runway show for New York Fashion Week – a historic moment for the show.

In an interview with Huffington Post, the designer revealed why it was important for her to showcase only Asian models.

For Li, the fashion industry generalises Asians. “I feel like often the fashion industry just tries to check a box — i.e., ‘We need an Asian girl for our show,’” Li said. “But what kind of Asian girl? A Filipino girl? Singaporean? Chinese? Korean? ‘Asian’ doesn’t mean one thing. I feel like the word ‘Asian’ just means one thing to a lot of people, and we are not just one note. There’s incredible diversity.”

The New Zealand-born designer said growing up as an Asian, expectations were cast upon her by others.

“As an Asian woman, I am automatically seen in a certain way,” she said. “For me, it’s about recognizing that within a race, there is diversity as well. There is not one standard Asian beauty. Every Asian woman looks different, and there are different personalities. Asian girls do listen to punk rock and heavy metal and hip-hop. There is not a singular way of defining what Asian is.”

Growing up, Li broke the mould of a ‘stereotypical’ Asian girl.

“I had maybe three Asian girls in my high school, and so people always thought, you’re good at math, you’re good at science, you’re smart, you don’t go out at night,” Li said. “Well, guess what, I drove without a license. … I played field hockey. … I sang in a metal band.”

“We all have different personalities,” she added. “There are Asian girls [who] listen to punk; Asian girls who listen to hip-hop.”

Li’s decision to cast only Asians in her runway show was thereby aimed to celebrate individuality and diversity.

“It made me really proud to see an all-Asian runway,” she said. “I feel excited for the future of Fashion Week because this is an important conversation that needs to happen — not just for New York Fashion Week but for every Fashion Week.”

“People are starting to realize that there is diversity within the Asian group … not just a single … perspective [or] kind of beauty,” Li added.

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