December's American Vogue features eight Asian models who are, according to the magazine, "redefining traditional concepts of beauty." The Steven Meisel–lensed two-page spread features: China's Du Juan, Liu Wen, Bonnie Chen, and Lily Zhi; South Korea's Hyoni Kang, So Young Kang, and Lee Hyun; and Japan's Tao Okamoto. With Asia's significance to luxury brands becoming increasingly visible, it seems only natural for Asian faces to become more prominent in the industry as well.
They've been landing plenty of high-profile work lately: Earlier this year, Liu Wen became Estée Lauder's first Asian spokesmodel. Later, Maybelline announced fellow Chinese model Shu Pei as the face of the brand. One can even look at Marc Jacobs's cheongsam-infused spring 2011 collection for Louis Vuitton, in which eight out of 53 models were Asian (Lanvin cast three Asian girls, and Valentino cast one). Meanwhile, Miuccia Prada shot her spring 2010 menswear campaign in Shanghai, featuring relatively unknown Chinese models (at the same time, her past two major women's shows have included no Asian faces). Yet while major fashion and beauty brands are hiring more Asian models, Vogue's proclamation comes off as dubious at best.
While it's refreshing to see the magazine acknowledge the importance of Asian models in the industry, especially since Vogue has largely ignored Asian models in the past, it always seems easier for magazines to lump the girls in a feature like this, feel like the acknowledgment has been made, and then revert back to their usual ultra-white mix of models in subsequent issues. It will be interesting to see if and how Vogue will support these statements in forthcoming issues. Can we expect to see more of newcomers So Young Kang and Bonnie Chen? Or perhaps newly minted runway fixtures Ming Xi and Fei Fei Sun will actually have a chance at longevity? Maybe, maybe not. But hey, baby steps?