“With my eyes turned to the past, I walk backwards into the future,” Yohji Yamamoto explains of his relation to time, heritage and history in his design practice. For New York designers, who are an eclectic mix of nationalities, style and approach, looking inward for artistry sometimes means revisiting places close to home, or a knowledge of the lack thereof. For them, this modern world is an ever changing landscape, one that builds and deconstructs – a constant battle between creating new things and selectively producing with an awareness of the environment around them, and their effects on it. Below, FAR–NEAR speaks to a few of the designers from photographer Eli Wirija and stylist Ashly Tsao’s exploration on the current interpretations of vernacular fashion.
Lulu Yao Gioiello Can you talk about your ancestors?
Kenn Pann The living knowledge of my ancestry does not extend very far due to continual displacement by war and colonization as my immediate family are refugees of the Vietnam War. From the history shared with me, my grandparents grew up in Vietnam under French colonisation; my grandmothers were both born in Vietnam but their ancestral ties are less clear while both my grandfathers were Hokkien people from the mountainous and coastal Fujian province before they fleed to Vietnam due to the Chinese Civil War and Second Sino-Japanese War. Fujian, once known as Minyue before assimilation by the Han Chinese, is the province that Taiwan was once incorporated with and then colonized by Japan after the First Sino-Japanese War.
Raul Solis I’m constantly looking back in order to learn how to move forward. I look at art, architecture and textiles.
Emily Nam I am here today because of my ancestors. My ancestors built communities, families and futures without any solid awareness of how their efforts would be received, in lands that were unfamiliar and fruitful.
Lulu What do you take from the past?
Kenn I revisit the abundance in histories and knowledge that are often not taught but are erased or only spoken through story. I am learning more about my craft through my family’s resourceful and surviving spirit despite intergenerational trauma, violence and displacement. I am also acknowledging the privilege and the responsibility as a settler on unceded land.
Lulu What are you thinking about presently?
Raul I’m presently thinking of creativity in reaction to the current state of the world. How to create under such social unrest.
Emily How do we balance on this edge of opening up to a new world that is eagerly asking us to step into it with openness – while remaining safe, healthy and protected from the reality of our fragmented global condition, which currently feels confronting – to the physical, mental and emotional?
“Honor the fiber of our cloth as from the same soil, water and air as the seeds of our food. As we think about food apartheid, fashion requires its own critical lens on damage, speed and access in regards to excess, exploitation and exceptionalism.”
Lulu What is something you would change about the fashion industry (or elsewhere)?
Kenn Honor the fiber of our cloth as from the same soil, water and air as the seeds of our food. As we think about food apartheid, fashion requires its own critical lens on damage, speed and access in regards to excess, exploitation and exceptionalism. The pieces of clothing left hanging in a store are the same as the food leftover in a supermarket. We need to change systematic destruction and to understand where these clothes go and where they are discarded. Which communities do they cater towards and who do they disregard?
Raul I would love to see a lot more diversity in the industry, we are definitely working to a much more inclusive image. Let us now support smaller brands that promote and practice this type of inclusivity.
Lulu What is something you would like to see stay the same?
Kenn Nothing ever stays the same–there’s always a sense of impermanence. What I hope stays is that flash of collective understanding and integrity–that there is no normal and never has been. To believe in “normal” benefits some but hurts many. A stability for only some is instability for many others.
Raul The chance of creating a dream, let’s keep fashion fun and experimental.
Lulu What do you want for the future?
Kenn A future. Such a simple ask has already been taken away from so many and in doing so has only degraded one for all beings. I want the liberation and joy for trans, dark-skinned, Black, femme and disabled beings. Understanding the specificities of others’ lived experience only works to lift us all up into new vibrations.
Raul The chance to continue doing what I love. For most small brands like mine, the future is only as far as the next season.
Emily Children and young adults to be provided with the foundations of non-violent communication as a core element of their education – to allow us to build connection, opportunity and trust in our relationships.
Jackie Shuya Tan at Midland Agency
Lulu Yao Gioiello
Chika Nishiyama at 87Artists using Bumble
Ayaka Nihei using Milk Makeup
Chop Suey Club
Maryam Nassir Zadeh