For Phillip Lim and Prabal Gurung, hiding behind their designs is no longer an option
Just a few weeks ago, Phillip Lim and Prabal Gurung graced the Met Gala with a team of stars from diverse cultures dressed in Gurung’s electric creations.
Both designers are adored in the fashion industry, having dressed everyone from Gigi Hadid and Miley Cyrus to Michelle Yeoh and VP Kamala Harris, but, in Lim’s words, “It’s not real representation. We’re the luckiest – fair and passable in very small bubbles – but that doesn’t change anything. It’s an exception to the rule – and we actually want to be the rule.
The longtime friends and founders of House of Slay, a fun and light-hearted webcomic series featuring the duo as superheroes battling the “God of Darkness” aka racism, are teaming up with the ‘AAPI Victory Fund to launch the #OurVote brand, a project that will include extensive voter activation efforts and voter-designed products: t-shirts, sweatshirts, a tote bag that reads ” We vote as one indivisible nation; our voice, our power, our vote. The United States of America in voting Trusts us.” The message, inspired by “The Pledge of Allegiance,” is translated into all AAPI languages as part of the couple’s efforts for transparent inclusion of Asian Americans in American politics.
“The revolution is fragmented and real change requires constant and consistent work,” Gurung said. BAZAAR. In what many of us hoped would be a period of political harmony after the last administration of the United States, we find ourselves forced to consider the potential end of Roe v. Wade, ongoing racially motivated hate crimes and a lack of representation still present in creative industries that claim to support “diversity” and “inclusiveness,” he adds.
With the 2022 midterm elections just months away, America’s political climate remains in a phase of absolute uncertainty, and the nation’s fastest growing ethnic group, Asian Americans, remains largely ignored or “considered insignificant,” says Lim.
“It’s really so important that we are the protagonists, we refocus this conversation on the fact that we are culture makers, leaders, thought starters, game changers, and when we come together – the whole diaspora unite – we are changing democracy,” adds Lim.
The #OurVote brand will be unveiled at the inaugural AAPI Victory Rally and AAPI Next Generation Reception on May 20, the anniversary of President Joe Biden’s signing into law of the Hate Crimes Act. Guests will include top Asian American leaders across the country, such as Harris (who regularly wears Prabal Gurung), Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval, Representative Andy Kim and Senator Tammy Duckworth , among many others. Japanese Breakfast will perform and its lead singer, Korean-American musician Michelle Zauner, will be a guest speaker at the reception.
“It’s going to be such a great night, and there’s never been anything like it, even close, for our community,” said AAPI Victory Fund President and CEO Brad Jenkins. BAZAAR. “Our community is never at the center that way. And honestly, our ability to do that really relies on us working with people like Prabal and Phillip, because we can’t just preach to the choir, we have to reach out to Asian American voters in communities that love all these guys. And we have to build that level of excitement, and we have to build that level of joy, because we’ve been through so much trauma in the last two years , that the evening will truly be a celebration of Asian American joy.”
Gurung and Lim’s efforts to mobilize the AAPI community of 23 million ahead of the midterm elections may seem like something new to them, but it’s not. The creators (Lim was born in Thailand and is of Chinese descent, and Gurung is Nepali-American) have incorporated into their personal brands addressing issues of social importance and standing up for minorities, often speaking out when many players in the fashion industry would not.
“I’ve always believed that politics and fashion should go together because it’s part of the culture. We can’t dress women and sell clothes to women without talking about women’s rights,” Gurung says. “We can’t book trans models and hang out with them and not speak up for their rights. That’s how I see it, and what the majority should do for us too. Unfortunately, unless the culture demands it, the industry doesn’t wake you up.”
Gurung notes that some of us — certainly the four of us having this conversation via Zoom — live in a bubble of liberal artists and high fashion, outspoken celebrities. But he also points out, “If you look like all four of us,” Gurung says, pointing to Lim, Jenkins and me, a Latina, “you know how it feels to feel different. it appears to be invisible, and also sometimes used as a token or box to verify the majority when they want to appear as if they are inclusive. »
Lim says her mixed Asian roots have always inspired her designs in ways that aren’t necessarily seen, but rather felt (“integrity, craftsmanship, holistic beauty, courage, and undeniable desire”). But his hunger to represent in a more intentional way is more recent and stems from the hatred he saw directed against his community.
“I remember when I started in fashion, everyone was telling you, ‘Let your clothes speak for themselves’, but fast forwarding to today, it’s important that your audience know what you stand for and what you are ready to speak out for and against,” says Lim, who recently launched a collaboration with Panda Express to raise awareness among the AAPI community about food insecurity and celebrate the role of food and family in Chinese culture.” This is what I call authenticity and a point of view fueled by purpose. Gone are the days of hiding behind the facade of what you do as an occupation. Now it’s about what you do as a citizen.”
Now, for the first time, he and Gurung are using their position in the high fashion world to push for voter activation among young Asian Americans. “Never before have we merged the spaces of fashion and politics in this way, so intentionally,” he says. “This moment is the first of its kind, because in our industry, it’s always been, ‘shhhhh, keep your views, your political sides, to yourself.’ But we’re here to talk with you to amplify it and say, “No, this is such a critical time that we join forces, become our own superheroes, activate that power from within, to ensure democracy for everyone.””
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He insists that while he and Gurung speak on behalf of the AAPI community of which they are a part, they believe that every American minority is part of the same family and that we all need each other to make sure we are safe. be listened to, represented and respected in the world. long term.
“As we know, in the past two years, at any time, hatred and this unhealthy system of racism can turn its ugly, wicked head on any of us,” Lim said. “And so we have to make sure we stand up for each other. It’s up to all of us to come together to make sure we vote, because we can already feel the darkness creeping in.”
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