I’m sure you’ve all read about the bruhaha about a Utah girl’s Chinese prom dress. Keziah Daum wore a classic Cheongasm dress and got beaten up in social media by people accusing her of cultural appropriation. In response to that shaming she received tons of encouraging messages directly from China. And I’m not surprised at all the positive feedback. Having just hosted the China Fashion Gala at the Plaza last weekend and seeing all the amazing mixing and matching of traditional and modern Chinese elements worn by Westerners and Chinese alike, I can tell you that Keziah’s choice of dress was a wonderful and future-forward one. Not only was her dress beautiful but it was symbolic of the wonderful fusion of Chinese and Western fashion, and dare I say, the growing multi-cultural understanding we are all craving..
A little context for you all: you may recall that I’m collaborating with Unipx Media, a Chinese media channel that focuses primarily on fashion, lifestyle and tech. The goal is to turn me into an “influencer” in the Chinese market. To be honest, our early attempts weren’t making much progress. Then we had an idea: host the China Fashion Gala! It would be live-streamed into China, I would meet some movers and shakers, and be photographed with lots of China’s “beautiful people.” It was all last minute and a bit crazy up until the end. Not only did I have to attempt to learn a bit of Chinese, but I had to pronounce A LOT of Chinese names without butchering them too much, yikes! I was also super fortunate enough to wear not just one but two amazing dresses by haute couture designer, Grace Chen.
The event was gorgeous. Men and women — old and young alike, — dressed in stunning gowns that expertly married modern with classic, and Western with Chinese styles. Each and everybody looked regal with a bit of kick! In fact, when I kicked off my hosting gig, I had to go off script and comment on how everyone looked so proud and beautiful. And, just to name drop, I got to hob nob with the likes of Christian Louboutin and Vivienne Tam!!!
What struck me the most, however, is fashion’s unique ability to help people appreciate each other’s cultures. Clothing is a language of it’s own. For better or for worse, it “speaks” a culture’s definition of beauty, it’s values, rituals, and social norms. Just as I convinced my 5th grade teacher when I chose to write my history term paper on the fashion of the Wild West (vs, oh, say, a defining war or key U.S. president), we learn about different cultures through our clothing. Fashion is a way to see how we differ and how we are very much the same. Grace Chen reinforced this when she treated us to a fashion show of her latest lines. And thanks to Yue-Sai Kan‘s urging (Yue-Sai, by the way, has been named the “most famous woman in China.”) Chen explained to us how each piece resembles elements of ancient and modern China culture, as well as those of Western life. It was fascinating and educational!
Even though I just scratched the surface of Chinese fashion in my short experience as a gala host, I will look at Chinese fashion with a deeper sense of appreciation. And I will know that much more about a culture rich with heritage and nuance. So instead of criticizing Miss Daum, we should thank her. We should thank her for taking a risk and going against the grain and wearing a classic Chinese dress. But more importantly, we should thank her for introducing a different culture to her community, to social media, and, now, to the entire U.S..
Feel free to check out our page hosted by Unipx!