In America, a new Asian creative class

By Youyoung Lee, Huffington Post

I’ve encountered many stereotypes over the past three decades as an Asian American. Trendsetting has never been one of them — until now.

Alexander Wang. Jason Wu. David Chang. From fashion to food, second generation Asian-Americans are leading a new creative class.

In his 2012 book “The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited,”  Richard Florida, a senior editor at The Atlantic, estimates that Asians make up 6.1 percent of creative jobs in America — a number that seems insignificant until you look at it from the reverse. “Asian-Americans are by far the most heavily represented in the creative class work,” Florida writes . “Nearly one-half (47 percent) of them work in creative class jobs, compared to roughly one-third (34 percent) of whites, 24 percent of African-Americans, and 18 percent of Hispanics.” The jobs that qualify as “creative,” Florida says, span “science and technology, arts, media, and culture, traditional knowledge workers and the professions” — in short, anything but the doctors or lawyers their parents may have once groomed them to be.

So when did Asians become “cool”? And how did the paradigm shift from William Hung, lame “American Idol” contestant, to David Choe, the weed-smoking Korean-American artist who famously painted murals at Facebook’s first Sillicon Valley office (for about $200 million worth of stock)?

The influx of Asians in fashion is hard to ignore. In recent years, the fashion industry — once dominated by too-cool Europeans like Miuccia Prada and Karl Lagerfeld — has been invigorated by a new crop of young designers, many of them Asian: Doo.Ri, Derek Lam, Thakoon Panichgul, Jason Wu, Phillip Lim and Richard Chai, to name a few. “There is this understanding that there is this group of Asian-American designers who are coming up in the world, and there is a sense of pride,” Lam told the New York Times in 2010, in an article aptly entitled “Asian-Americans Climb Fashion Industry Ladder.”  Parents who may have wanted a more traditional career path for their children appear swayed by the rampant success of fashion stars like Alexander Wang, who, at the age of 28, was named the creative director of Balenciaga.

Read the full article by Youyoung Lee of the Huffington Post.

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