The beautiful photos in this feature are shot by Idris + Tony, a Brooklyn, NY-based fashion photography duo with a goal to promote diversity – in this case, the appreciation of the Asian male from – in a media industry that has traditionally favored the ‘white’ male model. Featuring some of today’s hottest Asian male models such as Sung Jin Park, Phillip Huang, JaeYoo and Daisuke Ueda, the spread was featured in Models.com and an interview with the photographers.
Working in the magazine industry (in Singapore), I can totally relate to that ‘industry fixation’ with Caucasian models; our xenophillia attitude and idolization of the Western culture, right down to use of the models for fashion shoots. For a long time, editors and stylists were all ready, armed with bullets to shoot down any suggestions of featuring local personalities for covers, but gladly accept a PR pitch by a certain ‘up-and-coming’ Hollywood actor who has a role in a new movie – never mind that he was already featured in 2 other competing magazines. And all fashion shoots ‘have to’ use Caucasian models (or at least a Pan-Asian looking one), for reasons like ‘the designer labels have very strict guidelines’ or ‘because it looks more international’, etc.
Well not until now. The tides are changing – because we know that the fashion and media industry is largely commercially driven.
All across the world, we are starting to see more Asian models on international runways, on magazine covers and major ad campaigns, and in fashion spreads of international magazines. It’s suddenly cool to have an Asian face fronting an international campaign. (Yes, we know it’s all because of the rise of Asia consumers, maybe the influence of K-pop, but really and very specifically, the dollar value of the Chinese market.)
So I applaud this effort by Idris + Tony, who are, respectively, African- and Asian-American, to make this bold statement for Asian men. In their interview with Models.com. Tony spoke about his childhood growing up as an Asian-American in a predominatly ‘white’ environment, without a clear Asian identity. Here’s an excerpt from his interview:
“Growing up in the mid-west presented many challenges including a sense of pride in who I am as an Asian American and most certainly from a masculine stand point….I can remember kids running around me saying ‘Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees.’ … I received back handed compliments from the girls like ‘Your hair is so straight and silky. I wish I had beautiful hair like yours’ and ‘Your high cheek bones make you so exotic.’
Although there has recently been a greater visibility of Asians in Western advertising, we are still mostly typecast as the sidekick, but when will we be the leading man, the object of desire? So we approached the project from a Western perspective photographing Asian male models in various denim pieces because you can’t get much more American than t-shirts and jeans.” – Tony, Idris + Tony
Read the rest of the interview at Models.com.