The designs were all produced in Vietnam, with the four designers going back and forth with the tailors and heavily relying on Google Translate to bring about their visions. This process seeped into the collection, playing off the concept of bootlegs, which they’ve explored in previous seasons. “The idea of the bootleg is that the language gets scrambled,” Chew explained. “We don’t necessarily use the right grammar or the same text when we try to speak Vietnamese or when they try to speak English. But we get the point across, and the clothes we create together [are] proof of that. And sometimes, some things aren’t as perfect as we want them to be, but it’s different and beautiful in a way we didn’t expect.” Izu echoed that sentiment: “Language is as much of a tool as fashion is, where it can be used to convey a lot of different types of meaning—the underlying meaning that you can understand the person, even if the syntax is different.” A group of sculptures and a video installation on view on the second floor of the gallery accompanied the show.
The decision to hold the presentation at the Japan Society was heavily motivated by their Asian heritage. The museum, founded in 1907 by American businessmen, was created to forge connections between Japanese and American culture. Since then, the space has been imperative in informing and educating the American public about Japanese culture. “We realized that Japan Society was important in constructing the Asian identity,” Chew said. “Because it’s such an old organization, it has been a big source of information about Japan. They’ve really influenced the shape of what Asian-ness meant for Americans for so long.”