From FRUiTS to VOGUE: Trends with Asian roots that have exploded over the western fashion world

Photo Collage courtesy of Dao Anh Le-Ha

Photo Collage courtesy of Dao Anh Le-Ha

Just as in other forms of media, the western/mainstream fashion industry is quite lacking in Asian representation. And, as the mainstream media has a history of doing when trends started or initially popularized by POC explode, they tend to not give credit where credit is due, you know what I’m saying? 

If you’ve ever been on the fashion side of the world, internet, and mainstream media, even for a second, you’ll be familiar with the 20-year rule. This is the general pattern of popular trends resurfacing every few decades, blowing up, updating slightly – adding some modern edge to make more out-there pieces more stomachable to modern demographics—then going back to sleep. One of the most prevalent examples we saw in recent years was the reappearance of y2k (2000s, mainly early 2000s) fashion and the massive wave of y2k trends and aesthetics for most of 2020, led by arguably one of the biggest western It-Girls of today: Bella Hadid herself. Right now, we’re seeing the early ripples of the upcoming wave of 60s era fashion and aesthetics, such as the recent appearance of fun colourful and patterned tights. This 20-year rule means that most of the trends popular today actually made their first appearance and were first popularized decades ago.

Founded in 1997, FRUiTS Magazine, as it is officially stylized, is a legend in the Asian fashion industry and general Asian public as well as one of the major players in the Japanese street style and Harajuku scene. To this day, the magazine is still a significant source of fashion inspiration for many people, particularly Asian youth, but non-Asian youth from a variety of fashion subcultures—from Lolita to Harajuku, to Decora, to Punk. FRUiTS Magazine also played a huge role in spiraling the first instance of the leg warmer trend, worn primarily by Japanese high-school girls in the 90s, into massive effect in not only Japan but other Asian countries too. But you didn’t know that, did you? Most people think the leg warmer trend is an entirely new thing. With the explosion of leg warmers as one of the winter trends of late 2020 continuing on to 2021, you’d never realise that Asians started it. 

So, I’ve compiled a list of trends with decidedly Asian roots that have been all over Pinterest lately. The fashion pieces and styling that originated in Asian fashion communities have become insanely popular in the western world. I’ll also mention a few styling tips as well!

Photo Collage courtesy of Dao Anh Le-Ha

Photo Collage courtesy of Dao Anh Le-Ha

1. Cardigans

This list would be incomplete without mentioning a trend that was started and popularized by a Kpop idol or celebrity. The Kpop industry is home to some of the most talented stylists, some of the most stylish idols, and some of the most popular trends birthed from iconic and memorable Kpop outfits. Whether it’s Kpop stage outfits or certain idols’ off-duty personal styles, the Kfashion scene is not to be underestimated. The little cardigan trend is a case of the latter, popularized by style icon and Chanel ambassador Jennie Kim of Blackpink. Even one of the most popular ways to style cardigans, with baggy wide-legged jeans, is inspired by Jennie too. For Blinks, this isn’t even surprising. The Jennie Effect (everything Jennie Kim wears sells out 20 seconds later) exists for a reason. 

Cardigans are a pretty versatile piece – I myself own quite a few of them in different styles and colours in my wardrobe, and not just because I’m a hardcore Jennie stan. Fortunately, when trends become popular they become more readily available – there’s a whole section dedicated to cardigans in all styles and shades on huge Asian fashion retailers like Yesstyle. They can also work with many different aesthetics/personal styles because of the variety of ways that details on cardigans (buttons, fit/silhouette, trimming of the sleeves) can be done. A ruffled cardigan in a pretty pastel pink with pearl buttons paired with a dustier pink ruffled skirt is the perfect way to do the Kfashion princess vibe. A brown cardigan with matching wide-legged brown jeans is a nice way to wear the it-colour of the season for February 2021: Pinterest brown™️. The pistachio green short-sleeved cardigan and the black tennis skirt? A perfect recreation of that one Jennie outfit that exploded all over the internet. Maybe a classic black cardigan and pleated red plaid skirt with lace trimming and fishnet tights for a more alternative look. Or, you could dress it up a little by throwing a cream cashmere cardigan over a mauve satin midi dress. See? So many options.

Photo Collage courtesy of Dao Anh Le-Ha

Photo Collage courtesy of Dao Anh Le-Ha

2. Sweater Vest

The sweater vest, much like the cardigan, has been a staple in Kpop idol styling and Kfashion as a whole long before the piece broke into the western fashion industry as one of the biggest trends of Fall/Winter 2020. Rocked by male and female idols alike, both in music videos and casual airport outfits, the sweater vest is a cozy piece that can create such an interesting silhouette for any outfit. 

Pairing a baggier-fitting sweater vest with a little pleated skirt creates a beautiful shape to any look. The exaggerated opposites are perhaps what makes it so fun to work with. On the other end of the spectrum, pairing a baggier-fitting sweat vest with loose-fitting jeans is a good way to break a few rules and wear the baggy look as a whole. A tighter-fitting sweater vest can make for a sleeker silhouette, particularly in black paired with a fitted white-button-up shirt and fitted black pants or a fitted black skirt for a classic, sophisticated look. One of my personal favourite combos that I’ve seen is a cable-knit sweater vest and a flowy midi skirt with a long string of pearls for a cozy, slightly fairy-like, grandma chic™️ look.

Photo Collage courtesy of Dao Anh Le-Ha

Photo Collage courtesy of Dao Anh Le-Ha

3. Leg Warmers/Kogal Socks

My discovery of leg warmers being from FRUiTS Magazine is what prompted me to write this article. While it’s nothing new for certain fashion pieces and trends to be snowballed into effect after a major fashion media outlet – usually magazines, a la VOGUE, Harper’s Bazaar, etc. – features it, it is much harder for an Asian magazine to be recognised for this, even an extremely renowned one like FRUiTS.

As fashion & commentary Youtuber Mina Le touches on in her video “Let’s Talk About the Japanese Schoolgirl,” leg warmers came into fashion when Gyaru (ギャル), also known as Kogaru or Kogal, began wearing them and making them a signature of their style, so much so that they made it onto the covers of FRUiTS itself. Kogaru was a fashion subculture (note: meaning there is a history to the style and people who dress in this style are a community who, for lack of a less harsh-sounding term, exhibit certain behaviour; so like other alternative subcultures it requires research and respect) among high-school girls of Japan known for modifying their school uniforms and making them much more cute and stylish. Leg warmers were originally known as Kogal socks, named after the subculture that popularized them, and exploded over other Asian fashion subcultures, including Harajuku, for many years to come. This isn’t the only instance of Asian trends with Asian names being dubbed with an “easier,” more western name—you might not know that “TikTok whipped coffee” is actually called Dalgona coffee. 

While Kogal socks and other aspects of the modified uniform of Kogaru were unfortunately sexualized in pornographic and/or misogynistic media by both Asian and western male audiences, the fashion piece itself is by no means inherently sexual. Kogal socks/leg warmers are such a cute and distinctive piece and can be the perfect addition to any outfit, from a black and white mall goth ensemble to a more fairycore-leaning pastel pink mesh bell-sleeved shirt and cute pleated skirt. A trendy and very fitting combo is leg warmers/Kogal socks and Mary Janes, which have also been trending. They also pair well with the sweater vest trend above. If you want to go full “school-uniform-but-make-it-cute” chic you could take inspiration from the OGs themselves, the Kogaru – maybe a fitted navy blue sweater vest, a silver-grey blazer, and a checkered navy blue pleated skirt? And bonus: they make your feet look like little hooves, which is the cutest thing ever if you ask me.

Photo Collage courtesy of Dao Anh Le-Ha

Photo Collage courtesy of Dao Anh Le-Ha

4. The Vivienne Westwood Necklace & other Vivienne Westwood pieces

While it is a little difficult to guess who exactly popularized this trend since it has been worn by both western and Asian It-Girls alike (from Bella Hadid and Madison Beer to Joy of Red Velvet and Chaekyung of April), I will credit the origins of this trend to the iconic 2000s anime, NANA. The anime’s storyline is not the only thing about it that is exquisite; every single outfit took my breath away. I kid you not. Such beautiful styling for every single outfit, all of it done in animation too. This is why NANA is so often referenced as a significant fashion inspiration to so many people today. 

Within the outfits of the anime, many Vivienne Westwood pieces were featured throughout. The writer herself is a fan of Vivienne Westwood designs, and I love her for that. While I myself don’t believe in picking favourites between the industry’s major fashion houses (mainly because I don’t have the budget for any of them anyway), Vivienne Westwood is my personal favourite. Their designs are the perfect mix of vintage ornateness, a little futuristic edge, and an alternative twist. So I’m not complaining about the number of their pieces featured in outfits from the anime. Two of the most memorable pieces, that spiralled into popularity after the anime, are the famous pearl necklace (with the Vivienne Westwood planet orb logo as the statement pendant) and the armour ring. Both pieces played a role in the plot of the anime as well, if I’m not mistaken. 

The armour ring is a striking design that people who watched the anime, and those who didn’t, would want to own. You know a piece has made it a trend when dupes/cheaper alternatives start appearing on Amazon. As of right now, all the dupes for the armour ring are sold out everywhere. 

This is the case with the pearl necklace as well. Different from the armour ring, the necklace is an extremely versatile piece, perhaps partly due to it featuring pearls; we all know pearls are a classic. It can work with so many different aesthetics and styles. You could pair it with an otherwise casual white shirt and jeans combo to add a little something. Add it to the popular monochromatic Pinterest brown™️ outfit to complete the look. Maybe even juxtapose it with some sportswear and take inspiration from Bella Hadid or Madison Beer. You could style it with a cardigan and a fun silhouette if you’re wanting to go the Kfashion route, taking inspiration from Joy’s style as seen on her Instagram @_imyour_joy. This piece can be styled beautifully for a more goth/alternative look too, my favourite way is to pair it with a black top with an open neckline or a deep V, a black mini skirt, some fishnets, thigh-high boots, and top it with a long-line leopard-print coat reminiscent of NANA.

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

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