Intimate Portrait Series Showcase Commission’s Debut Menswear Collection

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Debonair and effortless. Those are the words that come to mind while looking at Commission’s debut menswear collection. The collection embodies the spirit of Commission, which is inspired by the founders’ memories of their own working mothers’ wardrobes. Think: crisp shirting, mixed prints, and pencil skirts. For their debut menswear collection, you’ll find similar nostalgic prints mixed with modern, sleek zip jackets and minimalist striped polo sweaters.

But their goal is to create more than mere clothing. The new wares are presented in a special portrait series starring all Asian, street cast males, photographed by Katsu Naito and styled by Jason Rider. Through their work, the founders hope to dispel old visual stereotypes of Asians found in the West and fashion industry. One-hundred percent of the profits from the portrait series’ prints and books will benefit the AALDEF (Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund) and Apex for Youth which aims to support underserved Asian-American immigrant communities in New York.

The designers, Huy Luong, Dylan Cao, and Jin Kay wanted to showcase, “Asian masculinity through a beautiful and respectful point of view,” a rare sight in film, television, and fashion. The designers said over email, “Rarely have we seen Asian men being lensed in a romantic but also truthful and innermost manner in the media, especially in fashion and cinema. There might have been more of this type of spotlight, only in the intimate work of artists like Hideki Sato, Joji Hashiguchi or Wong Kar-wai many decades ago, but it’s definitely lacking as of right now.” As Rider recalls, “I remember seeing an editorial in a fashion magazine recently that spotlighted different male archetypes and unsurprisingly the one Asian model was cast as “The Geek” and I’d hope for shoots like ours to show more people that Asian men are indeed cool, stylish, and desirable as well.” For the designers, “The project is our way of defying that convention and speaking directly to the Asian-male representation of today, which is still limited, tokenized and occasionally caricatured.”

Photo: Katsu Naito, courtesy of Commission

The intimate, nostalgic quality of the photos is similar to Naito’s previous portrait series “Once in Harlem,” shot in the late ’80s and ’90s which documented everyday life for the neighbors he’d grown accustomed to seeing everyday while living in Harlem, a mixture of families, men and women of all ages, and kids who played along the familiar streets he walked everyday. “I would love the viewers to feel the emotional quality that each subject brings [here] beyond fashion,” Naito remarks. As Rider notes, “It’s always been a challenge in New York, trying to incorporate more Asian male talent in shoots because of the way they have traditionally been scouted—which is to say with Western-friendly physicalities and features—so it was really important for us to try and feature a different kind of character, more sensitive, more intellectual, more akin to who we grew up around.”

The charitable initiative hits close to home for Commission’s own founders. “Education was essentially the reason why all three of us came to America,” the designers say. Luong and Cao are from Vietnam, and Kay from Korea. “As first-generation immigrants, we know first hand how tough it can get to live and navigate the city while having to deal with complications in legal protection and immigration….Apex for Youth and AALDEF provide just the right support for that.”

Special edition prints ($100) and softcover printed books ($40) of the portrait series will be available for purchase on Commission.nyc.

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