The fashion community? Small but mighty. The food community? Large and widespread. Together, the reach is beyond compare. At least, that’s what Wen Zhou, CEO of Phillip Lim, thinks. On Wednesday afternoon in Manhattan, Zhou put this hypothesis to the test with her latest fundraising project, Taste of Asia. Alongside designer Lim, restaurateur Simon Kim, investor Michael Chung, and his partner Hajin Lee, the chief executive brought together a group of power Asian Americans exemplifying the crossover between fashion and food.
In the midst of New York City rush hour, hoards of people—many of them hungry and salivating, but stylish nonetheless—made their way into the lush gardens of Madison Square Park. There, their ravenous appetites were met with forty booths of New York’s best Asian restaurants curated by Kim, who owns the Michelin-starred COTE Korean Steakhouse.
“I wanted to make sure we represented Asian cuisine in a robust way,” Kim told W. “This meant making it diverse. Here, we have Korean restaurants, Japanese, Indian, and Southeast Asian. Mom and pop shops here, more high-end restaurants there. I wanted it to be truthful and accurate.”
Attendees in fashion-forward pinstriped suits indulged in the Thai delicacies offered at Fish Cheeks. Women in finance donning Midtown uniforms finished their work days with the Vietnamese flavors at Saigon Social’s booth. The line for GUPSHOP was endless, with attendees of all sorts eager to try the punchy Indian dishes. All the while, people enjoyed the refreshing pineapple cocktails crafted by D’USSE cognac. “My favorite is the lobster rolls at Essex Market,” Leilah Diong, an enthusiastic attendee clad in a vibrant Toccin knit dress, told W. “It is so much fun talking to the different restaurants and seeing the diversity in the food. I also loved how plenty of them had a modern-day twist on classic Asian dishes.”
But the event, Zhou explained, was centered around building community. “During the rising crimes of hate against our Asian American community, Simon called me and said: ‘We have to do something,’” she explained. The event raised $1.4 million, whose proceeds will go to three organizations: Apex for Youth, an organization that benefits the Asian American and immigrant Asian American youth; City Harvest, which reallocates food to those in need; and the Madison Square Park Conservancy.
“Listen, you do fashion. A lot of our circles do fashion. Our circles feel narrow, but our network is so wide,” Zhou continued. “Simon and I come from different industries, but we share this mutual love for the community.”
“Food is glue,” Kim added. “And just like food, fashion is such a large part of our lives.”
Said glue brought together Asian cultural luminaries to enjoy the evening: Jamie Chung and Eva Chen among them. The emerging designer Andrew Kwon summed up the sentiments of the evening best. “A lot of the people here are Asian Americans who I grew up seeing on the screen or watching at the CFDA awards,” he said. “And, I’m here, at the same event as they are, enjoying the same things, and a part of the same community.”