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May 27, 2017

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Fashion grads from Asia have their New York moment

WASHINGTON--There's nothing glamorous about ironing your own collection before a show at New York fashion week, but if that's what it takes for Jie Jessie Liu to break into the business, she'll do it.

Liu was among nine jury-selected master's degree graduates — all women — from San Francisco's Academy of Art University fashion school whose creations Friday got the kind of runway exposure usually reserved for top designers.

Five of the newly minted designers hailed from Asia, underscoring the region's rise as a fashion power, and Friday's well-attended show was a prized opportunity to be spotted by international buyers, talent scouts and journalists.

"This is a way for them to be seen across the globe," said university spokeswoman Edith Mead Barker.

Backstage at Lincoln Center, ground zero for the ongoing spring-summer 2013 collections, 32-year-old Liu reflected on her long and winding journey from her seaside hometown of Penglai, in China's eastern Shandong province, to New York.

"I was just like most women when I was young. I loved to dress Barbie dolls," she told AFP during a break from steaming out the creases of the silk outfits she created with Belgrade-born textile design classmate Tanja Milutinovic.

"When I was grown up I was still obsessed by fashion ... and after I worked as an accountant for three years (in Toronto, Canada, where she got a first degree in accounting), I just realized that I would enjoy doing it every day."

The eight distinctly modern looks Liu sent out Friday, with their sharp lines and angular silhouettes, drew inspiration from London-based sculptor Anish Kapoor and Beijing's "bird's nest" Olympic stadium, she said.

Liu's ambition? Her own label, like those now firmly established by pioneering young designers of Asian origin like Alexander Wang and Jason Wu, with a firm hand on every aspect from initial design to final distribution.

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