Denise Cruz

Scholar of gender & sexuality in 
national and transnational cultures

Developing Projects

Made in the Philippines: Global Fashion and the New Silk Road

The late twentieth century saw tremendous shifts in global fashion, but this boom is often associated with the movement away from custom-made clothing to mass production, the development of ready-to-wear, and the rivalry among the fashion centers of Paris, New York, London, and Tokyo. Rerouting this map, I recover the rich history of Manila’s thriving couture world from the 1940s to the present. While Parisians and New Yorkers hotly debated Christian Dior’s 1947 “New Look” in women’s silhouettes, Manila’s elite women and their designers completely reconfigured the nation’s relationship to dress. Fashion transformed from being inspired by individual choices made by prominent women and their in-house dressmakers to a new process outsourced to designers.

The history of fashion in Manila is connected to a more recent interest in couture in Asia and the Middle East. Contact between the East and West has long been symbolized by the silk road, the routes of trade and cultural exchange that once bridged these regions. But in the last two decades, economic growth and post 9/11 politics have led to new collaborations that sidestep the U.S. and Europe. Alongside partnerships grounded in oil or technology, governments in the Philippines, China, and the UAE have explicitly highlighted couture as an area in which they might surpass the global North. Countering the popular representation of the Philippines and its citizens as caregivers or laborers who cater to global North desires and needs, this book reveals Manila’s importance to the past and present story of fashion’s intersection with the national and the global.

The Regional Forms of Asian America

This project rethinks Asian North American literature, cultural production, and history through a critical employment of the region as geographical space, as community, as disciplinary formation, and—most importantly—as a literary and aesthetic practice. The book builds upon recent work in Asian American studies that departs from a dominant focus on cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. I recover a regional archive that centers instead on the Southwestern landscapes of New Mexico; the deserts of Utah and the plains of the Midwest; and the rural communities of Alberta and North Carolina. The Regional Forms contends that these texts offer a new epistemology of race and region that compels us to reexamine the primacy of the national— manifested in either the nation-state’s imperial or domestic violence, or in the rubrics of ethnic cultural nationalism—in our understanding of the creation of politicized identities and communities. The term “regional forms” extends scholarship that explores the fraught relationship between varied practices of regionalisms and their representation of particular locations in the United States and Canada as sites for cultural productions of race and ethnicity. The book thus meditates on questions that connect region, nation, race, and place. How is the regional essential to Asian America? How might we think about Asian America differently if we were to consider the transregional along with the transnational?

Photo courtesy of the Lopez Museum and Library.