Asian Fit And Anti-Asian Bias – A Discussion With Alexandra Peng

Alexandra Peng - Daniel Feldman
Alexandra Peng and Daniel Feldman in Optical Journal masks

I got the pleasure and opportunity to sit down with TC-Charton founder and CEO, Alexandra Peng recently to talk about eyewear. The conversation moved to a discussion regarding the term Asian-Fit and even more specifically, some of the anti-Asian sentiments occurring across the United States recently. Anti-Asian hate crimes have increased 150% in the U.S. and 96% in the U.K. over the past year. Anti-Asian attacks have been reported from Australia to Singapore. Since the tragic March 16th Atlanta slaying of 8 people, including 6 women of Asian descent, there have numerous attacks against persons of Asian descent in the U.S. including an attack that left a man in critical condition in N.Y.C.

My discussion with Alexandra took place earlier in March. I did reach back out for comment after the March 16th shootings and that question and reply was included towards the end of this piece.

 

Daniel
Alexandra. I recently saw a petition on change.org asking eyewear companies to stop using the term “Asian Fit” as a description for eyewear. As a pioneer in Asian Fit eyewear, I wanted to speak with you about this. According to the author of this petition, the language used as a descriptor for Asian fit. Is “harmful and perpetuates divisiveness”.

Alexandra 
This has been an ongoing discussion. I personally do not believe in other descriptions such as Global Fit or Universal Fit, as they imply the fitting could work for EVERYBODY, which is simply impossible. Alternative Fit is also troublesome as I do not think of myself as an alternative to anything. How is recognizing one’s uniqueness “harmful” or “divisive”? Unless one feels bad for being Asian, I simply fail to see it as a negative term. Making ourselves invisible will never make racism go away. On the contrary, one should celebrate what makes us different.

Daniel
We’ve certainly seen a ton of racism aimed at Asians during the Coronavirus pandemic. Is the author of this petition on to something? Would you mind going back and retelling the story about how you started TC Charton?

Alexandra
I started TC CHARTON back in 2009 when I finally realized there simply wasn’t any product on the market that could fit myself and those who look like me. it’s no secret that the optical industry, just like the rest of the fashion industry, is very Eurocentric. The difference between my features and those of European descent goes beyond my bridge, therefore the author of this petition call for “Low Bridge Fit” is due to the fact that she fails to recognize the importance of addressing fitting other facial characteristics.

Daniel
So, at the time, no one at least in the US or Europe was making eyewear that fit Asian facial features? Let’s see… there are 1.4 billion people in China. 130 million in Japan. 108 million in the Philippines. 52 million in Korea.  There are 15 million Americans of Asian descent. Seems that would be a pretty big market to make eyewear for. I know as someone of Jewish heritage I wouldn’t be all that pleased to see glasses claiming to be for Jewish noses. How is Asian Fit different?

Alexandra
Asians compile a quarter of the world’s population, and we have around 20 million Asians/Pacific Islanders in this country alone. The fact that the optical industry, one that produces ophthalmic frames as medical devices failed to recognize the needs of this important segment of the demographic is a much bigger topic that one could write a dissertation on it! I can’t speak for those of Jewish heritage, but I would argue that most of the Jewish community in the U.S. are also of European descent, and aren’t that different than a Caucasian with Christian or Catholic beliefs. We, the Asians, on the other hand, do have unarguably much different facial characteristics. Glasses that fit you simply won’t fit me.

Daniel
The author of the petition wants to change the name from “Asian Fit” to something like “Low Bridge”. Would that work?

Alexandra
The difference between my features and those of European descent goes beyond my bridge, therefore the author of this petition call for “Low Bridge Fit” is due to the fact that she fails to recognize the importance of addressing fitting other facial characteristics.

Daniel
Since you started TC-Charton 11 plus years ago, a number of other companies have come out with Asian fit eyewear. There is an old saying the imitation is the sincerest form of flattery….right? TC Charton makes all sorts of eyewear today, right?

Alexandra
TC CHARTON has actually outgrown its original self of only offering Asian Fit styles, hence our tag line is Made to Fit. For the last five years, I have been creating different styles for capsules within the collection. Now we have styles that could fit just different facial features or optic needs.

Daniel
How are you dealing with the rise in Anti-Asian sentiments and even recent violence in the U.S.?

Alexandra
I believe Asian voices should be raised and speak louder than ever. Cancel culture and silence will never get us the respect and equality we deserve. It’s unfortunate that we, as a race, are being targeted and being blamed for the pandemic. Considering the large percentage of ODs are Asians and up to 50% of Optometry schools’ students are of Asian descent, the optical industry could do something as an important sector of the society, should have a clear stance on all these hate crimes against Asians.

Daniel
Before we go, I would be totally remiss if I didn’t ask what’s new with the TC Charton line for 2021?

Alexandra
For 2021, I launched 3 new styles for our “Wide and Low” capsule and a couple more models for those with very small PD and yet very large head sizes. The goal is to have a collection that will help the opticians to fit different patients/ unique optical needs.

TC Charton Giselle
TC Charton Giselle

See the entire TC Charton line of eyewear on their website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TC Charton Giselle - The Optical Journal