Editorial Note: This post was originally published at an earlier date. Since our support for AAPI-owned brands is a forever kind of thing, we thought we’d update any sold-out products to make it easy to shop the latest and greatest from some of our favorite designers.
Fashion editors are acutely aware that everyone’s relationship to clothing is personal. While some love to adopt the season’s upcoming trends, others love to invest in streamlined capsule wardrobes. No matter your approach, everyone can benefit from being more conscious about how their shopping habits impact the community around them. Clothing not only affects the environment (all the more reason to shop upcycled brands), but shopping more consciously can also be a way to demonstrate support for communities and causes that matter. Right now, nothing feels more important than addressing the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. Xenophobia is nothing new, but it’s our moral imperative to react in a time of mass, unprovoked violence against these communities across America. We need to donate to organizations combating racism and educate ourselves about the issues and full spectrum of nationalities, religions, ethnicities, and cultures within the entire Asian diaspora. That work is a lifelong journey—we know it’s not easy—but a simple way we can show up is by directing our purchasing power toward areas where we want to see change. Shopping won’t solve the world’s problems, but being a conscious consumer is one way to contribute to the greater good. Ahead, you’ll find 30 of the coolest fashion brands founded by designers of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage. These aren’t just basic tees. They’re infusing history, craftsmanship, and their unique perspectives to create some of the dopest pieces you’ve ever seen.
Designer Pattaraphan Salirathavibhaga grew up in Thailand and studied jewelry design at the Pratt Institute in New York City. The result of this global force? A line of handcrafted fine jewelry that reflects the best of both worlds.
Only a few designers can create the type of immaculate pieces that will stop an editor mid-scroll. Peter Do is one of them. Of course, you’d be hard-pressed to find a piece that wasn’t stunning, because he won the 2014 LVMH Graduate Prize and has atelier experience at Celine and Derek Lam. Basically, the Vietnamese American designer has been out here, and his namesake label (founded in 2018) is further proof of his talent.
The most interesting fashion brands can meld the world’s major cities into one singular style aesthetic. Rising brand Danz does just that. The brand was founded by Chinese designer Danica Zheng. She studied at Central Saint Martins in London and launched her brand in 2020. Made in New York City, the pieces are inspired by traditional Chinese qipao dresses but reinterpreted with lace, corsets, and ruched fabrics to create clothing that reflects the designer’s multifaceted identity. The pieces, however, can be worn and appreciated by anyone.
If you live for a risqué fashion trend or are already planning a weekend of going-out looks, then make sure Nana Jacqueline is on your radar. Founded by two Chinese American women, the ready-to-wear brand is designed in Los Angeles and ranges from fun going-out dresses to swimwear. Its pieces are all you need to reemerge into the world.
Searching for a sustainable swimwear brand? Look no further than the Korean American brand Momma. Founded by Jackie Robinson, the collection specializes in transitional, size-inclusive swimwear made from recycled nylon, fishing nets, and nontoxic clothing dyes. For each purchase, Momma also plants a tree in a U.S. national forest through its partnership with One Tree Planted and the United States Forest Service.
You’ve definitely seen one of JW Pei’s iconic bags before, either IRL or on Instagram. But did you know that the brand was founded by the married couple Yang Pei and Stephanie Li? Their affordable vegan handbags are a lesson in alchemy in every sense. With products made from recycled plastic bottles, Pei and Li take inspiration from both Hong Kong and Los Angeles to create these functional works of art. Who would have thought our bicoastal dreams could be achieved with a little baguette?
Founded by Indian American designer Sheena Sood, Abacaxi produces small-batch collections in New Dehli and New York, emphasizing the usage of upcycled fabrics, natural materials, and handcrafting techniques to create truly one-of-a-kind pieces.
When shopping for swimwear, we tend to prioritize style and fit. But what about a bathing suit that’s actually good for the ocean? For Indian designer Vivek Agarwal, that’s what compelled him to create the sustainable swimwear brand Ookioh. Based in Los Angles and New Dehli, the brand uses 100% regenerated materials for every swimsuit and creates colorful, fun pieces that can stand the test of time.
Pair with the matching Monaco Bottom ($50).
Rarely does a contemporary streetwear brand take inspiration from decades past, but then again, most brands aren’t Rastah. Founded by Pakistani American cousins Zain, Adnan, and Ismail Ahmad, the gender-neutral streetwear label is revitalizing and revolutionizing what South Asian heritage and craftsmanship look like within the fashion industry. Partnering with artisans in Pakistan, the brand creates small-batch collections that meld the contemporary with the traditional to make the most unique pieces you’ve ever seen—no cap.
Have you ever spent months searching for the perfect bag? This struggle compelled Asian American founders and best friends Claudia Lin and Jaquelyn Wang to start Apede Mod in 2016. Based in New York City, the brand specializes in creating handbags inspired by vintage pieces, architecture, and modern culture. Basically, they’re creating art you can carry.
What happens when a former accessory trend director starts her own jewelry brand? You get Notte. Jessica Tse, the brand’s Chinese American founder, creates fun pieces that nod to her heritage (hello, Baby Bok Choi charms) but can be worn by collectors everywhere.
If you’ve been contemplating what exactly to wear back to the office, then you’ll want to consider browsing through Social-Work’s latest collection. Born in Italy and raised in Shanghai, designer Chenghui Zhang founded the NYC-based brand in 2018, merging contemporary design elements with androgyny and functionality. The result? The perfect reemergence pieces for an office-ready wardrobe.
Y2K-inspired jewelry is a spring trend we’ve seen bubbling up for quite some time, but no other brand has been championing that design aesthetic quite like BonBonWhims. What started as a passion project for Clare Ngai to raise money for organizations such as GirlTrek, Send Chinatown Love, and Stop AAPI Hate during the pandemic has since become a sensation. Her fun, funky jewelry has been spotted on the likes of Ariana Grande and Sofia Richie, making it a brand to watch and wear on repeat.
Long before brands were embracing risqué cutouts or advocating for curvier representation, Kim Shui was doing her thing. Born in the United States, Shui grew up in Rome and later attended Duke University. She had no intention of going into fashion, yet she built a brand with a cult following. Founded in 2016, her namesake label is sultry, mixing traditional Eastern fabrics with cutouts and high hemlines on every type of body. Shui’s work embodies what it means to embrace being a Hot Girl: It’s an attitude, an ability to make bold fashion choices, and the confidence to pull them off.
The next wave of Asian American fashion designers isn’t coming to play. Case in point: Bobblehaus. Founded in New York City by Ophelia Chen and Abi Lierheimer, the brand is known for its eccentric, genderless, and sustainable pieces. Bobblehaus not only sources 100% of its fabric from deadstock cotton and Tencel fibers, but each unique piece also challenges our preconceived notions around gender, ethnicity, and fashion itself.
The fashion-forward reader has most likely heard of and pined over Sandy Liang. Founded by the Queens-born Liang in 2014, the label made waves with its debut collection inspired by and featuring her grandmother (long before the grandma aesthetic or the call to action to protect our elders was a thing). Liang has been out here leading us into the future of fashion, and we can’t be mad about it.
Luxury labels have not always been focused on sustainability, which is what motivated Korea-born designer Ashlynn Park to challenge the status quo. Before founding her brand, she worked under the helm of Yohji Yamamoto. She then moved to New York and worked with Alexander Wang, going on to become the creative director at Calvin Klein. While Park is seasoned with experience, her approach to design—including her commitment to sustainability and how she melds Eastern and Western clothing techniques into each piece—is a breath of fresh air.
Anyone who identifies as queer, Asian American, Black, Latinx, or Native American can tell you that there’s so much more to us than our identities. For designer Sarah Law, that space beyond the mold led her to create her accessories label, Kara. Born in Los Angeles and raised in Hong Kong, the designer has layered experience that makes her brand so interesting. Sure, the bags and accessories are quirky, but the artist not limiting herself to one aesthetic, one label, or one story? Well, that’s when things get really stylish.
For most fashion brands, designing is just about creating a beautiful collection. For Private Policy, it’s about telling a story. Founded by Haoran Li and Siying Qu in 2015, each collection is not only sustainable and size-inclusive but also explores a larger social issue. For example, the brand’s F/W 21 collection explores the fraught history of the Chinese transcontinental railroad workers and how that relates to the rise in xenophobia and racism against Asian immigrants today. While one may not correlate history with fashion, Li and Qu’s ability to use clothing to weave together how it all relates makes each piece pure poetry.
While fashion is generally fun, historically speaking, it’s also culpable in holding up ideas around gender norms and binaries. But Asian American founders Shaobo Han and Henry Bae have no interest in perpetuating that standard, hence the founding of their brand Syro. Based out of New York City, the shoe brand is nonbinary and aims to create stylish heels that anyone can wear—so long as they know how to walk in them, of course.
Founded in 2014 by Wei Lin with creative director Zoe Champion at the helm, New York–based brand PH5 is pushing the boundaries of knitwear by pairing whimsical designs with cutting-edge knitting techniques. If you thought there was nothing else you could do to make a knitwear set or a cardigan more appealing, think again, honey, because PH5 is doing it.
Shop the matching Blue & Black Eco Salem Tie-Dye Wavy Skirt ($265).
There are very few handbag brands that feel as if they could be worn by women in every major city worldwide— that’s not the case with Boyy. Founded in New York City in 2006 by married duo Wannasiri Kongman and Jesse Dorsey, this luxury handbag label has been making waves in the fashion world for its minimalist yet stunning bags. The brand draws inspiration from Manhattan and Hong Kong, and the bags are handcrafted in Italy, making each handbag feel otherworldly.
Spotting a beautifully designed piece of clothing out there in the world can feel magical, and Claudia Li creates those types of moments. Raised in New Zealand, Li studied at Central Saint Martins in London, honing her craft at Parsons School of Design in New York City. If that’s not impressive enough, before launching her label, she interned with stylist Brandon Maxwell at Haus of Gaga and became a womenswear designer at JW Anderson. But all of her experiences are only a fraction of what makes this designer interesting. Truly, it is her ability to create incredible pieces that can make us dream of dressing up again.
Have you ever been captivated by an old photograph? That’s where the design trio behind Commission finds inspiration. Founded in 2019 by Jin Kay, Dylan Cao, and Huy Luong, the womenswear label was inspired by East Asian women (including their own mothers) entering the workforce in the ’80s and ’90s. Reimaging workwear for the modern woman is nothing new, but the trio’s approach to creating classic yet quirky pieces has caught the eyes of many, myself included.
Anyone steeped in fashion history knows that Laura Kim has impacted the industry in more ways than one. She and Fernando Garcia are the creative directors behind Oscar de la Renta, and with their label Monse, Kim and Garcia have been laying the blueprint for the next generation. Monse has been around since 2015 and continues to be a favorite among editors for its designers’ ability to rework, reimagine, and deconstruct classic pieces and turn them into something completely new. It may not be the new kid on the block, but Monse is never dull.
Mark my words: Kk Co. is one to watch. The first time I spotted the brand, I was awestruck. It gives off “Ganni meets Marine Serre” vibes, with a sprinkle of nonchalant Cali-girl energy. With colorful bucket hats, detachable collars, and metallic dresses that all happen to be sustainably made, it’s hard not to love this label. Asian American designer Kara Jubin is on the rise.
When it comes to creating clothing that honors the Asian diaspora, designing should go beyond just thinking about hemlines and should consider the human impact. Over 32% of all of the world’s clothing is exported from Asia. It’s this realization that compelled Shivam Punjya to create Behno. Based out of New York, the handbag label aims to change the Indian garment industry through partnering with non-profits to ensure better working conditions and help protect the environment. Behno is quite literally changing the way we relate to fashion, and we’re not mad about it.
A love for travel is embedded into the fabric of the fashion brand Toit Volant. Founded in 2017 by designer Alnea Farahbella and her husband Arno Farahbella, the brand melds their multicultural identities into a vibrant, sustainable ready-to-wear collection. Drawing inspiration from Alnea’s Filipino grandparents, who raised her across Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam, and Arno’s French roots, no source of inspiration is off-limits, leading to the type of dreamy clothes that make you want to plan a trip, stat.
What happens when a fashion publicist turns her love for jewelry into a side hustle? You get the sustainable label Svnr. At the helm of her New York City–based PR showroom House Of, Christina Tung decided to explore making jewelry. That curiosity has led to a line of upcycled jewelry pieces inspired by her Chinese American background and love for travel. Tung’s pieces have become beloved among the fashion community, and her continuous commitment to dedicating a portion of her proceeds to Send Chinatown Love and Stop AAPI Hate is a prime example of how to show up and out for the community.
You’ve made it to the end of this story, so you’re now well aware of the fact that there are so many amazing fashion designers out there in the world and that there are so many who are forging a path to redefine how we view the AAPI community through fashion. However, it’s not a complete tribute to my favorite trailblazers without mentioning Prabal Gurung. The Nepalese fashion designer is never afraid to use fashion to speak up for what’s right—think back to his decade anniversary S/S 20 show, where he posed the question, Who gets to be American? More than ever, that question is relevant as we grapple with xenophobia, racism, and outright violence. We have to ask ourselves what the American dream really is and who is, historically and presently, cut out from it. Answers and solutions won’t be found overnight, but by way of expanding our worldview (and wardrobes), we can begin to weave together something brand-new.
Next: If You Know, You Know: These Emerging Asian-Designed Brands Are Redefining Cool