37 AAPI-Owned Fashion Brands to Fall in Love With
The pandemic has been a source of pain and hardship over the past year for many, but especially the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Among other life-altering realizations, COVID-19 has shed light on just how prevalent deep-rooted anti-Asian sentiments really are. The wave of violent and extreme racism targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — specifically the elderly, women, and those working in survival jobs — has galvanized the community to take action, promote awareness, and demand lasting change.
But there's only so much protesting and rallying can accomplish before it begins to feel dishearteningly redundant. A very actionable step we can take during APIA Heritage Month is to harness the power of consumerism as a form of activism by shopping AAPI-owned businesses. To that end, we compiled a list of our favorite fashion brands, from established designers to contemporary up-and-comers, that you can amplify, share, and, most importantly, shop, both this month and year-round.
The brand: The designer behind the fleece phenom has established herself and her namesake brand as the ultimate purveyor of cool-girl street style, with sweet detailing on masculine silhouettes and imaginative takes on nostalgic pieces, like this gingham dress.
The brand: Whimsical flourishes and dreamy silhouettes are just some of the fantastical elements that make up Olivia Cheng's stunning accessories and ready-to-wear brand. Some favorites: fresh flowers — captured and preserved in resin — as earrings, botanical-inspired puff-sleeve tops, and the cutest bracelet bags ever.
Where to shop: Online at Dauphinette
The brand: A buzzy and affordable handbag brand founded by husband-and-wife duo Yang Pei and Steph Li that revolves around sustainability (vegan leather construction and fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles) and a fashion-forward aesthetic (sculptural shapes and eye-catching colors).
Where to shop: Online at JW Pei
The brand: Founded by Misa Miyagawa, Botanica Workshop is a line of beautifully made organic and sustainable intimates and loungewear, striking a delicate balance between thoughtful design and functionality.
Where to shop: Online at Botanica Workshop
The brand: Christina Tung founded SVNR (pronounced like "souvenir") with the goal of uniting ethics with aesthetics by using upcycled and natural materials for hand-dyed slip dresses and one-of-a-kind jewelry, done via a made-to-order business model.
Where to shop: Online at SVNR
The brand: A made-in-NYC womenswear brand founded by Allina Liu that's brimming with soft and romantic designs tinged with the coolest hint of subversion: plunging eyelet tops, open-back dresses, and transparent fabrics.
Where to shop: Online at Allina Liu
Par en Par
The brand: Even though Par en Par, founded by Laura Choi, is billed as a resort-wear brand, its easy, relaxed designs — all handcrafted from organic cotton fabrics by weavers in India — are so versatile, they can be worn year-round.
Where to shop: Online at Par en Par
The brand: A fine-jewelry brand designed by Wing Yau with a fresh, modern take on heirloom pieces. Each and every one of WWAKE's unique shapes and unexpected stones is a reflection of its sustainable practices (fair trade, recycled and responsibly sourced materials, and a transparent supply chain).
The brand: Founded by Jennie Yoon, Kinn offers priceless heirlooms (think: signet rings, hoops, lockets, and herringbone chains) made from responsibly sourced solid 14k gold at a reasonable price point. Bonus: Kinn recently donated 10 percent of its proceeds to AAPI Women Lead and Stop AAPI Hate.
Where to shop: Online at Kinn
The brand: A modern and minimalist contemporary label by Angela Gahng that delivers quiet sophistication, skilled craftsmanship, and classic design details in the form of easy pullovers, polo knits, and tank dresses in neutral shades of ivory, oatmeal, and slate.
Where to shop: Online at Almina Concept
The brand: An inclusive, gender-neutral fashion brand founded by designers Siying Qu and Haoran Li that's all about disrupting streetwear as we know it, with oversize silhouettes, compelling graphics, and unexpected fabrication.
Where to shop: Online at Private Policy
The brand: A contemporary New York-based streetwear brand founded by Daisy Wang that fuses traditional Chinese aesthetics, like chinoiserie apparel, with Western tailoring techniques.
Where to shop: Online at Dawang
The brand: A boutique New York-based smokewear brand by Dae Lim that revolves around cannabis culture, featuring colorful sweats and irreverent graphics.
Where to shop: Online at Sundae School
The brand: With a youthful-meets-refined approach built on razor-sharp tailoring, architectural construction, and innovative silhouettes, Peter Do remains one of the buzziest names in fashion ever since he debuted his luxury namesake line back in 2018.
The brand: Founded by Kara Jubin, KkCo (the second k is silent!) is a study in contrasts, featuring voluminous sheer dresses, utility vests, and tie-dye sweats that are manufactured locally in Los Angeles.
Where to shop: Online at KkCo
The brand: Inspired by travel, bold colors, and her own heritage, South Asian-American designer Sheena Sood launched Abacaxi (that's Portuguese for "pineapple") to marry her love of adventure with her knowledge of indigenous textiles. The result? Vibrant, inclusive pieces that boast traditional Indian techniques.
Where to shop: Online at Abacaxi
The brand: A New York-based, Spain-crafted sustainable luxury handbag brand founded by Yuanwen Sabrina Zeng that's recognized by its signature pleating technique, which nods to the designer's Asian background. Sabrina Zeng also works with Maison 10, which donates 10 percent of all sales to select charities, and Women for Women, so with every bag purchased, the brand sponsors a sister in need.
Where to shop: Online at Sabrina Zeng
The brand: A bag line designed in New York City's Chinatown by Sandy Ley that draws inspiration from strong women through durable, tough fabrics that are juxtaposed against cheery colorways and playful embroidery.
Where to shop: Online at XO GOGO and MOCA store
3.1 Phillip Lim
The brand: A fixture in the American fashion landscape, Phillip Lim has demonstrated his prowess at outfitting women in clothes they want to wear: contemporary, cool, and chic. Not only has he launched a more accessible, super-wearable line with Live Free, but he also partnered with Ruba Abu-Nimah during the pandemic to release an NY Tougher Than Ever initiative to boost New York morale, with 100 percent of the net proceeds going toward #StopAsianHate.
Where to shop: Online at 3.1 Phillip Lim and in stores
The brand: Designer Thakoon Panichgul relaunched his brand in 2019, pivoting from a luxury label to a pared-back direct-to-consumer model focused on functional, well-designed wardrobe essentials, like relaxed sweats, maxi dresses, and button-downs.
Where to shop: Online at Thakoon
The brand: The Nepalese-American fashion designer made his reputation on continuously redefining modern luxury with breathtaking creations, but in recent years, he's used his platform — and immense following — to effect change with activist fashion: inclusive casting, political statements, and being vocal about causes he holds close to his heart.
Where to shop: Online at Prabal Gurung
The brand: Named as one of the top five fashion icons of the decade by Time magazine, Anna Sui is a trailblazer, to say the least. Every season, she puts forth a ready-to-wear collection that's bursting with creativity, whimsy, and riffs on vintage designs. We can't get enough.
Where to shop: Online at Anna Sui
The brand: A household name, Vera Wang has built an empire on designing iconic wedding dresses; romantic, ready-to-wear designs with an edgy, downtown-cool streak; fragrances; jewelry; and more.
Where to shop: Online at Vera Wang
Derek Lam 10 Crosby
The brand: In 2019, designer Derek Lam folded his ready-to-wear collection to focus his efforts on his contemporary line: Derek Lam 10 Crosby, a brand that embraces relaxed silhouettes with modern cuts and design integrity.
Where to shop: Online at Derek Lam 10 Crosby
The brand: Founded by Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia (who are also the creative directors at Oscar de la Renta), Monse is a New York-based luxury label that specializes in an effortlessly cool, deconstructed perspective (think: slashed silhouettes and cascade hems) on menswear and classic tailoring.
The brand: Founded by Clare Ngai, this brand supplies an abundance of joy through its nostalgic, Y2K-inspired, kitschy jewelry, like over-the-top acrylic resin rings, freshwater-pearl bracelets punctuated by smiley-face charms, and delicate gold charms, from gummy bears to cherries. What's more, the brand makes a monthly donation to AAPI charities, including Send Chinatown Love, Stop AAPI Hate, Heart of Dinner, and AALDEF.
Where to shop: Online at BonbonWhims
Made in Chinatown
The brand: A line of Chinatown merch founded by Jennifer Tam and Vic Lee that was specifically created to provide COVID relief to struggling businesses and restaurants in New York's Chinatown, including Jing Fong, Big Wong, and Wing on Wo & Co. All proceeds go back to the businesses.
Where to shop: Online at Made in Chinatown
Pearl River Mart
The brand: Pearl River Mart, the oldest and most historical retailer in New York's Chinatown, launched a Chinatown Collection, a line of merchandise to help support beloved locales in Chinatown, including 88 Lan Zhou, Vanessa's Dumpling House, and Nom Wah Tea Parlor.
Where to shop: Online at Pearl River Mart
The brand: Founded by brothers Tim and Dan Joo, Haerfest offers sleek bags (totes, backpacks, and satchels) and has since expanded its range to include tees, sweatshirts, and hats embroidered with the words "Nothing Changes If Nothing Changes," with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting Stop AAPI Hate.
Where to shop: Online at Haerfest
The brand: Handmade in small batches (to avoid excess), Notte jewelry is rooted in whatever makes designer Jessica Tse happy: daisy pearl necklaces, a jumbo-sized pink shell pendant, starry chunky hoops, and teardrop danglers. Notte makes ongoing donations to the Food Bank For New York City, Heart of Dinner, and Black Girls Smile.
Where to shop: Online at Notte
The brand: A fine-jewelry brand that centers on jade — a stone that designer Crystal Ung grew up wearing — as part of its mission to keep East Asian traditions alive, with modern yet sentimental, responsibly sourced designs intended "to connect us to the past, present, and future." Ten percent of sales will be donated to Apex For Youth and Asian Youth Center.
Where to shop: Online at Ren
The brand: Joseph Altuzarra has mastered the art of seduction, sartorially speaking, with curve-hugging silhouettes, signature thigh-high slits, and unapologetically feminine details that make up a luxury brand that's both sexy and refined (and a favorite among celebrities).
The brand: Founded by Ophelia Chen and Abi Lierheimer, Bobblehaus is a genderless fashion brand that blends fashion and utility with designs crafted from sustainable fabrics. A "Stop Asian Hate" T-shirt will be available for preorder starting April 15, with proceeds benefiting UA3, an Asian American-founded nonprofit organization and the first food bank to open in New York's Chinatown.
Where to shop: Online at Bobblehaus
The brand: Ashley Mariko Johnson founded Mohala Eyewear to create inclusive frames fit for a variety of face shapes, nose bridges, and cheekbones. The result: Trendy shades crafted from hypoallergenic, premium acetate with scratch-resistant lenses. Plus, the company works with Room to Read, so every purchase sends a girl to school.
Where to shop: Online at Mohala Eyewear
The brand: A hair accessories brand based in NYC, Soieli (pronounced "swah-lee") was founded by entrepreneur and first-generation Asian American Sonali Karmarkar, who hoped to create sleek and functional hand-painted silk designs reminiscent of artwork by her great-grandfather, renowned artist and sculptor V.P. Karmarkar. For a limited time, Soieli is donating a portion of sales to GiveIndia to help India fight the second wave of COVID-19.
Where to shop: Online at Soieli