May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In light of recent and the ongoing increase of anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination, shopping might seem like a frivolous step toward safety for our AAPI neighbors and loved ones. Before supporting brands, take time to educate yourself, donate to organizations like Asian Arts Initiative, The Asian American Advocacy Fund, or The Asian American Foundation. You can spread awareness, amplify AAPI voices, and report instances of racism online and in your community. You can also use your spending power to support the work of AAPI-owned brands—not only this May, but always. Here are 13 of our favorite AAPI-owned labels in the fashion space.
Sustainability has never felt so cozy. Meet Lezé the Label, founded in 2018 by Karen and Tanya who asked the question, "What if we could create workwear that was recycled, comfortable, and looked presentable?" The resulting collection of pieces highlights the best of WFH dressing—polished sweatshirts with thoughtful detailing and T-shirt dresses for all the in between occasions. Sizes range from XS-3XL. Recycled materials range from fishing nets to coffee.
Based in NYC, Imago-A offers the kind of minimalist wardrobe cornerstones you can build an entire season of outfits around. Designer Yegang Yoo creates each style by sculpting the shape from scratch, evident in the structural brilliance of pieces ranging from crossbody bags to sleek pouches. Unexpected silhouettes in charming color choices make Imago-A the perfect place to shop for your next investment bag.
Hailing from Inner Mongolia, home of 70% of the world's cashmere, State Cashmere founder Hao Ron is taking the luxurious fabric back to its roots. With a focus on sustainability, State Cashmere is committed to transparency and quality, with the brand's products being both cruelty free and fair trade.
"It was either too expensive or the quality/design just wasn't there." This was the problem Almina Concept founder, Angela Gahng, faced when looking for everyday fashion staples. The Korean-American designer and former LVMH women's merchandiser took things into her own hands with the launch of the LA-based label, offering elevated basics manufactured in Seoul, South Korea. Think knit sets, ribbed pants, and oversized blazers you'll want to live in.
"We created a line of swimwear that makes you feel like you... only waterproof," reads Ookioh's website. The brand's collection of extraordinarily wearable suits in patterns that'll get you jazzed for a beach day is unmatched. Free returns and shipping makes the swimsuit shopping process painless, maybe even enjoyable.
Gatherall has the practical solution to all the backless tops and dresses you've been dying to wear this summer. Born out of the frustration of not being able to find a backless bra that would stay stuck all night, Gatherall is gentle on your skin while offering all-star support. After three years of research and development, the brand's bras come in a variety of tones and sizes.
Named after the Portuguese word for pineapple, Abacaxi infuses a tropical spirit into the fast-paced NYC lifestyle. Designs are recognizably lively and more wearable than you might expect. Sheena, the brand's founder, cites childhood travels back to India as her inspiration. "Those visits gave me a deeper understanding of my roots, exposed me to the richness of South Asian craft and design, sparking an ongoing obsession with travel, textiles, color, and pattern," she says.
Based in LA, JW Pei is the creative endeavor of a husband and wife duo. Most designs are created in sustainable, vegan leather—prioritizing accessibility and interesting design over exclusivity. The bags can be seen on the arms of celebrities, the coolest people you see walking in the city, and all over TikTok.
Born on NYC's Lower East Side, Fried Rice is a brand born from the creative genius of Maya. She describes Fried Rice as inspired by her neighborhood and favorite comfort food—"all mixed up in a good way." All pieces are unisex with an effortless focus on comfort and individuality.
Nisha and Brendan started Sunday Monday in 2017 by working with weavers and block printers in India. Inspired by the manual processes of creating their textiles, as well as the rich design histories of their respective Indian and Japanese heritages, the pair launched Sunday Monday. The result was the chance to bring local makers to a larger market by crafting beautiful, collectible table linens and accessories.
The true embodiment of one of those "if you know, you know" brands, Yan Yan Knits is the HQ of all things cool. Expect original color pairings, reinventions of what you thought was a boring wardrobe staple, and to fall completely in love with world Phyllis and Suzzie have created. Yan Yan's matching sets are their bread and butter.
Pistola is your new favorite brand for the every-impossible hunt for denim. Founded by industry vet, Grace Na, in 2013, every piece from the brand is designed in California. Styles range from ultra distressed to buttoned up enough to pair with a blouse for the office. There's a rise, wash, and finish for whatever kind of denim you gravitate toward, plus at a price that's much more affordable than other brands in the space. Total win-win.
If you're looking for someone to thank or blame for the return of the Y2K-era popcorn fabric, it's Chet Lo. The designer, a former intern at Proenza Schouler and Maison Margiela, has brought the look into the current decade. His celebrity admirers include Dua Lipa, Kylie Jenner, Doja Cat, SZA, Zara Larsson, and more.
"Because Marlon and I are both people of color, we felt it was important to recreate the visual narrative of the preppy American spirit because it had been exclusive for so long," Recreational Habits co-founder, Jackie Skye Muller, told Plano magazine. The brand is inspired by polo, golf, tennis, and everything else you'd see at the country club. The husband and wife duo also make a point to give back, recently teaming up with City Kids Wilderness Project to host their first Recreational Habits Polo Clinic, which provides "an inclusive introduction to the sport of polo."
Find Me Now
In honor AAPI month, Stephanie Callahan and Su Paek, the mother-daughter duo behind Find Me Now, have teamed up with Filipina graphic artist Gica Tam on two colorful mesh pieces inspired by how immigrant roots can shape Asian identities. 50% of the collection's profits will be donated to the WOW Project, a New York City-based organization with a mission to grow, protect, and preserve Chinatown's creative culture through arts and activism.