If you keep up with fashion news, runway shows and the trending styles of #FashionTok, you might already be familiar with our list. But for those who are novice enthusiasts or are just a fan of pretty clothes, these six Asian and Pacific Islander designers and brands are making big waves with their fresh perspectives and innovative creations.
Founded by 2022 LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize semi-finalist Amesh Wijesekera, AMESH is a brand with a distinct understanding of textiles, using vibrant colors and textures to establish itself apart from other labels. Wijesekera heavily emphasizes craftsmanship and sustainability, often working with artisan communities across his home country of Sri Lanka to create handmade pieces and using deadstock fabrics to reduce waste in his manufacturing. His designs and styling often reflect his heritage, childhood and identity, taking inspiration from the natural environment he grew up in.
Kiri Nathan is proving that designer clothes don’t have to be Eurocentric. This Aotearoa New Zealand-based designer embraces Māori practices, like traditional weaving and carving techniques, to create innovative garments that reflect cultural significance while still maintaining contemporary designs. Nathan has used her acclaim in the industry to create collectives and incubators for other Māori designers who are finding their footing in the industry. Not only has she been worn by the likes of Barack Obama, Beyoncé and Auli’i Cravalho, she is also the first Māori designer to open New Zealand Fashion Week in its 20-year history.
Those who like their designer fashion with a sprinkling of fine art will love the work of Sohee Park, the creative mind behind the couture brand Miss Sohee. Specializing in bespoke womenswear, her designs seem just as home on the runway as they are in galleries, often playing with rich textures, intricate embroidery and beading, and silhouettes that pull from various art movements throughout history. Park has rapidly become a favorite among red-carpet celebrities like Gemma Chan, Cardi B, Blackpink, Halle Bailey, Priyanka Chopra and many more.
If you’re a fan of K-Pop, you might have seen the viral backless blazer sported by NCT member JENO during Spring/Summer 2023 New York Fashion Week, or the satin suit worn by NCT’s Johnny during the 2022 Met Gala, both of which were created by acclaimed designer Peter Do. The designer is known to hide his face, but Do’s updated take on classic workwear pieces is recognizable to the most eagle-eyed of fans as his clean tailoring and chic silhouettes provide a wearable designer brand to the everyday corporate professional. In addition to leading his own eponymous label, he became the creative director of fashion house Helmut Lang in 2023 and is releasing a capsule collection with Banana Republic on October 10, perfect for those wanting to covet the quiet luxury aesthetic while on a budget.
Following in the footsteps of Off-White and Vetements comes Rastah, a high-end streetwear brand headed by co-founder and creative director Zain Ahmad. Noted to disrupt the fashion industry by being self-taught, Ahmad’s label boasts South Asian artistry and craftsmanship with Western silhouettes that speak to global audiences, like a handwoven and hand-block-printed bomber jacket. Rastah has been seen on celebrities like Riz Ahmed, French Montana and Bollywood legend Anil Kapoor, all of whom represent Rastah’s brand identity of East meets West.
The current leader of the high-end balletcore aesthetic, Sandy Liang has often been associated with new-gen fashion trends found on TikTok. The scion of Manhattan Chinatown’s Congee Village, the restaurant, her childhood and Chinatown, in general, typically serve as major design influences. The brand can usually be identified by her motifs of nostalgia and femininity, including her signature ribbon bows. Liang has also found ways to make her designs accessible, collaborating with major brands like Target, Vans and, most recently, Baggu.
This article will appear in Character Media’s Annual 2023 Issue. Read our 2022 issue here.