Eight LGBTQIA+ Asian and Pacific Islander Designers and Brands That Pave the Way for Innovative Fashion

With Pride Month in full swing, let’s celebrate these API fashion labels and designers. (Photos courtesy of Shawna Wu and FANG. Graphic by Jeremiah Estrada.)

It’s undeniable that many LGBTQ+ artists have pioneered the fashion industry. With the industry booming, these are Asian and Pacific Islander designers who constantly break the mold and brands that create new ways for people to express themselves through fashion.

1. Shawna Wu

The Singapore native, now New York City-based, designer Shawna Wu blends culture with craftsmanship in her garments and textiles. The Taiwanese artist is thoughtful about her choices, with intimacy and sustainability sewn into every detail of her work. These pieces include inclusive lingerie created to prioritize accessibility. Artists like Teyana Taylor, Summer Walker and Kylie Jenner have previously worn her designs. Lily-Rose Depp wore one of her dresses on “The Idol,” and Charli XCX wore one of her designs at the 2021 MTV VMAs.

2. Kini Zamora

Whether you want to rep Hawaii in luxury or return home from the islands with a greater sense of style and culture, Kini Zamora will be at the top of your list. Designer Kiniokahokuloa Zamora leads his brand, Kini Zamora, with the hopes of creating an everlasting experience with his clients. He seeks to amplify this essence through thoughtful design, projects and pieces inspired by the island culture. Kini’s creative bouts have also led him to endeavors in reality TV and charitable causes in his community. He competed in season 13 of “Project Runway” and season 5 of “Project Runway All Stars.” His impact was made nationally and within Hawaii through his lokelani collection, where he donated the proceeds to those affected by the wildfires on Maui.

3. aba​ca​xi

Sheena Sood’s vision for her collection, abacaxi, is a harmony of traditional silhouettes, bold colors and handcrafted techniques. These ancestral crafts are her way of honoring her South Asian heritage and preventing those practices from withering away. The label, named after the Portuguese word for pineapple, infuses tropical spirit with the NYC lifestyle. Sood paved her own path after years of designing for multiple other brands, showcasing a capsule of silk garments with vintage embroideries originating from Rajasthan, India. Sheena’s traditional techniques and hand-crafted textiles include plant dyeing, handloom weaving, mirrorwork beading and schiffli embroidery.


With a collection of casual clothing and basics, FANG challenges the status quo with clothes right for every identity and body type. Founded in New York City, this gender-expansive fashion line reimagines the relationship between fashion and gender. The label is wired to create statement knitwear designs that provide comfort while being forward-thinking and aesthetically inclined. FANG recently launched a capsule collection with the queer app, Sniffies, for Pride Month. The summer collection aligns Sniffies’ sex-positive ethos with FANG’s gender-inclusive knitwear to make a statement and exude confidence all season long.

5. Sundae School

Sundae School is a craft cannabis brand and smokewear label born in Seoul and raised in California. The label imagines a greener world where people have the liberty to inhale the highs of life and express themselves. With a mission of changing the narrative of and de-stigmatize the substance, their advocacy speaks volumes in their clothing line. This school of thought and creativity was launched by Dae Lim. His team is composed of immigrants, LGBTQIA+ individuals and people of color who are committed to building an industry and community that reflects everyone. Sundae School is home to zip-up fleeces, graphic hoodies and t-shirts. The brand has been seen on Irene Kim, Jacob Elordi and Pete Davidson.

6. Rocket Ahuna

Rocket Ahuna creates contemporary fashion that represents Hawaii’s rich identity. He uses his experiences at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, but the islands also never cease to inspire him. Ahuna uses the Hawaiian language, music and history as the foundations of his work, consistently analyzing all three for new ideas. This sentiment is portrayed in the fabrics, symbols, silhouettes and motifs of his clothing, as the garments are a means of storytelling. Ahuna’s pieces forge deep connections with the aina, also known as land, and its vibrant ecosystems by capturing the essence of Hawaiian mythology and history.


Rebellion and fierceness are a testament to the DNA of PRIVATE POLICY, a genderless apparel brand founded by Siying Qu and Hoaroan Li. Socially conscious, the two use newspaper outlets and social issues as a building block for their designs. The New York City label’s designs are modeled after topics they want to raise awareness for, such as humanity’s relationship with money, enslaved fishermen and the future between nature and metropolitan life. Originally from China, the duo are Parsons School of Design graduates. They were nominated to be Rising Stars by Fashion Group International, listed on Forbes China’s 30 under 30 and won the GQ China Present Award.


Manaola Yap is a self-taught designer who merged his upbringing as a native Hawaiian hula practitioner with his deepening connection to his ancestral roots to create his designs for MANAOLA. The natural beauty and spirit of Hawaii are translated into his prints and patterns. He began styling and creating costumes for his mother, who was a kumu hula or hula teacher. Manaola’s interest then grew, which sparked the vision behind his collection — to share the wonder and spirituality of Hawaii in an artistic medium with the world. His idea is to use bold patterns that represent Hawaii’s beauty and the geometry of nature within the fashion of the 21st century.