Philip Lim, Jimmy Choo, Vera Wang. The Asian community hasn’t exactly been excluded from the fashion world. But apart from solid industry success, these designers have another thing in common: they were all based in the West. When it comes to smaller emerging Asian fashion brands, there’s no denying that designers based locally are getting a lot less time in the spotlight. And that’s a real shame. With over half of the world’s population, Asia is definitely home to some of the most creative, artistic minds. Delve deeper into any Asian country and you’ll find an incredible wealth of unique, innovative, yet still very wearable designs. Here, we take a tour around our amazing continent and highlight some of the emerging Asian fashion brands that you’ve probably never heard of. But, in due course, we have a feeling you’ll be hearing about them a lot more.
[Hero and Feature image: Cuscus the Cuckoos.]
The name ‘Esse’ derives from the Latin meaning ‘existence’ or ‘to be’. It’s an idea that invites us to look inwards and become more aware of our thoughts and actions. That’s what made the label’s founder, Alicia Tsi, realise the high environmental and social cost of the fashion industry. Her label, launched in 2017, aims to redefine the way consumers interact with their garments.
This is not a brand for chasing trends; the designs focus on becoming wardrobe staples, combining comfort and versatility. As for their ethos? Esse is one of the very few South-East Asian brands that have a fundamental commitment to environmental sustainability. All of Esse’s garments are made from sustainable materials like Tencel, Bamboo and 100% organic cotton. They also make a point to visit all their partners, manufacturers, and suppliers personally to fully supervise the production processes of their clothes.
Merging elevated classics with environmental awareness, Esse is a great brand for investing in long-lasting pieces that can be worn on a day-to-day basis. Loose-fitting, soft, and timelessly chic, their clothes are versatile enough to be worn from office days through to weekend brunches.
Style and beauty isn’t just something to be seen with the eyes, but also felt on the skin. This is precisely what powers the designs behind Seratus Kapas’s clothing. This emerging Indonesian brand produces floaty, breathable clothing that’s perfect when you’re living in hot climates. Pieces like farmhouse dresses, harem jumpsuits, and flare tops all use only the softest, best quality linens and cottons that have been produced by delicate and sustainable processes.
Seratus Kapas also uses traditional dyes to produce their mind-calming, rustic colour palette. The perfect balance between functionality, wholesomeness, and effortless stylishness gives the brand the kind of modest girl-next-door aesthetic that’s hard not to love.
Once upon a time, Alice Lawrance was an eccentric cafe in Seoul. Now it’s an even more eccentric fashion label making waves with their post-modern streetwear. Will Lee crafts the pieces around unisex designs, wearability, and whimsical quotes. Each collection Alice Lawrance releases is comprised of pieces named after fictional characters and features experimental motifs and patterns. You’ll find an eclectic mix of minimalist cotton bucket hats, t-shirts printed with ‘No More Sad Songs’, and silk printed trousers. All of it adds to Alice Lawrance’s air of urban youth blended with bohemian mystery. To ramp up the vibe even more: all their collections are shot with a negative film camera for that futuristic-hipster vibe.
It was the famous flamingo-print tote bag with a strap adorned with ostrich feathers that launched Cuscus to fame in Bangkok. Yes, we are of course also home to some of the coolest emerging Asian fashion brands. A passion for animals, colour, and childhood imagination forms the foundation of Chanida Voraphitak’s funky, vintage-style accessories label. The illustrator and designer has a thing for bright, contemporary prints — almost always involving animals. Her linen shirts, Thai silk scarves, tote bags, and other accessories can feature anything from cartoon skunks to watercolour hammerhead sharks. Cuscus is kooky without being simply weird, colourful without being brash, and unique without being overly exclusive. The accessories make for fabulous gifts, while the animated clothes bring an instant artistic pop to any wardrobe.
Influenced by royal and imperial history, Dora Chu envisioned her fashion label as a celebration of heritage and empowerment. After several design stints in studios from Alexander McQueen to Vivienne Tam, the Central Saint Martins graduate launched Maison Vermillion in 2016. Her international fashion experience shows through her electric and powerful designs, which seem to merge Eastern and Western influences. Even though the looks are often casual and urban, it’s still easy to tell that each piece has been constructed with expert couture techniques. There’s also a strong feminine vibe with Maison Vermillion, with garments combining delicate lace and crepe de chine with harder metallics and leathers.
Literally translating to ‘mad lips’ in Vietnamese, Moi Dien means being outspoken, fearless, confident. The brand’s name reflects the kind of customers they attract. A Moi Dien wearer can’t be afraid to wear subversive clothing or take fashion risks. After graduating from Parsons School of Design, Tom Trandt made his debut collection in 2016 and established his unique aesthetic. This aesthetic is one that’s genderless, intricate, and a little off-colour. It’s a vision that aims to subvert the idea that fashion is all about fame and glamour, a view that Trandt saw as particularly common in Vietnam. As a result, there’s a real sense of subtle rebellion in Trandt’s work. His designs for Moi Dien are both eye-catching and wearable. The deliberate edginess is a statement of individuality, which Trandt hopes to encourage people to express more with his unique fashions.