From the avant-garde inclinations of famed Japanese designers to colourful, cool aesthetic of South Korea, the last few years have seen a formidable uptick in the rise of luxury Asian fashion brands. China especially has seen an explosion of diverse and ground-breaking labels, particularly with designers favouring a greater emphasis on sustainability.
As we celebrate the beauty and necessity of supporting local brands, there is no better time than to learn more about these Asian designers and their extraordinarily creative collections.
Yuner Shao & Stef Zhao: Refuse Club
A culmination of its designers’ Parsons educations, this brand infuses the brazen spirit of New York City into classical designs of Chinese wear to raise awareness as to what modern femininity in China is like. Chongqing-born-and-raised Yuner Shao and ‘Stef’ Puzhen Zhou were fundamentally inspired by the legendary Salon des Refusés, an exhibition created by Édouard Manet and Gustave Courbet to show art that was considered too provocative or taboo. Their brand, Refuse Club, carries the same idea of cultural conversation, using deconstructed qipaos and DIY renditions of lace to provide a closer look into the current social happenings in China. Although they launched in the United States, the visionary duo sources and produces all of their collections in family-run sample rooms in Chongqing to show support to the artisans found in their hometown.
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Lee Myoung Sin: Low Classic
Converse to the saturated hair colours and vibrant clothing the K-pop groups of Korea are known for, revered Korean designer Lee Myoung Sin offers a contemporary, minimalistic look at Korean fashion with her Low Classic brand. Indicative of Seoul’s modern working woman, this realistic take on the function of fashion provides pieces that may be simplistic in nature, but are executed excellently with perfect tailoring and exquisite fabrics. This Seoul Fashion week veteran’s brand has seen great growth over the last five years, and her line is now widely available across major online retailers such as Net-a-Porter and Farfetch.
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Indian in heritage, British in her upbringing, LVMH Prize finalist Supriya Lele unabashedly favours self-determined femininity at the core of her collections. Whether it is the beautiful draping called upon from traditional Indian saris, or the peekaboo underwear lines influenced from pop culture of the nineties, her fits are designed to let you express yourself however you choose — she even offers adjustable necklines for those who prefer a bit more modesty. This self-professed metalhead’s grunge inspired pieces adds an extra level of depth to her looks, adding an extra dimension into her careful exploration of two cultural identities in her work.
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Floaty, romantic and dreamy are three words that can only begin to capture the organza masterpieces core to Chinese designer Susan Fang’s eponymous collection. Curiously weightless in look yet dramatic in construction, Fang launched onto the scene by innovating an entirely ‘air-woven’ technique found across every piece she creates. The watercolour hues she transcribes onto her clothing are indicative of her whimsical aesthetic, matched with her textile innovations which allow creations to remain ever fluid and stretchable.
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Part fairy-tale, part avant-garde dream, this Korean brand helmed by Minju Kim — the inaugural winner of Netflix’s ‘Next in Fashion’ programme — is a decisive showing of the joyous creativity she brings to the fashion industry. Her brand, Minjukim, offers quirky prints that paint a different take on femininity, featuring bold, voluminous silhouettes that forgo a tight showing of the female form. This fun-filled, liberating approach sees femininity as a celebration rather than cause for contention, allowing us to see ourselves in whatever way we want.
Digital darling Angel Chen is Asian fashion’s icon of the moment, with an aspirational cool girl aesthetic that blends with Chinese heritage with an unflappable Western sensibility. Her recognisable buzz cut is just one of the many things her fearless attitude when it comes to style: emphasised further by her incredible virtual show that launched at the height of the CoViD-19 pandemic in China whilst she was under quarantine. International Woolmark Prize winner and the first-ever Chinese designer to officially collaborate with H&M, she joined Minju Kim in Netflix’s ‘Next in Fashion’ as one part of the visionary ‘Team Dragon Princess.’ Chen’s eponymous brand prides itself with a love of clashing prints and shockingly vibrant colour palettes.
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The winner of the inaugural Business of Fashion China Prize, the work of Caroline Hu can only be described as poetry in tangible motion. The dreamy fabrics and layered organza structures are textural masterpieces, with colour combinations reminiscent of Impressionist paintings. Hand-crafted and indulgent in both look and nature, the Shenzhen native was the talk of the town as she launched her first-ever couture collection in 2018 to truly rave reviews. Expect more from the young designer’s vision of artistry as moves into the world of ready-to-wear.
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Anaïs Mak: Anaïs Jourden
Anaïs Mak hit the ground running in 2012 upon her graduation from the prestigious Studio Bercow in Paris with the brilliant debut of her brand Anaïs Jourden. Her time spent living in both Hong Kong and Paris lends for an intriguing dichotomy to her work, in which she mixes harsher materials such as metallic foil with more youthful cuts for a dynamic look. Mak’s usage of virtual models for her latest runway show demonstrates that she is game to blossom in areas of unfamiliar, a quality that is sure to help her brand beautifully grow as it challenges the social realities of our present time.
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Alex Po & Derek Cheng: Ponder.er
With an ethos centred around ‘liquifying modern masculinity,’ you just know that new brand Ponder.er is here to inspire some chaotic good. Central Saint Martins’ graduates Alex Po and Derek Cheng have teamed up for this Hong Kong-based brand with a contemporary, gender-fluid approach that leaves its audience with a healthy amount to ruminate upon. The fearless use of pastel printed pants alongside mesh knits lends for a very different execution of conventional menswear in their SS21 collection, projecting their desire for a label-free world in which gender is not a firm construct but whatever you desire it to be.
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Jason Mui & On-ying Lai: Yat Pit
Hong Kong designers Jason Mui and On-yang Lai have founded their brand upon the perspective that beauty can be found anywhere. In their formative years, the designers’ own journeys contending with both Western and Asian cultures led to a personal crusade to search for a uniquely Hong Kong identity, lending to the creation of thought-provoking label Yat Pit (which means ‘one stroke’ in Cantonese). In reworking traditional elements of Chinese dress into striking yet subversive garments, their ability to meld beauty with a tinge of chaos aptly captures Hong Kong’s fast-paced spirit. It’s exciting to see their individuality grow as they explore further aspects of other Asian cultures such as monks’ robes for their next planned collection.
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Sven & Kane Tan: In Good Company
From friends to founders, Sven and Kane Tan combine their exquisite designs with the marketing and operations know-how of Jaclyn Teo and Julene Aw to create a Singaporean powerhouse brand aimed at the modern woman. In Good Company is the precursor to any good capsule wardobe, with well-conceived pieces that can go anywhere and do everything while still remaining visually compelling. The designers understand the crucial nature of functionality, elevating classic silhouettes into thoughtful pieces that work to suit your lifestyle. The technical detail and sheer effort that goes into the making of each garment ensures that they will be the ones to stay in your wardrobe, regardless of seasons and quickly passing trends.
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