Celebrations are in order! May is AAPI month, meaning it’s time to broaden your horizons from visiting your favorite local boba shop to supporting AAPI fashion labels. These smaller designers can be easily overlooked by retailers, and if you already shop the brands, you might not know that AAPI designers and creators are behind them. It’s why we’re putting these brilliant labels at the top of your must-shop list.
Whether you’re sprucing up your summer wardrobe or you’re in the market to try a new style, we’ve found 12 notable AAPI brands to add to your radar. Since recognition and support for creatives should be year-round, we’ll continue adding to this roundup, so make sure to check back or bookmark this page. Ahead, find the emerging AAPI-owned fashion labels that you should know and shop.
Best Affordable Wedding Guest Brand
When it comes to affordable wedding guest dresses, no one does it better than Birdy Grey. Korean-American founders Grace Lee and Monica Young Ashauer launched the brand in 2017 after spotting a need for more affordable bridesmaid dresses. In the last six years, Birdy Grey has stuck by its $99 wedding guest outfits in sizes XS to 3X. Recently, it launched junior bridesmaid dresses, which are priced at $79.
Were you ever curious who the mastermind behind M.M.LaFleur’s chic tailoring and sleek aesthetic was? Meet co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Miyako Nakamura. She bridges the gap between stylish everyday workwear and high-end designs from the big names she’s worked for: Zac Posen, Theory, and Jason Wu.
We adore Girlfriend Collective — founded by Quang Dinh and his wife, Ellie — not only for its eco-friendly materials and packaging but also its size inclusivity. All of its products range from XXS to 6XL, and its stylish leggings, skorts, bras, and more are made from recycled materials. The brand also encourages recycling through the ReGirlfriend program, which offers shoppers a $15 credit on select styles.
With the return of Y2K fashion, Emi Jay became the ringleader of claw clips with its cult-favorite Big Effing Claw Clip. Designer Julianne (Jay) Goldmark draws inspiration not only from her Korean heritage but also her childhood when a school uniform meant her main form of expression was hair accessories. Emi Jay’s latest collection, Sugar Blossom, is filled with limited-edition keepsakes inspired by Korean sweets and flowers.
Best Modern Footwear & Accessories Brand
Singaporean fashion house Charles & Keith was founded by brothers Charles and Keith Wong in 1996. The two siblings have grown their fashion brand into a global sensation recognized for its modern footwear, handbags, and accessories. The label released its latest Summer 2023 collection and second collaboration with the K-pop group ITZY called IT’Z MINE, which introduces a capsule of trendy totes, hobo bags, and chunky loafers in pastel hues.
Best Fashion-Forward Gender-Inclusive Brand
Introducing Fang, a Chinese-owned and New York-based gender-inclusive streetwear brand. The emerging fashion label was founded by Fang Guo. Guo created Fang for all body types and has helped dismantle the idea of social norms between fashion and gender with its fashion-forward pieces. Every item has a sizing chart for men’s and women’s sizes along with male and female models styling them, whether it’s a knitted ribbed romper with a plunging V-neck or high-waisted corset pants.
Ditch the notion that special event footwear has to be painful with Alterre. The New York-based shoe company, led by co-founders Harmony Pilobello and Shilpa Iyengar, designs comfortable, sustainable heels. You can design your own shoes with the site’s custom shoe builder that allows you to choose the shoe’s base and strap type. Feel free to dance the night away knowing you invested in a forever staple.
Best Celebrity-Obsessed Handbag Brand
Husband-and-wife duo Yang Pei and Stephanie Li’s Gabbi Bag has become a treasured piece in many celebrity handbag collections, including Anne Hathaway and Gigi Hadid. Now, the brand has expanded its trendy styles into a plethora of chic top-handle, shoulder, and flap bags. All are available in a rainbow of colors, from deep red and bubblegum pink to icy blue and grassy green.
Founders Jaclyn Fu and Lia Winograd launched Pepper in 2017 for small boobs of all shapes and sizes. The brand is here to fill the gaps (literally) for women with smaller chests. It makes lightly padded bras with cups that are shallower (minimizing gaps) and elastic that keeps the bra from riding up.
Best Sustainable Tote Bag Brand
If you don’t already own a recyclable Baggu bag, it’s about time you do. The eco-friendly brand has totes for every occasion, such as grocery hauls and park picnics. Founder and CEO Emily Sugihara has said she simply wanted to create shopping bags that were nice-looking and affordable, and she did exactly that with her mom.
Abacaxi means “pineapple” in Portuguese, so it’s no surprise the brand makes vibrant, whimsical summer attire that maximalists swoon over. South Asian-American designer Sheena Sood breathes tropical brightness and joy into every piece of clothing she creates, and shoppers are obsessed with the brand’s multicolor patterns and airy ‘fits.
Co-founders Shilpa Shah and Karla Gallardo created Cuyana in 2011 to design versatile, minimalistic pieces for various occasions. Its classic silhouettes are wardrobe staples you’ll use for years to come. The larger Travel Bag is roomy enough for weekend getaways and small enough overhead bins, while the medium version can easily fit underneath airplane seats.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
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