During the month of May in the United States, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a period for recognizing the community’s contributions to and influence on the fabric of the U.S. And in fashion, particularly, those contributions have been many.
Amid the jarring uprise of violence against the AAPI community over the last year, brands that had largely been quiet on the topic are gradually starting to speak up. The hashtag #StopAsianHate has become a rallying cry for a social movement, and businesses are engaging, too, though there have been calls for greater support. The celebrity community, in particular, has taken notice and action, as in April, SAG Award nominee Jamie Chung wore a statement-making Edie Parker purse that read “Stop Asian Hate” to the prestigious award ceremony.
One crucial way to celebrate how these communities have enriched various facets of American culture is to support the AAPI designers and creatives who are helping to shape the fashion landscape.
There are many designers who have already fashioned a long-lasting mark in the industry — Josie Natori, Phillip Lim, Jason Wu, Anna Sui, Derek Lam, Joseph Altuzarra, Prabal Gurung and Vera Wang, among the myriad of talent — but this month, WWD is highlighting four up-and-coming AAPI-owned brands that are rapidly changing palates of a new, digitally native generation.
Founders: Ophelia Chen and Abi Lierheirmer
Year founded: 2020
Background: “Bobblehaus is the regenerative and genderless fashion brand founded by two Chinese-American women — chief executive officer Ophelia Chen and creative director Abi Lierheimer — both of whom root their work from their multicultural backgrounds, unique identities, and mission to build positive connections and community through fashion,” the brand said.
Price point: $50 to $200
Stockists: Direct-to-consumer exclusive at bobblehaus.com.
Aesthetic: “Vibrantly colorful and comfortably street, Bobblehaus is a fashion multiverse bridging East and West youth culture and dedicated to expressing their inner absurdities. The brand offers limited-edition clothing, using only deadstock and recycled fabrics,” the brand told WWD.
Founder: Carol Min
Year founded: 2020
Background: Designer Carol Min started her career at bloomingdales.com in buying and transitioned to sales and development. As a working mother of two young children, she wanted to create a brand that resonated with values that she believed in. With Mauby, Min want to encourage people to live kindly, feel beautiful in their pieces, and help make change.
Price point: $42 to $129
Stockists: Maubyofficial.com, Verishop, TrendSavvy
Aesthetic: Romantic utility.
Founder: Nok Salirathavibhaga
Year founded: 2018
Background: Designer Salirathavibhaga, a graduate of Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute launched the brand this month with pieces rooted in her Thai culture with a nod to New York City. Her Seamless Link Necklace and Bracelet, for example, is inspired by the bike chains seen in New York City. The designer sees them as physical symbols of anxiety and consumerism — with food deliveries usually with bikes, for example — that made sense for her Pressure Collection. The shapes, even the round, long links, are designed, handmade and hand-finished with an emphasis in silver and gold.
Price point: Rings and earrings at $200, with higher items up to $1,000.
Stockists: Pattaraphan.com internationally and available in the U.K. at Yugen London and on Wolf & Badger.
Aesthetic: Gender-neutral collections of fine jewelry, mixing ideas of the human anatomy, minimalism and a touch of edginess.
Founder: Shoko Goda
Year founded: 2019
Background: A Japan native, after working in fabric development for one of the oldest textile companies in Japan, Shoko went on to study fashion business at Philadelphia University, where he began developing and designing with paper yarn, becoming fascinated with the material. He moved to New York in 2017 and launched Paper Project in 2019.
Price point: $15 to $100
Stockists: Odin New York, Pachute (New York), Foxwell (Minnesota), Museum for Papirkunst (Denmark) and paperprojectny.com
Aesthetic: A New York-based brand by way of Japan, Paper Project creates comfortable and functional products made with Japanese paper yarn, a natural and renewable material that brings a new dry touch and proven benefits like moisture-wicking and odor-eliminating functionalities. Sensibly designed and enhanced everyday essentials, with minimal feel and unisex styles for everyone.