WORDS BY Emika Ohta Seger
There is a growing movement in North America and Europe against hate crimes and the everyday discrimination towards people of Asian descent, with solidarity rallies, celebrities, designers and many others using the hashtag #StopAsianHate to share their experiences and messages.
Even though deep-rooted racism towards the Asian community might not be dismantled overnight, there are little things we can do on a daily basis to help raise awareness and support the community — celebrating its amazing culture and talent is one of them.
We have picked some of the most exciting Asian designers who should be on your radar. Check out the next generation of Chinese brands that shatter the outdated and prejudiced ‘Made in China’ stereotype, Korean labels that transmit cultural richness that goes beyond K-pop, and an effortlessly gender-fluid Japanese designer with a global outlook.
Susan Fang is a Chinese designer based in London and Shanghai. After graduating from the prestigious Central Saint Martins with a degree in fashion, Fang honed her skills working for Céline and Stella McCartney. She founded her eponymous label in 2017, was a semi-finalist for the 2019 LVMH Prize and named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia in the art category last year. She is also known for inventing the ‘Air-weave’ technique, which involves weaving several layers of fabric to create a unique grid-like pattern with excellent elasticity. The collections consist of brightly coloured dresses full of optimism and accessories made of clear bubble beads.
One of this season’s key pieces is this dreamy midi dress with pastel paint-like markings on a stark white canvas. The abstract pattern is made up of layers of organza with feathers peeking through. The mini shoulder bag crafted with the brand’s signature clear beads is a limited edition piece, available only on FARFETCH and Browns. The fringed shoulder strap resembles dripping water and oozes a magical and almost water nymph-like aura.
Samuel Yang, originally from China’s Guangdong Province, launched SAMUEL GUÌ YANG in 2015 after completing his MA at Central Saint Martins. Samuel’s partner in life and work, Erik Litzén, joined in 2017 and they have been working as a creative duo ever since. The label’s collections are minimalist and eclectic, with refined designs that combine creativity, sustainability and a focus on form, with details reminiscent of traditional Chinese dress.
The Bat shirt jacket can be worn in different ways depending on your mood — the wide trench-like lapels can be buttoned up as a classic collar, which makes it a perfect garment of the future. On the other hand, the high-necked jacket, with its Qipao-style neck details, is elaborately tailored to accentuate the waistline. Powerful and sensual, it’s a fusion of Chinese tradition and modernity, reminiscent of Wong Kar Wai’s film ‘In the Mood for Love’, and of Hong Kong in the ‘60s, where the cultures of East and West met. Stand up straight and wear it with pride.
After graduating from Central Saint Martins, Yuhan Wang gained experience at Marni before making her debut in 2018. She was selected by Fashion East, London’s fashion incubator, for the Spring/Summer 2019 season and was highlighted as a promising talent alongside Charlotte Knowles (now KNWLS) and ASAI.
The key to her cult status is her unique worldview, which is poetic, romantic and rebellious all at the same time. Elegant feminine silhouettes, delicate detailing, playful proportions, the perfect balance of showing skin and structured designs layered with soft materials are all hallmarks of the brand. This season’s range includes signature floral dresses, as well as skirts with embroidered grape motifs and tiered ruffles. This neutral lace cardigan is spiced up with striking red buttons — complete your look with the matching midi skirt with a flared hem.
Founded by Teppei Fujita, who worked as a patternmaker at Yohji Yamamoto, sulvam made its debut in Tokyo in Autumn/Winter 2014. The label has been showing its collections since 2018, mainly in Paris, whilst steadily increasing its fan base in Japan and abroad. At the heart of the brand’s designs is the idea of ‘clothes that become part of you’. Keeping his elaborate tailoring and patternmaking techniques at the core, Fujita injects details that create a sense of playfulness and ease.
Japan is known for its social acceptance of gender-neutrality in fashion, especially when it comes to straight cis men dressing in a ‘feminine’ way, which is a good thing. It may come naturally for Fujita as a Japanese designer — the brand does not push its unisex nature to the forefront of its branding, nor take an exaggerated approach, yet its designs are not restricted by gender. ‘Even in an uncertain world, we should have an unshakable sense of self, wear the clothes we like, and keep walking’.
One of the key elements of the Spring/Summer 2021 collection was the unexpected use of colour. Tailored styles in neutral colours such as grey and black were accentuated with pale pink linings peeking out from the hems and bold contrast panels. Black, which is often seen as a ‘heavy’ colour, was used to create featherweight sheer shirts that let the light pass through and the wind rustle. A perfect piece for summer layering.
Rokh was founded in 2016 by Korean designer Rok Hwang. Born in Seoul, Hwang grew up in Texas, USA, and after graduating from Central Saint Martins in London, he honed his taste and skills at Céline and Louis Vuitton. He is known for his deconstructed and elaborately tailored pieces, which are inspired by his experience of various cultures. Classic pieces in neutral colours are given a subtle edge with twisted details such as cutouts and asymmetry. The brand’s slogan is ‘Artisanal Imperfection®️’, as it finds beauty in imperfection through excellent craftsmanship.
The majority of Rokh’s posts on Instagram feature photos of fit models or product flat lays with description labels stuck onto them, reflecting the label’s wabi-sabi approach and love of flawed artistry across its branding. The unbalanced yet cohesive design is the result of Hwang’s tailoring mastery. Look out for the trench coat with detachable leather sleeves and the asymmetrical skirt with its unique cut-out hem and irregular pleats.