This year, the December holiday season is going to look different than the last, with quarantines and rising COVID-19 cases getting more press than the hottest gift ideas. It only makes sense that holiday shopping will also be different. Instead of browsing leisurely at a crowded mall, many of us will be perusing online businesses. With thousands of options at our fingertips, consider shopping sustainably, particularly from small businesses that have struggled over this past year.
For fashionistas, sustainable fashion (sometimes referred to as “slow fashion” or “ethical fashion”) is a great alternative to the usual fast fashion route. Brands that are committed to sustainable practices consider the entire life cycle of the products, from material sourcing and production to the workers and consumers. By shopping sustainably, we are supporting businesses that prioritize eco-friendly practices and offer liveable and ethical wages to employees. Rather than giving our money away to Jeff Bezos with yet another Amazon order (I know, it’s just so convenient), we can spend our money in a more meaningful way to help Asian entrepreneurs and small-business owners fund their passion, while also finding the perfect gift for a friend.
With an endless list of sustainable brands to shop, it’s often hard to narrow down which are actually sustainable, Asian-owned, or in line with a certain aesthetic. Fret not, this list breaks down the Asian-owned, sustainable fashion brands for each type of fashionista, from loungewear queen to hypebae chic.
1. The Minimalist
For those whose wardrobe is full of classic grays and elegant long-lined pieces, Esse is the store for you. Not only are the clothes flattering, they also are good for the earth. Esse uses plant-based fabrics made of renewable fibers, which means most of the clothing produced are compostable. Additionally, the company is intentional about each stage of the production process — from sourcing organic cotton and valuing integrity among their business partners, to recycling textile scraps and using plastic-free packaging. The founder, Alicia Tsi, built her brand with timelessness in mind. Her clothes are built to last, not deteriorate. As with the brand’s quality, its style equally stands the test of time. The classic organic cotton paper-bag pants doubles as a polished outfit for the office, as well as comfy work-from-home attire. The cross-back dress is perfect for a dressier occasion that elevates a simple tank dress with criss-crossing straps in the back for a hint of feminine flair.
2. The Naturalist
The New Delhi-based brand Bodice takes the warm neutral palette of boho chic up a notch with flowing dresses and puffy sleeves. Bodice practices sustainability down to the details: the buttons that adorn their tops are made from reused coconut shells or seashells; every pleat and stitch are done by hand rather than heat-intensive processes; and packages are shipped in biodegradable, low-density polythene bags. The pieces combine the fabrics of India with clean silhouettes. Each piece is fashion in motion, from the contrast panel dress that shifts through your legs as you walk, to the loose-fitting top with organza sleeves that encourages movement. This brand is the perfect fit for people who value natural tones and geometric lines.
3. The Street Chic
Hypebaes and beasts alike gather at Most Prominent Co., a Los Angeles-based clothing company with roots in Peru and Japan. However, it’s more than a fashion brand; the company is also prominent in its community, working with campaigns to uplift important causes and values. The company has partnered with nonprofits like Redeemer Center For Life, which strives to create affordable housing and support for Black youth in Minneapolis, and started a drive to provide essential health workers with supplies during the coronavirus pandemic. The Cropped Service Uniform Shirt has a strong masculine aesthetic, contrasting the model who shows it off. Many pieces are designed to be androgynous, like the KFF III T-shirt, a shirt makes sustainability a fashion statement — literally.
4. The High Street
We all have friends whose closet can double as the production wardrobe of a K-drama. For them, look no further than Icicle, whose approach to fashion was inspired by Ancient Chinese practices to view nature’s resources as a symbiotic relationship and not an endless well to take from. Icicle’s clothes, while embodying the future of urban living, are an ode to China’s past, sourcing organic silks and cottons. With stores in France and Shanghai, this high-end brand brings urban luxury to a new level, featuring a selection of floor-length coats and scarf tops. Icicle’s signature pieces, such as the Aircoat, include some of the softest staples you’ve ever worn.
5. The Boho Look
Brooklynites and Cali lovers will feel right at home with this California-based brand founded by two friends. 3 Women repurposes rice and flour bags to create unique and farmer chic fits for your artsy and creative friends. The idea was inspired by co-founder Crystal Lee Early’s Asian mom, who often cooked Asian comfort foods. 3 Women creates both in-house design pieces, like the Picture Book Redwork Quilt Set, and custom clothes. The androgynous look and unending creativity lend this brand a boho style like no other.
6. The Influencer
For people who always keep their ‘gram as fresh as possible, a luxury handbag is no joke. Behno, a New York-based handbag store with roots in India, is championing the eco-friendly and ethical practice game like no other. With a focus on women’s rights and class mobility, Behno sources and reuses leather from a pre-existing food-supply chain to create stunning accessories. The baguette bag is perfectly on trend with the latest influencers’ feed, while the mini bucket bag turns heads with its fur and leather combo.
Cover photo credit: Cherie Birkner//Unsplash