Asian Clothing Brands
The Big Four of fashion cities may be New York, Paris, London, and Milan, but Asia is slowly making its mark in the industry with its world renowned Asian clothing brands.
Tokyo is considered to be one of the most fashionable cities in the world, with Seoul coming in a close second as Asia’s most stylish city.
With many Western brands setting up shop and factories in Asia, the epicenter of world fashion seems to revolve around China and the regions due to skilled workers and the best materials. It is no wonder that Asian clothing brands are becoming world renowned and patronized by big names in music and entertainment.
If you’re not familiar with the top Asian clothing brands just yet, here are 15 of them that you need to know:
1. A Bathing Ape
A favorite among hip hop artists the world over, this Japanese clothing brand founded in 1993 achieved iconic cult status with its elusive and exclusive marketing concept.
Conceptualized by Nigo, famous musician and fashion graduate, Bape originally started as an underground T-shirt line that was highly coveted by all of Japan’s streetwear aficionados.
Nigo’s first collections were sold to friends and the other half sold to popular musicians in Japan, creating a very exclusive brand that was mainly associated with the music scene and popular artists.
Long lines that would reach the streets would be formed a day before a new collection was to be launched. Bape stores also initially did not have store signs, giving it the ultimate badge of cool when you had a Bape shirt or hat.
Today, there are 19 stores in Japan and also in other fashion capitals around the world such as New York, London, Paris, Beijing, Seoul, and Singapore.
Known for their iconic gorilla images, Bape is no longer owned by Nigo but by Hong Kong conglomerate I.T group. Nigo still remains as creative director though and has also extended his touch of cool to hip hop artist Pharrell Williams’ Billionaire Boys Club clothing label.
2. Bean Pole
The #1 Korean fashion brand, Bean Pole is the most popular clothing brand in the country. Launched in 1989 by Samsung’s Cheil Industries, Bean Pole is a favorite of Korea’s hottest stars and musicians. Often used in Korean magazines’ fashion editorials, Bean Pole’s flagship stores are mainly found in South Korea but stores can also be found across Asia, the US, and Italy.
Offering apparel and accessories for men, ladies, and children, Bean Pole is described as neo traditional – apparel that’s rooted in basics but with modern details and styling. They often use Western celebrities in their ad campaigns such as Wentworth Miller and Gywneth Paltrow.
3. Beams Plus
Launched in 1999 in Shibuya, Tokyo, Beams Plus is one of the clothing lines under the brand Beams in Japan. Founded in 1976, Beams is a popular department store company in the country with several brands under its belt.
Beams Plus is a menswear brand that merges Japanese fashion with classic Americana. With the whole brand concept lying in the working man’s uniform, expect to see distinct workwear apparel with Beams Plus.
This timeless men’s clothing brand offers varsity – inspired jackets, button-down shirts, safari shorts and pants, and everything tailored. Despite being classic and heavily influenced by American style, Beams Plus is injected with the street sensibilities of Japanese fashion – creating a unique look that can’t be pointed as solely Japanese or American but the perfect blend of the two.
4. Comme Des Garcons
Rising to prominence in the 1970’s, Comme Des Garcons is a Japanese clothing brand by Rei Kawakubo – one of Japan’s most known designers. It was founded in 1969 and means “Like Boys” in French.
Known for introducing and pioneering the distressed look, Comme Des Garcons has collaborated with some of the biggest companies in the world such as Nike, Levi’s, Fred Perry, Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, and H&M.
This conceptual clothing brand is based in Tokyo and at the Place Vendome in Paris, presenting in the Paris Fashion Week every season. A favorite among many celebrities, the brand has been worn by Lady Gaga, a favorite of Bjork, Mary-Kate Olsen, and donned by Kanye West, Usher, and Karl Lagerfeld.
A highly regarded and well-respected clothing brand, Comme Des Garcons authentic vintage pieces are even displayed in museums and often featured in fashion history books.
Japan’s most famous denim brand, Evisu is a cult clothing brand that mixes casual with a luxurious sense of cool. Established in 1991 by Hidehiko Yamane, it set out to produce only 14 pairs a day with the brand’s famous seagull logo handpainted by Yamane himself.
Today, there are over 65 shops in Japan, and can be found in high end stores all over the world. The very same labor intensive procedures used on the first pair of jeans are still being used today, paying attention to the strictest details and honoring expert craftsmanship in each and every pair.
Evisu is known worldwide for spearheading the revival of the love of vintage denim, reaching critical acclaim and becoming the ultimate must have for jeans.
6. 8ight Seconds
South Korea’s answer to Forever 21 – 8ight Seconds was launched in February of 2012 by Samsung’s fashion arm Cheil Industries. Their slogan points out that they’re cheaper than Zara but trendier than Uniqlo, so their demographics is the empty spot in between these brands.
This youthful Asian clothing brand is called such because they want to capture their market in only 8 seconds. Catered to the young and vibrant youth market, you can find anything inside the floors of 8ight Seconds. You’ve got apparel, underwear, basics, jeans, outerwear, high fashion, and accessories – making it a complete lifestyle brand. Think art and fashion student hitting the streets – which pretty much sums up the 8ight Second look.
Reminiscent of many high street clothing stores, the merchandise is overwhelming with every fashion item imaginable for men and women. Aimed at challenging global brands, 8ight Seconds is planning on expanding to the Western market by 2015.
Malaysia’s leading youth-oriented clothing brand, Kitschen was established to deviate from the typical high street global brands that flood the malls of Kuala Lumpur. With a name formed by combining the words kitschy and kitchen, their stores’ interior design and visual merchandising have a kitchen-like concept that can’t be found anywhere else.
Launched in 2008, it is a relatively new brand but has risen to popularity in an instant. Catered to the trend-savvy girls and boys of Malaysia, their apparel collections always have a universal approach, as evident with their use of foreign models in their ad campaigns.
Kitschen sets itself apart by encouraging its customers to create their own individual style rather than follow the looks that the brand creates. A sort-of mix and match concept is pushed, as with cooking, when you have to mix different ingredients to create a scrumptious meal – thus the whole Kitschen concept.
8. Lalalove London
Based in London and Bangkok, Lalalove London is a Thai clothing brand that caters to both men and women. Created by Linda Charoenlab, a Thai top stylist, Lalalove London first started out with a line of t-shirts that evolved into a full apparel brand, selling to Topshop, Oxford Circus and other retailers all over the world.
The Lalalove London has a unique aesthetic in that Charoenlab fuses British influences with Thai sensibilities. The pieces are all edgy and a little conceptual with their wry sense of humor prints inspired by the political and cultural happenings in society.
From the simple t-shirt, Lalalove London today has a full range of apparel offerings from dresses to leggings and even swimwear. You can see printed tops with avant garde sleeves, dresses that look out of this world but somehow still very wearable, and looks that will truly make you stand out.
Lalalove London also prides itself in being an eco-friendly clothing brand with its use of digital printing on the fabrics instead of the wasteful screen printing process.
The Asian clothing brand for the independent and free-spirited individual who dresses out of the box, Lalalove London is the wardrobe of choice for the fashion risk-taker.
Lift12 has been creating buzz for its use of technology in their design process. This Singapore-based brand has been featured in many international magazines, with the clothing line dubbed as nerds meets fashion.
Combining technology, information, and design, Lift12 uses data they gather from research to create collections that their customers apparently want. Every 6 weeks, Lift12 releases new collections in limited numbers under their concept of creating versatile clothes rather than making abundant pieces.
Using data, if an item sells well, they’ll continue to make more of the design in different variations. If an item doesn’t do well, they stop its production.
Lift12 offers two lines: Blake and Company for womenswear and 9fountains for menswear. The overall Lift12 aesthetic is sophisticated and young, with the women’s apparel intended for career women who can wear the pieces from day to night.
One of Malaysia’s largest fashion retail companies, Nichii was launched in 1985 to cater to the quintessential Malaysian woman. They started to venture into wholesale in 1997 and became a bigger company than they already were.
Nichii has over 30 locations in Malaysia, but also in Singapore and Saudi Arabia. Offering the latest trends and an extensive selection of apparel and accessories, Nichii is the ultimate go-to brand for all Malaysian woman.
Offering every kind of apparel imagineable, from casual to workwear to evening, Nichii has it all and it’s evident by their presence in almost every Malaysian woman’s closet.
11. Neither Nor
The quirky yet sophisticated clothing brand created by Chinese designer Wang QiaoQiao has received great acclaim and widespread popularity in the international fashion scene. Founded in 2004, Neither Nor offers apparel for the working girl – but with all the added twists and surprising details that make the brand fresh and outstanding.
Not your typical corporate looks, Neither Nor is meant for the free and independent woman who wants to have endless charm in her clothes but also staying low key. You won’t find any “look-at-me” pieces with this clothing brand as the general aesthetic is minimalist avant garde.
Think streamlined silhouettes of tailored pieces such as blazers, dresses, and skirts but made in feminine fabrics that shimmer and colors that understatedly pops out.
If you want to stand out in the corporate world but also staying girly and feminine, Neither Nor is the brand for you.
12. Ong Shunmugam
Launched in 2010, this Singapore-based clothing line has garnered international acclaim and has given designer Priscilla Shunmugam recognition in the fashion world.
What started with custom tailor dresses from her modest home has now turned into a full- fledged clothing line selling RTW and bespoke designs to her clients in Raffles Place, Singapore and in Pixie Market in New York.
The line uses modern and innovative takes on the traditional Chinese cheongsam, using traditional fabrics and details that create a distinct look that has never been seen before.
Ong Shunmugam was one of only two Singaporean fashion brands to be invited at the October 2012 Paris Fashion Week. In the same year, Priscilla won the Designer of the Year Award for Elle in Singapore, along with numerous other recognitions in the industry.
Making the fabrics the focal point of her designs, you can see traditional Asian prints and treatments on each and every piece – making the brand distinctly Asian but with a global and modern appeal.
13. Onitsuka Tiger
This brand may be more known for their iconic sneakers and trainers, but Onitsuka Tiger is also applauded for their casual cool sportswear and their designer collections.
One of the oldest shoe brands in Japan, Onitsuka was founded in 1949 right after WW2. Providing athletic shoes, they ventured into apparel, creating t-shirts, hoodies, windbreakers, tracksuits, and everything sportswear. With the same aesthetic and details, Onitsuka Tiger has become a well-loved and preferred streetwear brand.
In the past couple of years, Onitsuka Tiger collaborated with Italian designer Andrea Pompilio on high-end collections sold in Pitti Uomo 84 in Florence, Italy. The collections are full RTW lines for the discerning and stylish man of today. The pieces are all made with the active wear purpose but with a luxurious urban athleticism aesthetic that makes it go beyond the street and into high fashion.
14. Style Nanda
Korean fashion has been molding the entire Asian look for the past decade. Launched in South Korea in 2004, Style Nanda is the biggest online mall in the country today.
Style Nanda means so stylish and that’s exactly what the brand is about. Catered to girls in their teens to early20’s, they offer everything from apparel to accessories, to shoes, and even makeup.
Primarily an online store when it launched, Style Nanda eventually opened its flagship store in 2012. Moderately priced but ultra trendy, the whole aesthetic involves vintage –inspired looks with modern styling that clearly depicts Korean fashion today.
Aside from selling their own brand of apparel, they also sell international brands in their stores such as Jeffrey Campbell shoes – one of the very first brands to carry it in South Korea.
Style Nanda is for the quirky girl who wants to wear the latest trends but always with a touch of her own individuality.
A list of the top Asian clothing brands is never complete without Uniqlo. Launched in 1949 as a menswear clothing brand in Japan, Uniqlo today has become one of the biggest fashion retailers in the world.
You can find a Uniqlo outlet in most major cities, found in over 1000 locations all over the world. Uniqlo was formed from the brand’s original named called Unique Clothing Warehouse.
It is known worldwide for providing high quality and modern basics with a universal appeal while also maintaining affordability.
It’s clear that Asian clothing brands make up a large portion of the global fashion industry. Covering all bases with casual clothes, to denim, to designer clothing lines, Asia is never lacking in creativity in the style department.
With brands that are slowly conquering the world, it will come as no surprise if one of the countries’ capitals will be included in the world’s top fashion cities in the near future.
Author Kristinsson Magz