Ethically made fashion can be somewhat of a tender issue for Asian folks due to the negative association with clothing made in Asia, primarily China. Clothing made overseas is not inherently unethical and the reason why so much unethical clothing is made overseas has a lot to do with Western exploitation of labour. The entire issue is more nuanced than people see at face value.
That being said, there is a great selection of ethical fashion brands founded and designed by Asian folks worth supporting. Below are some of my faves.
Sunday Catalogue – Carly Fung. No matter what day of the week it is, Carly is such an intentional designer and consumer when it comes it comes to slow fashion. What started off as a side project of creating bucket hats with ethical and deadstock fabrics has since grown to include sleep sets crafted with raw silk for the perfect worn-in softness. To know Sunday Catalogue is to love them, and if you knew Carly the way I did you would see how thoughtful she is when it comes to fashion and I am endlessly proud whenever I see her bucket hats out and about. A Sunday Catalogue hat is a quintessential cool babe in Vancouver head topper. I’m not just saying that, some of the coolest fashion peeps I know in Vancouver have one (or several) Sunday Catalogue hats.
K SOON – Amanda Poh. Circular and secondhand options continue to trend upward while we continue to shop more ethically in more ways than one. Not only do we want products made ethically, but we are looking to support brands that stand for something. If all this sounds like it checks your boxes, check out K SOON, a jewelry brand that specializes in deadstock, vintage and recycled materials that directly go back to supporting BIPOC communities. Not only does 25% of sales go directly to support BIPOC organizations and funds, but K SOON provides an extensive list of charities and resources on their page.
OCIN – Courtney Chew. I have been a long time fan of OCIN swimwear because not only is it made with sustainability in mind but OCIN strives to foster a community around uplifting other creatives and donating a percentage of their proceeds each year to organizations committed to ocean protection. Last year they collaborated with Hayato Koshizuka to create a RE:CURRENT collection featuring garments of pre-loved goods from Kamuy Vintage and adorned with OCIN graphics.
Chinatown Vintage. Speaking of pre-loved garments, did you know that Vancouver’s Chinatown has it’s own official vintage shop where 100% of all of the profits go towards the revitalization of Chinatown? I don’t know what chic babe drops off their stuff at Chinatown vintage but they always have such a great selection of stylish clothing.
Faun Studio – Marisa P. Clark. I think a common misconception about sustainable and ethical fashion is that it’s all in shades of beige or only features boxy silhouettes. Fret not, Faun Studio is here with a wide range of colourful garments featuring a flirty twist. Rooted in tradition, Faun Studio is both Canadian and Vietnamese, with a production site in Vietnam while every piece is designed in Calgary.
Vessi – Mikaella Go, Andy Wang & Tony Yu. We’ve all seen the TikTok or IG ads for Vessi footwear. Designed with wet (read, Vancouver) weather in mind. An impressively fully waterproof sneaker that keeps your feet dry while always stay comfy and stylish. Available in a variety of colours, they have styles with 90 influences, slip-ons and even Chelsea boots all using sustainable materials.
Lezé the Label – Karen Lee & Tanya Lee. Designed to be sustainable workleisure, Lezé the Label is designed to be comfy but appropriate. They used recycled materials to create their fabric for all of their garments with an entire page on sustainability to break down how plastic bottles, fishnets and more can be used to create fabric. Their items are also offered in an extensive size range with a variety of models shown wearing their pieces.
For The Seconds – Esther Joo. I will be the first to admit that I am a bit biased with my love for For The Seconds because there is a style named after yours truly. I love their dainty pieces that are not only budget friendly but made with 14k gold filled materials which means you can wear it in the shower! (I literally never take off my For The Seconds bracelet or anklet.)
AW – Andrea Wong. It’s no secret that I love a good tote bag and with Vancouver’s recent ban on plastic bags now is the time to invest in a versatile tote. My personal fave is the Thank You bag from AW by Andrea Wong that features a familiar bodega thank you graphic and made with sturdy canvas and extra long straps for easy transport.
Muna and Broad – Leila Kelleher. As one half of Muna and Broad, pattern designer Leila aims to empower marginalized people, in particular BIPOC and fat/plus-sized folks. Muna and Broad makes beginner friendly sewing patterns for plus-size sewers, filling a gap in the market since most commercially bought patterns are made with straight-sizes only. The site offers patterns for everything from shackets and jeans. If you’re an aspiring designer or a novice sewer, following Leila on IG (@leila_sews) offers a wealth of knowledge about technique and inclusivity.