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6 AAPI-Owned Brands We’re Uplifting for AAPI Heritage Month

Despite being one of the fastest-growing demographics of entrepreneurs in the United States, the Covid-19 pandemic significantly halted the success of many businesses led by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). The growth of AAPI-owned businesses is estimated to have decreased by more than a quarter since the beginning of the pandemic, with one of the most gravely hit targets being businesses in the retail sector. Funding such as the federal Paycheck Protection Program often didn’t reach AAPI-owned businesses enough. Aside from financial neglect, the pandemic led to a high increase in hate crimes directed toward the AAPI community, with a myriad of AAPI-owned restaurants and shops being the target of those wrongly believing the shops would contribute to the spread of Covid-19. About two in five business owners in Southern California reported crimes in the forms of harassment, vandalism, assault, or targeted theft.

On a global scale, it’s worth remembering that Asia is the largest garment manufacturer globally, employing some 60 million workers and producing 55% of all global textiles. For decades, the outsourcing of textile production to Asia, often referred to as the “world’s garment factory,” has relied on low labor costs in favor of global market advantages. According to a recent report from the International Labour Organization, working conditions remain precarious, including long hours, the neglect of safety and health, and violations of fundamental rights.

The reality of AAPI includes many different nationalities, languages, and socioeconomic situations that are often limited to a singular experience. This harmful generalization can only be overcome if we take a closer look at the multidimensional layers of Asian culture. For many AAPI designers, their cultural heritage involves dedication to meticulous craftsmanship and valuing high-quality materials, often rendering AAPI-owned fashion brands on the slower and more sustainable side of the spectrum. To kick off AAPI heritage month, we’re highlighting six AAPI-owned businesses that are leading the way to a more ethical and eco-friendly future in fashion.

 

Girlfriend Collective

 

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The activewear brand Girlfriend Collective has reached an cult status due to its use of bright colors, recycled materials and its ethical production. Considering body diversity has yet to fully pierce the sustainable fashion bubble, it’s worth pointing out that Girlfriend Collective carries a wide size range from XXS to 6XL. Coming in a variety of colors and cuts, their workout sets, sleepwear, loungewear, and intimates appeal to a diverse and eco-conscious customer base.

The label, founded by Ellie Dinh and her husband Quang Dinh, works with a textiles facility based in Taiwan to produce its Oeko-Tex-100-certified recycled products made from post-consumer waste from Taiwan such as water bottles, fishing nets, and fabric scraps. The brand cut-and-sew factory is certified under the social accountability standard SA8000 which includes providing living wages, increased workers’ awareness of rights, and opportunities to organize. Additionally, all workers at the facility are provided with health insurance and free health checkups.

Modern Citizen

 

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Modern Citizen was founded in 2014, by Jessica Lee and Lizzie Agnew. On a mission to combat the constant hunt for short-lived trends, the company prioritizes creating cross-functional, well-tailored pieces that are designed to last. It also utilizes pre-order and waitlist features to minimize overproduction. The brand  uses a percentage of recycled, bio-based, regenerated, and deadstock materials, and aims to increase that percentage to 60% while simultaneously decreasing the amount of conventional cotton, polyester, leather, and other conventional virgin materials to 0% by 2025.

The company’s core collection is already available in sizes up to size 3X and it is working on implementing size inclusivity among their entire product line.

 

OOKIOH

 

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The LA-based swimwear company OOKIOH was founded in 2017 by Indian entrepreneur Vivek Agarwal. Its plethora of followers are mainly drawn to the label because of its vintage-inspired silhouettes, size-inclusivity, and accessible price points. OOKIOH states that the fabric used to make its swimwear is sourced from an Italian mill, and is made from 100% regenerated materials. The company clarifies that this means that the mill takes ocean waste (such as sunken fishing nets) and pre-consumer waste products (things that other companies might throw away in production), and turns them into “dreamy, luxurious textiles”. Similarly, many of its charitable initiatives work towards its main mission of clearing the ocean from plastic as well. For example, the brand’s partnership with Coral Gardeners and donation program with coral restoration organization We The Reef.

 

Sundae School

 

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The Seoul-inspired streetwear label Sundae School combines style, comfort, and cultural heritage with products ranging from bold-patterned fleeces and graphic tees to cashmere loungewear and cozy cotton “uniforms.” Through its designs, siblings Dae and Cindy pay homage to their South Korean roots and allude to different aspects of the Asian-American experience..

Sundae School aims to promote a culture of inclusion, working specifically with minority-owned businesses that share the brand’s  values and employ a team of immigrants, LGBTQIA+, and people of color. Its garments are produced in small batches in a family-owned factory. 1% of the label’s sales is donated to various non-profits through Beam.

 

The Consistency Project

Starting as a passion project for Hawaiian native founder Natasha Halesworth, The Consistency Project (TCP) quickly became more than that. In an aim to create with purpose and change the way consumers engage with clothing, the New York City-based design studio breathes new life into reclaimed and pre-existing materials and creates modern-day workwear staples like parachute pants, jean jackets, and colorful overalls.

TCP specializes in elevated pant fittings for pre-loved denim and workwear in a wide size range, encouraging customers to book personalized retail experiences that are focused on catering to all body shapes, ages, and personalities.

TCP’s reuse-oriented business model is innovative, thought-provoking and incredibly necessary in an industry that produces far too much.

 

ADEAM

 

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A reflection of founder Hanako Maeda’s upbringing between Tokyo and New York, Adeam creates elevated classics, merging modern silhouettes with traditional Japanese techniques. Inspired by Tokyo’s street style, Adeam designed a gender-neutral collection with the aim to invite more people into the conversation by relaxing the boundaries of clothing.

In honor of its ten-year anniversary, the brand recently launched a sustainable capsule collection that alludes to Japanese culture and landscapes and features eco-friendly materials like recycled cotton cashmere, eco jersey, rayon, and organic cotton.

Want to Learn more about the sustainable brands we’re loving? Check out Remake’s Brand Directory!

 

Update: The story has been corrected on 5/5/2023 to reflect updated information regarding brands’ SA800 factory certification and adherence.

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