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Did you know that Asian migration to what is now the mainland U.S. has existed, on some level, since the colonial era of the late 1700s? Since then, the Asian and Pacific Islander communities have made huge contributions to American culture in every field, including art, literature, media, technology, science, and beyond. However, this significant community (and the fastest-growing ethnic group in North America) too-often remains unappreciated, under-valued, and the object of bigotry. The latter has particularly been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic, which reinvigorated age-old racist notions against the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community.
For this reason, it is more important now than ever before to support AAPI-owned businesses. Entrepreneurship is an excellent means of drawing attention to AAPI issues and values, and it also has the power to lift entire communities out of places of poverty and disempowerment. You may have already seen our pieces on BIPOC-owned beauty and fashion brands, which include AAPI-owned brands, or you may be familiar with some of our favorite Asian-owned small businesses, like Katini Skin and Allina Liu. Still, there are so many more brands to love and explore―during AAPI Heritage Month and beyond. Below, check out a few we love across beauty, fashion, lifestyle, and food and beverage.
When it comes to the products Marie Claire recommends, we take your faith in us seriously. Every product that we feature comes recommended by a MC writer or editor, or by an expert we've spoken to. Learn more about how we review products.
Filipino-American Josie Natori founded Natori in 1977, and it has since continued to be a popular high-end fashion brand that sells everything from dresses to lingerie to accessories. And for AAPI Heritage Month, they're giving back by partnering with Filipino spirit brand Kasama Rum on a limited edition, floral designer bottle made to resemble some of Natori's most beautiful designs. Proceeds from the bottle and from the brand's new beach bag go to Voice of the Free, an nonprofit that fights against human trafficking in the Philippines.
If, like me, you've struggled to find a flattering, comfortable pair of tights that doesn't rip five minutes into its first wear, then Threads is the brand of your dreams. Founder Xenia Chen took inspiration from her days as an investment banker, when tights were a "work wardrobe staple." Upon further research, she discovered that many tights on the market are made using insubstantial materials, so she founded Threads on the basis that all its undergarments be made using high-quality fabric from Italy. Now, through Chen's creation, professionals have access to high-quality basics at an affordable price.
Nary was founded by three sisters who wanted to both express their love for fashion and honor their Cambodian roots. The brand is named after their mother, Phannary, and all clothing is made with ethical standards in partnership with NGOs devoted to ending sweatshops and modern-day slavery. Their pieces are made using high-quality fabrics and have whimsical, flowing silhouettes perfect for the office, a party, or a sweet date night.
KYNAH has become the go-to destination for luxe South Asian evening and bridal wear —and with the likes of Meena Harris and Richa Moorjani as its clientele, KYNAH's looks have also quickly become red carpet staples. Launched in 2017 by Los Angeles-based Aisha Rawji, KYNAH—which means female leader—celebrates South Asian craftsmanship and centers sustainability by focusing on made-to-order pieces. And check out KYNAH's sister brand, Siska Studios, for South Asian designed, ready-to-wear resort collections.
Inspired by Mumbai and New York, holiCHIC is Indo-Western fashion at its best. Founded in 2015 by Megha Rao and Pooja Desai Shah, the brand focuses on colorful, bold, and modern takes on traditional silhouettes, styles, and materials. The brand offers everything from wedding attire to menswear to funky, graphic-designed accessories. Most recently, holiChic launched swimwear so you can now even wear your South Asian pride poolside.
Personally, I am obsessed with my Dagne Dover bag, and everyone I know who owns one is obsessed with theirs, too. Founders Deepa Gandhi, Jessy Dover, and Melissa Shin Mash developed the brand with promise of creating functional, fashionable bags that adhere to ethical, vegan, and eco-friendly standards.
SVNR, based on the word "souvenir," was founded in 2018 by designer Christina Tung, who makes jewelry hats, and hand-dyed silks. The brand is committed to sustainability, so accessories are made using found, up-cycled, and natural materials. Plus, proceeds from select styles also go to Stop AAPI Hate and Hearts of Dinner, year-round.
Tai Rittichai was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand, before moving to Southern California, where she started her eponymous brand. She began her small business by selling handcrafted bracelets at the Santa Monica fleamarket, and has since expanded impressively into carrying 14 karat gold pieces, as well as earrings, necklaces, and rings. She also works with charities in both the U.S. and Thailand, including the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Stop AAPI Hate, Breast Cancer Charities of America, NAACP, and Feeding America.
26-year-old L.A. native Julianne Goldmark grew up going to school in a uniform, which inspired her to utilize accessories as a means of self-expression. Her wildly popular brand, Emi Jay, sells chic, comfortable, and effective hair clips that are beloved by both editors like me and by celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Barbie Ferreira, and Bella Hadid, to name just a few.
When Jennie Yoon's family home was robbed, the culprits made off with all of her family heirlooms, spurring Yoon to replace the missing pieces by making some of her own. During this time, she realized that the jewelry industry largely lacks transparency in terms of ethics and sustainability practices, so she set out to form her own brand, Kinn Studio, which makes beautiful, responsibly sourced pieces that are bound to be your next family heirlooms.
Priyanka Ganjoo spent years in the beauty industry lifting small and indie voices, but was disturbed by the extent to which the mainstream industry commodified and tokenized Southeast Asian culture. Thus, she founded the cult-favorite brand Kulfi Beauty, which describes itself as a "loud and proud South Asian voice" that carries products that cater to all people, regardless of tone, undertone, or skin concern.
Eadem's founders, Alice Lin Glover and Marie Kouadio Amouzame, are Asian and Black women, respectively, who create products that challenge the white-dominant norms of the beauty industry by creating skincare specifically made for women of color. Their formulas are made in partnership with certified dermatologists, and their meticulous processes have won them both widespread acclaim and awards from the likes of Glossier and Sephora.
KimChi Chic Beauty
Drag queen Kim Chi founded KimChi Chic Beauty in 2019 as an ode to their favorite bright, exciting makeup. In addition to the brand's commitment to fun cosmetics and showcasing diversity in its marketing, it also donate a portion of its sales to The Trevor Project.
When Cocokind founder Priscilla Tsai was struggling with skin issues, she didn't like leaving the house unless she was wearing a full face of makeup, and she struggled with discomfort of stinging skin that's familiar to anyone who's tried combatting their acne with a myriad of harsh products.
As a result, Tsai founded Cocokind as a gentle yet effective alternative that changes the "cycle of aspirational beauty" that too often plagues today's beauty industry.
And if you're looking for more great AAPI-owned beauty brands, check out our full guide.
AAPI-Owned Wellness and Lifestyle
Véronique Lee founded CandaScent as a way of using sustainably made aromatherapy as a means of improving others' lives. You can shop her candles by scent or by need. The latter includes subcategories like "focus," "unwind," "protect," and "mojo."
Shizu Okusa's groundbreaking brand, Apothékary, combines traditional eastern Ayurvedic beliefs with Western medicine to create natural formulas that tackle common issues like stress, insomnia, and lack of focus. They even have an alcohol-alternative powder that provides the same feelings of relaxation as a glass of wine, but without any of the health issues associated with drinking.
Yoga, originally a Southeast Asian practice, has been largely commandeered by white voices, so it's of great importance that we elevate Southeast Asian yoga leaders as much as possible. Maiya founder Nihaar Sinha is one of those leaders, and uses his passion for yoga to produce artistically inspired, sustainably yoga mats whose beautiful designs will instantly turn your workout into a work of art.
Venus et Fleur
When founders Sunny and Seema Bansal first started dating, Sunny sent Seema a bouquet that both of them found underwhelming. From this now-prophetic experience, Venus et Fleur was born. The luxury gift and floral arrangement company boasts famous fans like Cardi B, Kim Kardashian, and Gigi Hadid, so you can trust that when you shop from here, you're getting the best of the best.