Courtesy of Profound Co, Zohra Rahman, and Abacaxi
Growing up in a South Asian household, clothing was always something that held an inherent part of how my culture was portrayed to me. I grew up watching my mom show me how to tell if beading was done by hand or a machine simply by taking one look at the stitching. Whenever she or any other family member visited Pakistan, they always came with a suitcase filled with a kaleidoscope of colored dresses and intricate jewelry. When I begin to think about it, I truly owe my love of fashion to the richness and variety of South Asian clothing and textiles I grew up surrounded by.
Eventually, I got to travel to Pakistan, and as much as I thought I knew about clothing before, the visit made me take a deep dive even further into the world of craftsmanship and design. As a fashion editor, my favorite part of the job is supporting brands of all kinds, big and small. After my trip, I began to familiarize myself with a plethora of brands by South Asian designers and add them to my radar. In today's fashion world where the mainstream is often overtaken by European designers, I wanted to find brands that were breaking the boundaries. I looked to the social media accounts of Mehek Saeed (a stylist based in Pakistan) and Reva Bhatt (a stylist based in New York and Los Angeles) for inspiration on not only styling traditional pieces into their everyday wardrobe but also for finding emerging brands that they work with.
By no means is this a comprehensive list of all the South Asian brands that are worth taking note of—these are simply a few of the ones that have been on my radar as of late.
Named after the Portuguese word for "pineapple," designer Sheena Sood wanted her designs to reflect the carefree and happy vibe on a beach in Brazil but also was inspired by the textiles of India she saw while visiting when she was younger. Everything from the collection is meant to give a lasting handmade feeling and is produced in Delhi where Sood's parents are from.
Founded by Shobha Phillips, Proclaim is a nude lingerie brand specializing in fabrics made from recycled plastics. "Nude" in the fashion industry is not often seen as culturally inclusive, which led to Phillips starting a bra company made for all.
Sensual and modern is how I'd describe the clothing designed by Supriya Lele. The young designer—who also was one of the LVMH finalists this year—incorporates bright hues, sheer mesh fabrics, and heavy leathers into her recent collection, all while creating a reflection of her British and Indian heritage.
Creative director Suhani Parekh studied Fine Art History at Goldsmiths University in London, where she worked with sculpture before starting a jewelry brand. This comes as no surprise, as Misho's jewelry resemble works of art. The collections consist of bold and structural silhouettes and simplified geometric shapes that have won the brand multiple awards from Harper's Bazaar Jewelry Designer of the Year to Elle's Accessory Design Winner.
As a daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants, designer Stella Simona's mission with Haati Chai was to translate her heritage, culture, and journey into designs that are meant to last a lifetime. She worked with her grandmother to bring to life jewelry that embraced both of their worlds. In 2014, Simona teamed up with Ali Heiss to become partners while working on brands Haati Chai and Amarilo.
Ever since its founding in 2009 by Faraz Zaidi, Profound Co. has been seen on the likes of The Weeknd to Justin Bieber. The brand converges streetwear and high fashion and centers around the theme of constantly adapting to change. Many of its products also include stories of political commentary, cultural identity, personal struggle, and spirituality.
Zohra Rahman studied jewelry design at Central St. Martins before returning to her hometown of Lahore to launch her label. Zohra is known as a pioneer of contemporary jewelry design in Pakistan, designing pieces that are not only sustainable but reinterpret the concept of apprenticeship and artisanal skills.
By merging pieces of culture and history from South Asian and Middle Eastern roots, Love Closely creates streetwear that comes with a story. The brand often incorporates Urdu and Arabic poems into its clothing—the most recent collection consisting of patchwork as the central design theme.
Rastah is a Pakistani label that works to merge the art of traditional eastern craftsmanship with Western wear. What truly sets the brand apart from the rest of streetwear is that its partnership with local artisans, which include mirror-work patches, Mughal-era art, and block-print patterns commonly found in design throughout South Asia.
London-born Sri Lankan designer Amesh Wijesekera has become known for his colorful designs that combine local woven textiles with deadstock fabrics to create eccentric and unique pieces. Amesh's vision is to create a modern take on handloom fabric by giving them western silhouettes that can be worn by anyone, regardless of gender.