by Jia Ying Chia
The frenzy of global consumption for Asian culture and brands in the last few decades has made the point very clear — it has never been cooler to be Asian, particularly in the fields of media and design. While Oriental influences in Western brands have historically been about appropriation or tailoring aspects of Eastern or Asian culture to suit Western taste; Eastern or Oriental culture in its unfiltered form is very much now at the forefront of mainstream media with many Asian companies even leading the pack in the business sector, according to international brand and marketing strategists, Future Brand.
Businesses with a distinct backbone of Asian heritage and influence in their presented marketing style not only have a huge global reach (Japanese fast fashion company Uniqlo, for example, now has close to 4000 stores worldwide according to online statistics) but have used their culture and products influenced from, to create further demand for the consumption and representation of Asian culture. Check out some of the brands catching our eye:
The Hong Kong native shot to fame in the early 2000’s when he was approached by the Swire conglomerate to handle their first foray into hospitality. With a Master’s degree under his belt and a newly opened studio, the unknown architect created the Upper House which has since become eponymous to the fabric of Hong Kong luxury.
His style and approach to architecture and design has deep roots in traditional Asian and Chinese culture, coupled with a sense of effortless, comfortable luxury. It is no wonder that Fu has clocked up an impressive portfolio across the world that include the Andaz and Fullerton Bay properties in Singapore, the Matsui Kyoto in Japan, and Claridge’s in London. Fu also recently expanded his lifestyle arm, Andre Fu Living, with a second boutique opening in Hong Kong.
Inspired by our grandmothers who “always looked amazing in the same clothes over and over again,” this Singaporean brand takes the classic blouse and trouser combination — ‘Shan-ku’ in Mandarin — that Chinese women favoured in the 1900’s and gives it a modern spin. For Trixie Chua, sustainability is a huge part of Samfu’s value with small collections, made and sourced ethically through deadstock fabric, that are built to last you a lifetime. We love the ‘Moments’ wrap top that perfectly embodies the ‘samfu’ essence with contemporary styling and prints.
The brainchild of Hong Konger On -Ying Lai and British-born Jason Mui strives to seek, revive, secure and ensure that Chinese fashion design ‘has an essential place in your wardrobe’ — with sustainability at the heart of its design process. You’ll find lots of pieces that reference the late great Bruce Lee or elements of pop culture for super stylish clothing that reflect Chinese heritage and culture with authenticity and innovation. We like their ‘Gold Coin’ pendant for a simple touch of style to any outfit.
Yat Pit is also actively working on giving back to the community through collaborations with Hong Kong youth and charities.
Originally based on ‘Kanketsu’, the Japanese philosophy of simplicity, Muji’s website that the ‘no-brand’ brand aims to “bring a quiet sense of calm into strenuous everyday lives” with its minimalist, environmentally conscious designs and products. Best known for its range of stationary, household goods and affordable food items, Muji has become a global sensation accessible to a wide range of consumers. We like stocking up on their sturdy, refillable notebook folios and range of quality kitchenware.
Founded in 1994 by the late Sir David Tang, Shanghai Tang is considered the world’s first Chinese luxury brand, describing itself audaciously as “proudly created by Chinese” and providing a modern take on Chinese culture, aesthetics and craftsmanship. The brand recently made a comeback with the rebranded ethos to “Make Life a Party” and their new men and women’s collection reflect this ode to playfulness with bright colours and designs that breather new perspective into traditional cuts like the qi pao. Their iconic slip-on shoes come in luxurious embroidered velvet or linen and are a great way to add a little extra-ness to any outfit
A Chinese luxury brand backed by Hermes, Shang Xia’s product range is all encompassing. From Ready to Wear collections, leather, home accessories and even furniture, the brand works on the ethos of merging the French luxury goods philosophy of looking back to the past to search for the future, with centuries of influence and inspiration from Chinese history and a lost sense of craftsmanship from its move towards a mass production economy. Shang Xia translates to ‘Up-down’ and hints at the founding designer Jiang Qiong Er’s mission to execute this merging of old and new resulting in fun pieces we need like the seersucker light cotton dress in lavender or pop orange Bubble slides.