5 Asian Labels You Should Spend Your Money On

Time to look to the other side of the world for some fashion
Publish date:
October 23, 2013
shoppables, designers

Despite what I have written about my country, I’m pretty lucky to have been born and raised in Singapore -- and I’m very proud of it too. I can go out for a run at night in my neighborhood and I won’t get mugged or killed. I can almost always expect the cabbie to go on a rant about the government. And I know I can get a good plate of char kway teow for $3.

Beyond food, safety and public transport, what I’ve really enjoyed in the recent years is the growth of new fashion designers in Singapore and the region and how consumers are accepting them with open arms. We love our H&M and Topshop as much as the next crop top-clad girls, but the fact that more people are actually buying local and Asian fashion designers is something to be talked about.

If you’re trying to look beyond ASOS and Shopbop, here are my favorite Asian designers that have made their mark recently and I think are worth saving up for. After all, we’re not all counterfeit designer bags and chances are, you’ll be the only person in the room rocking one of these pieces.

Kae Hana, Singapore

Kae Hana named her label after herself, and rightfully so. I walked for her at the Audi Fashion Festival earlier this year, and while I have understood how much work goes into a designer’s clothes, I only then realized how much you actually bleed through your pores working day and night. Kae Hana is part of a young designers’ incubator program in Singapore that helps develop young fashion talent, and she’s definitely one to watch.

Her designs are form-hugging, celebrate curves, and very often feature a wide color palette. They’re also versatile, with pieces you can actually wear to work and those you can wear when you’re on a man hunt and want to look haute/hot.

Sizing: Her biggest size is is a UK 14, or a US 10, but her clothes generally run a little large. She also offers customs, if you get in touch! Prices range from about $27 for a pair of leggings to around $150 for a dress.

Lalalove London, Bangkok

I’m actually not sure why there’s a “London” in the name of the brand of this label when it originates from Thailand. What I do know is that I fell in love with the brand thanks to this obnoxiously loud pineapple dress at a fashion trade event in Singapore earlier this year.

I love the bold colors, fresh digital prints on the clothes and great fabrics that the designer, Linda Sharoenlab uses.

While they’re stocked in Bangkok and Topshop London Oxford Street, the brand does not have an online store but you can order and purchase by emailing the designer or getting in touch with her on their Facebook Page. Of course, you are also at the mercy of what she actually uploads on her Facebook Page too. According to Sharon, her web store will be up and running by the first week of November.

PIeces cost from $60-$225.

Saught, Singapore

Scrap metal from Camodian war remnants -- including deactivated landmines -- take on a new meaning as socially conscious jewelry brand, Saught, puts a new spin on bling. The brand, a brainchild of three women in their mid-twenties partnered with Cambodia-based organizations, Fileo and Rajana, which train locals in craft and jewelry-making.

Scrap metal from mines isn’t that easy to find as its sale is illegal in Cambodia where some cash-strapped locals (and trust me, there are many) scavenge the material to melt down and sell. Many lose their limbs and get hurt in many other ways in the de-mining process.

Instead, Saught has partnered with Cambodian Mine Action Centre, the country’s leading de-mining organization that has stores of scrap metal they cannot sell. In return for the free metal, a portion of the profit goes to helping de-mining the land in Cambodia.

Pieces cost about $70 for rings and earrings and more intricate necklaces are around $120.

Ong Shunmugam, Singapore

Ong Shunmugam knows how to keep it classy. It launched in 2010, but the label has already showed at Paris Fashion Week. Designer Priscilla Shunmugam manages to weave the best parts of her heritage into beautiful clothes. She employs the use of vintage and traditional fabrics and silhouettes and amalgamates them with breathtaking, almost architectural detail, that for just a moment, you look away from the price tag ($240 for tops; $550 for dresses though customs are of course more expensive.)

It’s not cheap, for sure -- I’m still saving up for a piece and then thinking about the holiday I could go on instead of a dress. But Priscilla does best when it comes to customs, tailored to fit right to your body. If you’re not in Asia anytime soon, she also stocks in New York at Pixie Market or on her online store.

Desti Saint Handbags, Singapore/ Hong Kong

Desti Saint Handbags is a label by designer Desti Saint (I know, what a name). She was born to a pair of Kiwi & South African parents, lived all over the world, worked in finance and then gave up that job to give birth to, along with three children, a handbag label that’s on the brink of something big.

Her bags are made of leather sourced from all over the world; in fact the Holiday collection that I previewed had shiny leathers sourced from Spain, but they’re all pieced together by hand by artisans in Indonesia. She works with them personally, albeit far from easily because of language barriers. Pieces cost from $110 for iPad covers to $240 for shoulder bags.

One of her bags, a bestseller, is in fact made with yards and yards of leather that is sewn together by hand and it takes at least three days to make each bag.