Millennial fashion designers have been constantly pushing the boundaries of their industry. With them — the likes of Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing and Bottega Veneta’s Daniel Lee — at the helm of different fashion houses, the fashion scene has never been more alive with fresh vision and creativity. More designers are also infusing aspects of their culture into the designs they make. For some, it’s to reclaim their cultural symbols. Others do it to celebrate and preserve their heritage. All around the world, these savants are taking traditional prints and designs and giving them a modern twist. See how they pay homage to their roots through fashion.
Simone Rocha is a Chinese-Irish designer who consistently injects inspiration from her heritage into her pieces. Her Spring/Summer 2019 collection, for one, made several references to the Tang Dynasty by using printed fabrics showing vintage portraits, paper suits, and red floral embroideries. For her Fall/Winter 2020 collection, she was inspired by the Aran Islands of Ireland, leading her to use the cream wool Aran pattern as its centrepiece. It also leans into the rich Catholic tradition in Ireland, as some of the details are inspired by papal wear as seen in bishop sleeves and ceremonial red satin wraps used throughout the collection. You can check out her designs through her website.
Indigenous designer Bethany Yellowtail uses her ready-to-wear pieces to capture the rich history of Native American tribes. Seeing as Native American culture constantly being misappropriated in the media, she seeks to empower and represent Native Americans through her beautiful designs. Aside from B.Yellowtail, her clothing brand, she also has a brand initiative called B. Yellowtail Collective which sells and promotes handmade, heirloom-quality jewellery, textiles and accessories crafted by carefully selected indigenous artists from all corners of North America.
In the Philippines, there are many designers modernising the iconic terno dress that is most known for its butterfly sleeves. One of these designers is Ella Santos-Sol, the creative mind behind Nuevo Ystilo. The slow fashion brand uses homegrown textiles (such as silk cocoon and piña or pineapple fiber) and traditional techniques to create ternos with more modern silhouettes. Their collection can only be described as sleek and chic since you can wear the pieces at work and special occasions.
For clothing with a personal touch, Cheryl Goh designs hand-tailored batik wear for her brand Weak For Batik. She turns the traditional printed fabric into flattering pencil skirts that can take you from the office to evening cocktails. The lightweight fabric is perfect for the woman on-the-go who wants to look elegant and confidently poised.
In the hands of Ruixian Hu of Studio HHFZ, the traditional cheongsam gets a makeover for the 21st century. She can make a cheongsam for a wedding guest, the bride’s engagement party, or even just for your casual Fridays at work. She uses non-traditional fabrics (like tartan and tweed), modern twists (frills and pearls), and warm hues to make the cheongsam look fresh and vibrant. Check out her Instagram if you’re in need of a special occasion outfit or simply want to jazz up your wardrobe.
These are the Southeast Asian designers disrupting the fashion industry.