WORDS BY NATALIE YIASSOUMI
Known for their avant-garde approach and refined simplicity. From functional flatforms to playful designs – these are the Asian designers to discover, bookmark, and shop.
Asians are some of luxury’s most discerning consumers – their flair for mega brands and keeping up with the latest catwalk trends has in many ways been keeping the luxury industry alive throughout 2020. But the Asian community doesn’t only contribute to fashion by way of shopping Western brands: There’s also a huge wave of creatives coming out of Asia and offering new, refreshed design visions that are shaping trends on a global scale.
From Asian influencers dressing up to the nines, turning the streets onto their runways and setting trends all over Tik Tok, to the designers offering new aesthetics and expert craftsmanship – the Asian community has become one of the most dominant forces in fashion, setting the zeitgeist.
In the shoe world, there’s an array of designers to know, offering everything from avante-garde shoes that are good enough to frame; to funky everyday staples like Yuul Yie’s novelty heels; or refined classics like Reike Nen’s strappy sandals and sleek ankle boots.
With a lot of the global footwear production taking place across Asia, these designers are also close to their factories and handpick manufacturing partners who offer top quality shoes, breaking away with stereotypes that ‘Made in China’ or ‘Made in Taiwan’ labels are associated with poor production.
During a time when Asian hate crimes are taking place across the world, it’s even more important to acknowledge the influence the Asian community has across fashion, look beyond the usual designer names we shop from, and support these brands with our wallets.
Here are some of the best Asian shoe designers to know:
Images courtesy of @reikenen_official
Since its launch in 2010, Reike Nen has grown into a global accessory brand, stocked on retailers like Luisaviaroma and Farfetch. Designer Yoon Hongmi draws inspiration from vintage films, novels and natural materials, which is reflected in the classic shoes and accessories that often come with a contemporary influence – like asymmetrical sandal straps or ruched leather ankle boots.
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Images courtesy of @suicoke_official
Founded in 2006 by a collective of anonymous creatives, Japanese label Suicoke specialises in functional outdoor footwear. The distinctive foam sole, created by Italian company Vibram is used in all Suicoke sandals, but the brand has recently ventured into boots as well. Known for their playful, wearable shapes, Suicoke has numerous collaborations under their belt, including Cecilie Bahnsen and most recently Dr. Martens and HAY.
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Images courtesy of @jimmychoo
British Asian Sandra Choi was born in the UK and educated in Hong Kong. She then went on to work as the protégé of her couture shoemaker uncle, Jimmy Choo whilst continuing her studies at Central St Martins. East London-based Choo was catering to a celebrity clientele, including Princess Diana before starting the now worldwide known Jimmy Choo shoe brand in 1996. Choi has been serving as the company’s creative director since the start and has grown the brand to one of the most well known and successful shoe brands in the luxury scene.
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Images courtesy of @yuulyie_official
Yuul Yie is a South Korean footwear brand founded by Sunyuul Yie in 2010. The shoe label is known for its unique, sculptural heels and bold, colourful details, with Yie developing all the brand’s signature heel details and hardware in-house. Yuul Yie draws inspiration from modern art and embraces imperfection and individuality, describing its identity as ‘sculptural shoe fantasy’ that has largely influenced the way shoes are designed today.
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Images courtesy of @charleskeithofficial
Charles and Keith
Singaporean fast-fashion footwear and accessories brand Charles & Keith by Charles Wong and Keith Wong has, since it’s start in 1996, grown into a globally recognised name. Despite being a fast fashion brand, Charles & Keith became well positioned, especially in the Western market, with recent collaborations with brands like Cecilie Bahnsen and Disney. Not to mention their ongoing influencer collaborations that have probably graced your feed. Since 2011, 20% of Charles & Keith is owned by French luxury house LVMH.
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Images courtesy of @osoi_official
Osoi means slow or unhurried in Japanese and is said to reflect the brand’s value of creating well made, timeless pieces. The South Korean accessory brand founded in 2017 is known for their functional platform sandals and minimalistic belt bags. Creative director Heejin Kang has a background in architecture, which is reflected in the structural shapes used in the design process. Apart from being stocked widely in concept stores around Asia, you’ll find their collections in Matchesfashion and Harvey Nichols.
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Images courtesy of @henderscheme
Japanese Ryo Kashiwazaki founded Hender Scheme, as a response to the mass-production taking place across the fashion market. The gender-neutral shoes are based on iconic designs like Nike’s Jordans, but are made by hand from pre-tanned leather to strip away the familiarity of the piece. The brand which is established in the male fashion scene (Mr. Porter carries the line) also makes handcrafted leather accessories such as belts and notebooks. In 2017 Kashiwazaki launched a line with adidas.
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Images courtesy of @togaarchives_online
Shoe brand Toga Pulla is the second line of Toga, a brand founded by Tokyo native Yasuko Furuta in 2017. The Paris-based brand is best known for their Texas inspired leather cowboy boots with recognisable silver hardware, like buckles and ornaments. The iconic details and avant-garde Japanese deconstructed designs have reached international recognition, with the brand now available on Farfetch as part of the online store’s shoe customisation program.
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Images courtesy of @adidasy3
Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto has been one of the most influential designers since starting his label in 1972. Y-3 was founded in 2002 as a collaboration label between Adidas and Yamamoto. This ongoing collaboration aimed at bringing Yamamoto’s experimental aesthetics to Adidas and fusing high fashion with advanced sportswear and sneakers. The “Y” stands for Yohji Yamamoto and the “3” represents adidas’ three signature stripes.
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Images courtesy of @stellaluna
Shoe brand Stella Luna was founded back in 2006 by Taiwan-born Stephen Chi who comes from a family known for its manufacturing know-how. The Italian based design team works closely with local leather factories and tanneries, focusing on comfort and quality at all heel heights. Stella Luna currently operates three stores in Paris, as well as being stocked in Hong Kong’s Lane Crawford and Barney’s New York.
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Andanté, which means slowly, strives to do things better, not faster. The seasonless shoe brand founded by friends Audrey Parreño, Bea Campomanes and Larica Lim rely on local talents as the shoes are handmade in Marikina City, Philippines. The vintage inspired, timeless designs include loafers, sandals and ballet flats that are available on the brands own website as well as available for pre-order in the beginning of the season to keep waste to a minimum.
This article contains commercial, affiliate links. Cover image courtesy of Yuul Yie.