9 Women Who've Launched Asian American-Inspired Brands That Uplift the AAPI Community
From food to fashion, these badass woman are making waves in their respective industries
Jaclyn Fu of Pepper
While traditional bra companies tend to cater to bustier women, Pepper bras have been designed especially for AA, A and B cups, so more women can feel ultra-confident and comfortable in their own skin.
Why the name Pepper? According to the brand's website, "Small has often been associated with being timid. But the Small Squad is anything but. Pepper has a kick, just like us."
In honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, Fu got several other AAPI boss business owners to do their own take on the #passthebrushchallenge to celebrate their achievements as AAPI changemakers, with the hopes of inspiring others to pursue their own businesses.
Nadya Okamoto of PERIOD.
Nadya Okamoto was only 16 when she set out to co-found a nonprofit that would help end period poverty and stigma. The idea came about after she and her family experienced homelessness for several months and Okamoto spent time listening to homeless women on the public bus as she commuted to school. From those conversations, she learned that these women were using everything from socks to grocery bags to take care of their periods.
"I remember desperately searching for a U.S. non-profit addressing period poverty to get involved with — but I never found anything," the current junior at Harvard University wrote in her May 2020 op-ed for Newsweek. "So, angered and energized, I decided to start one — PERIOD."
As of this month, the non-profit has secured more than 2 million units of products to distribute to women in need.
Since its founding, PERIOD. has served more than 1 million periods, and is currently focusing on helping marginalized communities hardest hit by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. You can help out the organization's menstrual movement here.
Vanessa & Kim Pham of Omsom
The sisters behind everyone's new favorite Asian food starter kits are bringing their family roots to your kitchen table. Growing up as daughters of refugees, the two wanted to create a business dedicated to their Mẹ ("mom" in English) and the many Vietnamese dinners she made from scratch as their family built a life in America.
Foodies can now shop Vietnamese, Filipino and Thai kits that range from Sisig to Lemongrass BBQ starter 3-packs from $12.
Tanya Zhang of Nimble Made
With the goal of creating slim-fit shirts that are actually slim and snug in fit, Tanya Zhang and her partner Wesley Kang founded a dress shirt company that caters to AAPI men.
“Growing up, I’d go with my dad to Macy’s and JCPenney at the mall only to find that the smallest size for any clothing was still too big on him,” she told HuffPost in September 2019. “The sleeves were too long and baggy, the chest and back had too much excess room, the shirt looked like a dress on him ― he was completely drowning in fabric.”
“American dress shirts don’t fit me,” Zhang remembers her father telling her at the time. Determined to show him otherwise, Zhang and Kang created their tops with shorter and better fitted sleeves and trimmed fabric around the chest, back and shoulder areas at a price point that ranges from $65 to $80.
Katerina Jeng & Krystie Yen of Slant'd
Slant'd, a collective that celebrates Asian-American identity through all forms of storytelling, was the brainchild of Katerina Jeng and Krystie Yen. The two decided that they wanted to build a community that AAPIs want, need and deserve.
Most widely known for its print magazine, Slant'd includes a mixture of personal essays, poems, graphics and photography that tell stories about the complex and diverse themes surrounding the Asian-American experience.
Jeng told Westword in January 2019 that the goal of the magazine is to “dismantle stereotypes, promote diversity, and finally take ownership over the Asian-American story (which has historically been written for us, not by us).”
In one year, the magazine has generated buzz throughout the AAPI community as more Asian-Americans get their hands on issues that talk about everything from intergenerational trauma to the adoptee experience.
Order Slant'd's next issue or make a submission here.
Ali Heiss of Amarilo
Ali Heiss took it to heart when her mother taught her at a young age that a person's true character and identity cannot be defined by others. This made an even bigger impact on the jewelry designer, who was adopted, and her passion for creating delicate, minimalist pieces that are made for women who are also on paths to personal and professional growth. Founded in 2011, Amarilo is redefining classic jewelry for the modern woman who wants to elevate her everyday style.
In honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, the brand has partnered with Honey & Silk's Stephanie Liu Hjelmeseth to launch a newsletter, which will include conversations and inspirations curated by Hjelmeseth.
Sasha Suresh of Jolii Cosmestics
Sasha Suresh was able to combine all of the beauty inspo she's found from living in vibrant destinations, like India, New York and Los Angeles to create her own clean beauty brand that celebrates diverse experiences and beauty within.
Starting with matte liquid lipsticks, Jolii has expanded to cleanly formulated multi-purpose pigment that can be used on eyes, cheeks and lips. Swatch on a bit of The Elixir to highlight your inner glow.