Leo Deng ’21 Starts Clothing Brand ‘Asoniai’ as a Form of Art Through Fashion

Leo Deng ’21 attended Parson’s Fashion Program this summer where he learned printing and illustrating skills that he plans to use in his brand.

Red lava flows steadily onto the sides of an erupting volcano. Rings of fire change from a vibrant red to hues of yellow, green, blue and inky black. This graphic tee, designed by Leo Deng ’21, is worn by his friend Harry Chanpaiboonrat ’21.

This is just one of the many pieces of clothing that Asoniai, a brand founded by Deng and his cousin, offers to its customers. The brand’s message centers on the creation of authentic and original streetwear clothing and strives to showcase art through original designs.

“I started a while back in 2016 with my cousin, but it was just a down-low passion project that we made because we were both into sneakers and streetwear for a while, and as we grew older, we got into art. We both do a lot of different mediums, so we kinda wanted to fuse them together and make our own graphic designs and what not,” said Deng.

Deng and his cousin were inspired by the lack of unique designs and the growing prevalence of plagiarism. Using his brand, they wanted to combat these growing issues with new ideas and a heavy emphasis on using fashion as an expression of art.

Deng said, “The main thing we wanted to push to make [our clothes] unique was art through fashion… We think a big problem in the industry right now is plagiarism from vintage t-shirts and graphic designs, where a lot of streetwear brands today just steal their designs instead of making their own original designs.”

Deng and his cousin design each piece differently, sourcing inspiration from artwork, music, or just random bursts of ideas.

“I think my process is different every time… Mostly, there will be random spurts of inspiration and or motivation…Music is a big inspiration, or if I see an artwork that inspires me, that would be the first step. And then, either using that inspiration or just using that emotion that I feel from that inspiration, [I] make something new,” said Deng.

While at first, Deng utilized online services to produce his clothing, he recently learned how to screen print and press the apparel on his own. In terms of design, Deng’s basic process usually begins with taking photos and then editing them to their choosing using digital software to add color, distortion, and other effects.

“The process is usually photography and then put in Photoshop or just a graphic design on Adobe Illustrator…Whatever look I kinda want, and using that graphic design and placing it on a t-shirt or something,” said Deng.

While Asoniai currently concentrates on streetwear fashion such as hoodies, t-shirts, jeans, and denim jackets, Deng wants to branch out into different styles of clothing.

Deng said, “It’s just about having the connections to manufacture them…We make a lot of designs that never get released. We’re already working on a lot of button ups and collar shirts and windbreakers and rain jackets and stuff.”

In the short term, Asoniai looks to add more members to their team to oversee areas where they feel they need more work. This includes creative types as well as more managerial positions for their website,, where they sell their clothing.

“We just want more photographers and videographers for lookbooks, and especially just product pictures, because that’s what we are struggling more on. And [we need] managers for the website and stuff, because…my cousin [and I] are more artistic creatives… [We need] more manufacturing and marketing to get it up there. I mean it’s small, but we get more purchases from random advertisements than the people who actually follow the brand on social media,” said Deng.

Chanpaiboonrat said, “To wear a piece of garment designed by a friend just makes the piece feel so much more personal and meaningful, which, I know, is something that is rare in clothing that you just buy from a store.”