By Cecilia Sha
New York is one of the world’s trendiest cosmopolitan cities – multiple cultures and styles integrate into New York City harmoniously. Asian Fusion Magazine’s aim is to always celebrate those innate cultural differences and talents to our readers. This time, let’s take a look at the Laotian designer Bounkhong Signavong’s fashion world.
Bounkhong was born in Vientiane, Laos in 1966. His father was a talented wood and banana tree sculptor for spiritual/ceremonial pieces, while his mother worked in the village temple as a teacher. Although there were tumultuous times in Laos, his family managed to support him and provided a good quality university education. He was raised in true Buddhist traditions and even gained some experience as a monk. Both his paternal and maternal grandmothers were weavers. His grandmothers told him that in the past, no one expected to sell their textile work. Every woman knew how to weave, sew, and stitch. That family background greatly influenced Bounkhong; the initial concept of the patterns, fabric, and textiles. It also gave him a basic impression of the garment and decoration.
Since the early 2000s, he has resided and works out of both New York City and New Jersey. Bounkhong worked different jobs,including jobs as a waiter, hotel clerk, teacher, and 8 years in the administration of the national UNICEF Office. Yet his passion has always been fashion.
In the late 80s, he started collecting antique and vintage textiles. He traveled to the countryside where the hill tribes people gladly showed him their weaving traditions. Bounkhong got inspired to design new patterns and started working with weavers from the outskirts of Vientiane. After a trip to North America, Bounkhong decided to make New York his second home. He created an affiliate company in New York State, Lao Design, and began exhibiting at a store in SOHO.
All this helped to create his own brand: Lao Design. Bounkhong said: “ I create my own work. My style is basically Asian style with a western look made with silk, hemp, linen, or cotton. I get my inspiration from traveling, nature, people, everything! I can use my imagination to create the details and then I put it together. I imagine how a person would look in my designes and imagine a certain color.”
Laotian textiles are appreciated world- wide by experts and consumers for craftsmanship. They are not simply pieces of cloth to wear. They are a statement of life, happiness, joy, and sometimes of reflection and mourning.
The brand reflects the special history and tradition of producing quality textiles in Laos, reviving centuries-old Laotian weaving traditions. At the same time giving new life to vintage textiles, dresses, skirts, jackets and shirts, designing wearable pieces of art uniquely created by Bounkhong.