Of the Asian countries, Japan has always been the most particular about design but many other Asians are only beginning to have the same appreciation for it. They are not just doing design. They take a journey back into their tradition to find what they can use to express the unique attributes of their nation and their people. They dig far into the mountains and learn from their ethnic groups. We see traditional crafts making a revival and local designers improving them or incorporating them into their new creation.
Asia used to be the place where you buy cheap manufactured clothes. This is now changing as many younger designers are trying to crack the international world of craft and fashion. There are as yet not many IMPeis but the idea of design is catching on.
Lifestyle has changed, too. As more people in Asia become middle class, their tastes go beyond the merely utilitarian. They seek well designed products for themselves and for their homes. They also start to look for what will make them or their homes different. This creates a market for designers who open their studios or have a place in malls to display their designs.
Yesterday, here in Phnom Penh, I visited Ambre of Romyda Keth, a Cambodian designer. It is full of beautifully designed clothes in imaginative colour mix paired with creatively fashioned accessories. I was surprised to see a wing of home accessories as well.
In Vietnam, the last time I was there, the foreigners especially the Japanese worked with the locals to revive the traditional fabric and design unique to some of the indigenous groups. Indigo and hemp were once again used and enhanced. The weaving became much more refined. That started the other local designers to appreciate their own traditional fabric and ways of dyeing cloth. Some of them went further to learn the traditional techniques of the ethnic communities in weaving and making accessories. From here, they have improvised and improved the traditional designs creating unique accessories that are now coveted by many fashion enthusiasts.
One Vietnamese designer in particular, Thao Vu, did just this in the hills of Cao Bang and to give expression to what she has learned there, she founded the fashion studio, Kilomet109. She recently got the British Young Creative Entrepreneur (YCE) Award. Here's a video showcasing what she does:
For those who love travel, here are some of my top recommendations of places to visit.
Click on the picture to know more of these places: