Fashion designer Bounkhong Signavong was born in Lao PDR to working class parents. While he has lived a cosmopolitan life, traveling the globe for education and inspiration, his textile designs remain firmly rooted in Laotian folk art and traditions with motifs influenced by Buddhism. He says, “Often, while [the Laotian countryside], I connected with [hill tribes who] shared with me their knowledge of spinning and dyeing yarns and weaving textiles. Living in the Lao capital Vientiane, I realized that the rich textile traditions were vanishing and decided to open a small workshop together with a few knowledgeable women to revive long-standing weaving traditions.” From these humble beginnings, Bounkhong has found great success, participating in fashion shows around the world.
Bounkhong’s garments epitomize contemporary tastes and combine established Asian and Western styles. His pieces are made from silk and cotton, are naturally dyed, and are hand-woven on traditional looms. One-of-a-kind dresses, jackets, and shirts give new life to vintage textiles by repurposing and integrating them into uniquely designed clothing. Perhaps the most striking element in his pieces are the intense colors that come from natural dyes derived from indigenous Laotian sources.
“Laos has centuries-old weaving traditions resulting in a multitude of high-quality textiles used in every-day life, but also for special religious or secular occasions,” says Bounkhong. “By using the available skills among Laotians in spinning and naturally dying yarns, as well as their often-outstanding weaving talents, I am able to produce innovative designs that are attractive to the younger generation of Laotians, as well as to many foreign visitors. […] Since I’ve received a lot of positive response for my innovative design, I have been following that path receiving new inspiration with every event where I exhibit my work.”