Ock Pop Tok makes items as lyrical and fun as its name, but the mission is serious: everything the group produces is made by women, with the goal to enhance the quality of life for as many artisans—and in turn, their families—as possible. What began as a small workshop of five female weavers in 2000 has since blossomed into one of the largest and most well-respected textile producers in Laos and Southeast Asia—with multiple locations employing around 400 highly skilled artisans.
Weaving has a rich tradition in Laos where women have been creating silk textiles for over 1,000 years. The practice has been passed down from generation to generation where it was customary for the women to breed silkworms, dye the silk with dyes derived from plants, then weave fabric for themselves and their families. Given the size of Ock Pop Tock, items are as varied and unique as the women who make them. This translates into home goods such as pillows, emblazoned with vibrant, zig-zagging patterns, and also into wearable items, like elegantly refined silk sheath dresses, with subtle patterning and rich, nuanced colors.
Ock Pop Tok translates to “East Meets West” in Lao, a fitting moniker for an enterprise that was the brainchild of an Englishwoman, Joanna (Jo) Smith, and a Laotian woman, Veomanee (Veo) Douangdala. The pair met while Jo was visiting Laos on a photography assignment. Once she met Veo, she immediately fell in love with her unique hand-loomed weavings. For her part, Veo was eager to expand her workshop. The two women joined forces, united in their dream of sharing ethically produced, sustainable handwoven textiles with the world.