NEW YORK When Thunyatorn Cheng Ng speaks about Thai fashion and style, she tears up.
The 34-year-old Connecticut-based fashion entrepreneur and stylist specializes in creating traditional Thai outfits and costumes. Her designs were showcased during this month’s New York Fashion Week, at an event September 10 hosted by the Council of Aspiring American Fashion Designers at the Pier59 Studios in the Chelsea Piers complex on the Hudson River.
Ng prepared her show, featuring headpieces themed to the Chinese zodiac, in just seven days, after a spot came open.
It was the biggest show of my life, so far, in terms of attendance, she said.
I have to confess: I never thought it’d come to a point where I’d do New York Fashion Week with my clothes, said Ng of an event known for launching and accelerating careers.
Start with formal attire
Ng’s styles shown on the runway were provocative and stylized, with ornate headpieces and gold accessories. The result might seem theatrical, but Ng says her designs often start with the formal clothes Thais wear on important occasions.
I liken this to Japan’s kimono. Not even the Japanese wear kimonos every day only on formal occasions, she adds. But if you take the cloth of a kimono, modify and customize to make it fashion as Ng does with Thai clothing, now, that’s interesting.
A native of Lampang in northern Thailand, Ng believes Thais, especially those who live overseas, should show more pride in traditional Thai clothing and fashion. Ng knows it is tough to compete with the allure of Asian cultural heavyweights like China or India, but says Thailand’s strikingly unique fashion and textiles heritage deserves more attention than they receive.
The clothes themselves are beautiful. And I’m Thai, I want to show that I am Thai, says Ng, a graduate of Bangkok University who majored in communications and the performing arts.
My sense is that this is a viable business, one with enough promise and profit to support me, as a real livelihood, she added of her choice to become a Thai tailor and dressmaker. I also feel pride each time I’m able to exhibit Thai heritage and culture, to preserve it and pass it down, through this medium of clothing.
An early interest in textiles
Ng first became interested in Thai textiles as a child, growing up surrounded by traditional silk production in northern Thailand. She renewed her interest as an adult living in the United States. That was when she realized Thai textiles and fashions had an image problem. They were so obscure as to be virtually unknown even though Thai fashion itself is partly a product of Thai kings adapting clothes from Europe, says Ng, who presented her work at New York University (NYU) during a November 2015 symposium on Southeast Asian dress and textiles, an event overseen by adjunct faculty Daniel James Cole.
Source: Voice of America