Street food lovers, ever wondered how a Bangkok vendor lives his/her day? This photo essay gives an interesting take.
Monthly Archives: November 2009
SHOPPING WITH A CONSCIENCE
In recent years, Southeast Asia has seen a nascent but growing sustainable fashion movement. Add an ethical edge to your shopping with these five Southeast Asia-based brands, each an intriguing blend of sustainability, beauty and creativity.
Ock Pop Tok
Meaning ‘east meets west’ in Lao, Ock Pop Tok (ockpoptok.com) does more than fostering cultural exchange, it also marries ethnic craftsmanship with sophisticated marketing to advance Laos’ socio-economic development. Based in Luang Prabang, Ock Pop Tock is the brainchild of English photographer Joanna Smith and local weaver Veomanee Duangdala. The pair runs Ock Pop Tock as a textile production and retail initiative, providing livelihoods for more than 200 rural artisans and their families. As Jo explains on her website, “Weaving is part of cultural identity and the dangers of global homogenisation are very real.” Cognizant of their responsibility in keeping Lao weaving traditions alive, the duo established the non-profit Fibre2Fabric to explain different weaving techniques and cultural significance of textiles in Laos.
Choo Yilin Artisan Jewellery
Singaporean designer Choo Yilin (chooyilin.com) launched her eponymous artisan jewellery label to demonstrate that luxury does not have to be sacrificed for sustainability. By commissioning Karen silversmiths in northern Thailand to forge aspects of her pieces, Choo generates a form of economic livelihood for these hill tribe communities while sustaining centuries-old cultural art-forms. “To me, sustainability is not just about adhering to responsible social ethos but also taking steps to lessen the environmental impacts throughout the entire supply chain,” says Choo. Melding hill tribe silver with European design inspiration, Choo turns recycled metals and ethically sourced gemstones into exquisite pieces such as earrings, bracelets and chokers.
Giving non-recyclable plastic a new lease of life is the mantra of Jakarta-based XSProject (xsproject.com), which converts discarded packaging into cheery totes and off-beat accessories. Initiated by American artist and environmentalist Ann Wizer, the project creates livelihood opportunities for the local community by buying plastic waste from Jakarta’s thrash pickers and passing them on to artisans to be fashioned into new products. Profits from the sales of these items are then channeled back into the community. Besides helping to halt the landfill crisis, XSProject turns a problem into chic finds for eco-savvy consumers. After all, one man’s thrash may be another’s fashion.
Belle & Dean
For parents seeking to start their little ones on the sustainable path of life, look to organic apparel brand Belle & Dean (belleanddean.com). Co-founders Dean O’Sullivan and Issy Richardson left London to establish their organic label in Singapore. From baby rompers to grownup tees, the duo uses only certified organic cotton and eco-friendly ink for their prints. Detailed animal sketches are featured prominently in their collection to inspire awareness and protection. Wearing organic clothes is one small step toward a better environment, as Issy explains, “If things are made well, they will last longer, and a longer lifespan means that ultimately, less natural resources like water and valuable soil nutrients are used.”
Meaning ‘community’ in the ancient Pali language, Nikaya Handcrafted (nikayahandcrafted.com) is an online boutique store established by social entrepreneurs Andrea and Brandon Ross. After living in Southeast Asia for five years, the husband and wife team set up Nikaya to bring traditional Khmer crafts to a wider audience while empowering local artisans and ensuring the continuity of these age-old skills. Nikaya stocks a handcrafted selection of locally produced bags, karma scarves, pillowcases and brass jewellery. Another bonus – ten percent of the brand’s profits go toward Journeys Within Our Community, another philanthropic-focused initiative set up by this dynamic duo.
Sometimes, you really have to give the thumbs-up to Thai creativity. For instance, I love the above print ad to bits. It first started appearing a few months ago at many BTS stations in Bangkok, following its equally quirky TV ad release. For those who watch Thai movies regularly, Mum Jokmok should be a familiar figure. He’s like the Stephen Chow of Thailand – any movie that has Mum Jokmok inside is guaranteed to be funny. He simply has this wacky face and comedian vibe that draws laughter from the audience effortlessly. Anyway, back to the above commercial. Whoever thought of using Mum Jokmok in three reincarnations – his original self, his son and daughter – in this cracker ad is highly creative and original soul. I am most intrigued by the daughter for (s)he looks equally fascinating and repelling at the same time.
On a recent trip to Khao Yai, I discovered that mushrooms is one of the renowned produce of this region. Local vendors were quick to tap into the abundance of mushrooms to produce naem het, or fermented mushrooms. Indigenous to northern Thailand, naem het usually consists of a mixture of mushrooms, sticky rice, minced garlic, salt and chilli padi left fermented for several days. For people familiar with Thai cuisine, you would have known that fermented products are very common in the country. From plaa raa (fermented fish sauce) to the common fermented pork, the Thais sure love their stuff fermented. Anyway, back to naem het. As a mushroom fan, I couldn’t miss a chance to sample mushroom goodness in any form, so I bought a 100 baht pack. I was so eager to sample naem het that I didn’t notice the menacing chilli lurking amongst the mushrooms. After popping one naem het into my mouth, the chilli rapidly spread its viciousness across my tongue. Other than the unfortunate chilli bit, naem het was super yummylicious!