Based between NYC and
Bangkok, designer Philip and creative director Chomwan recently told
FashionUnited how they envision using their brand as a global platform to
bring customers a quality product that embodies the ethos of going back to
the land while empowering local communities. Philip Huang, the eponymous
label was founded in 2016 by the first Asian male model hired by Gucci and
Dolce & Gabbana and his ex-lawyer wife, Chomwan Weeraworawit. As seen in
Tatler and named by WWD as one of the four designers to watch at Paris
Fashion Week SS21, the sustainable indigo-dye brand produces contemporary
designs that merges indigenous knowledge passed on for generations from
artisans in Sakon Nakhon, Northeast Thailand.
According to consumer data tracker, PSFK Research, the fashion industry
is placing new value on sustainability, circularity and
efficiency. Along with these current market trends, a surge of
social protests worldwide have also led shoppers to re-evaluate their
stance on issues such as eco-responsibility, local production and
inclusivity. In this Q&A series, FashionUnited is spotlighting four
sustainable and ethical brands that were already on the path towards a more
socially conscious and circular fashion future.
What’s the best part about creating your own sustainable indigo-dye
The best part is working with the community and learning new “old”
knowledge. It’s always a journey and we discover a lot when we leave the
city and connect with artisans. Going back to the land to discover
processes that have always been synonymous with their (the artisans) way of
life, it is so far removed from what is the norm in cities.
We have found the exchange to be inspiring and humbling, it’s really old
and new coming together to create something, and we are dependent upon each
other. Then of course, finding a way to merge the by-hand with the needs
and aesthetics of today.
What challenges have you faced running the brand and how do you tackle
There are multiple challenges that we meet at different stages of what
we do. On the macro level – I suppose the space we are in is considered
niche, small. We find it remarkable how all of this knowledge in a way has
existed: there has been natural dyes as long as humans have made textiles.
It was our ancestors 6000 years ago who discovered indigo. Before that
there were mud dyes and various other dyes derived from the land and
plants. It’s strange knowing this and looking around and seeing that most
of the dyes on our clothes today are synthetic and made in factories. So a
challenge will always be communicating what we do and growing that message
of going back to the land and about the people.
The way we work is that nature guides the narrative. For example, during
a particularly wet year, the garments that come back from Isan might look a
little different, or the rainy days might make the process slower. It’s
been a challenge that we’ve really been happy to accept as it required us
to adapt to the circumstances and know that this is part of the “other way”
– working in harmony with the land, nature and the community.
Therefore, all of this affects how we release the collections and the
capsule lines, do post-production and quality control to ensure that the
garments are really wearable and last.
It’s a new old model! How to “scale” to make things work, diversify and
evolve production so that it becomes a really sustainable model for
everyone involved and for the customers so that they’re able to experience
What is the label’s mission and what do you mean by empowering the
The mission is to find old knowledge that could disappear because it is
remote and exists with rural communities that are not part of the “system”
of fashion or development that is prevalent. We learn the knowledge and
make sure that we can share it, that the community is happy to do that and
that there is also a next generation to take on the knowledge. We then make
it accessible and approachable. Perhaps it is possible to empower the
communities through their own knowledge and not industrialization, which
has been the case for the last decades.
The mission is to find old knowledge that could disappear because
it is remote and exists with rural communities that are not part of the
“system”. Perhaps it is possible to empower the communities through their
own knowledge and not industrialization, which has been the case for the
Philip Huang has already made a noticeable impact on the industry, what
else do you envision for the future of your brand?
Thank you very much! We see the brand as a vehicle, so Sakon Nakhon
indigo is the first process and savoir faire that we focused on – it’s
always existed and belongs to the community – we function as a platform to
make that knowledge accessible through the clothes and products that we
make. We see the next steps for us to be finding more knowledge. Growing
the skill base and at one level creating a sustainable source of income for
the communities, helping the decentralisation and really creating something
that is new and innovative drawn from the old.
Mostly, we see the brand as a global platform and hope to keep making what
we make so that this knowledge and culture can manifest into quality
products that people can value and cherish.
Do you have any advice for success?
Not giving up, keep going despite knowing that you are different and
that what you are surrounded by is just one way, even if it is the norm.
Also, believing that there is always an alternative solution if you are
willing to stick with the dream and to find the community that supports
you. And realizing that the community can grow.
What is your go-to sustainable and ethical outfit?
CW: Definitely the Bowman Jumpsuit, each one is made with 4 meters of
hand-dyed and handwoven indigo Ikat. We made it into a jumpsuit that is
totally versatile, it can be worn in the daytime with sneakers or at night
with some heels.
PH: Any one of our hand-dyed 100 percent organic t-shirts, the indigo or
tie-dye indigo, the dune mud-dye, I wear the original crew or the wide
crew. I like to pair the tees with our Isan Crossover Pants either in the
black raw cocoon silk or the hand-spun handwoven cotton. I’m usually out
and about a lot so I have my black Patagonia fanny pack to top off the look
and make it functional. The fanny pack and belt is really light and water
resistant, the perfect finishing touch to the outfit as we really love
Patagonia’s ethos and approach.
Finding Oasis: a visual essay documenting Sakon Nakhon indigo and Philip
Huang’s S/S 2021 collection.
Photos: courtesy of Philip Huang