1. Name and a little about yourself
My name is Arthur Aleksander Thammavong, and I’m currently finishing my studies in fashion design at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. I was born and raised in Southern California, but I’m ready to explore more of the world!
2. What made you decide to get into fashion design?
It’s a bit of a long story, really, but the short story is that fashion found me, or I found fashion. I don’t really know who found whom first, but it happened.
I can tell you that I didn’t grow up dreaming that I would one day want to design clothing for people to wear. I didn’t dream of fancy dresses or beautifully tailored suits; I did, however, dream of making the world a more lively place to live through my art.
I grew up with the mindset that I was going to be an artist, though I didn’t know exactly what kind of art I wanted to do, but I knew that within me I harboured this creativity and vision that was fighting to get out. I struggled, for a long time, trying to figure out different ways to express what I had inside. I tried drawing everything, and then painting, writing, photographing…everything I could, but nothing pleased me. Don’t get me wrong, I still absolutely love all of that, and I still do them all, but they didn’t satisfy me. So then I kind of fell out of that artistic mindset and ventured on to different things like engineering (which surely made my parents happy!), which then led me to want to be an architect, but then I switched to wanting to take studies in the French language and culture (Oui, je parle français!), but alas, none of it truly made me happy! But then one day someone pointed out to me, as I was sort of doodling several characters I was developing for a short story I had in mind, that I had a keen eye for fashion.
Now, at first I didn’t really care for it. I always liked fashion and looking at pretty boys and girls (mostly boys) in pretty clothes, but I never once thought about designing clothes as a career path. But then, like everything else, I started to experiment and teach myself about the fashion world. I became a lot more particular about the clothes I wore, which led to my unhappiness in my wardrobe at the time. So, before making any real commitments to a field of study, I started to make my own clothes to try and figure out what it was that I liked. I was tired of what society wanted me to look and dress like or what my peers thought. I wanted to find myself. And I did. And I found fashion or we found each other.
I found that it had everything that I needed to make me happy: it had the creative aspect that my body and soul craved and the critical thinking and analytics that my mind sought to work through in order to problem solve. It is a field that is both functional and beautiful, artistically free and structured, liberal and conservative—it was all of these dichotomies that also best described me as a person: fashion was me and I was it. It became this committed relationship where I gave myself fully to fashion and it will serve and continues to serve as my filter for how I see the world today.
3. Do you prefer menswear or womanswear? and why?
Well, considering that I started out making menswear mostly for myself, I would love to do menswear; however, in recent years, I’ve discovered that I also want to do womenswear. I’m on this mission to show the world what fashion can be now and later.
Menswear offers me the strict, structured codes of male identity and masculinity. It has these hard-etched rules and limitations as to what a man is “supposed” to wear and be, but I want to bend those rules—I have no real interests in breaking the rules, per se, but I do want to see how far I can bend them. And then there’s womenswear whose rules are the exact opposite of menswear, it is kind of this free and wild beast that’s trying to elude you. I see the design process of designing for women as this on-going adventure to hunt down and capture what the women of today and tomorrow want to wear. It’s fun and exciting, and you’ve got to sort of make everything in life like that: fun and exciting. There’s no point for me to go on through life hating every moment of it behind a desk, in front of a computer crunching numbers—that’s not me. I’m excited to design every day, going on these excursions in my mind dreaming up new silhouettes and construction for clothing. My brain is always working this way.
4. What are you plans for when you’re done with school? Do you want to have your ownline. own store front? etc
I plan to work for a company at first. I’d like to extend my education through this, I guess, kind of like learning the bearings of the industry from both the creative and business sides. Then, after I’ve gained enough years of experience I’d like to eventually have my own line and of course my own store. As much as I’d like to say that I’m the sort to just throw everything I’ve got up in the air just to see where they land, but I’m not like that. I’m relatively calculative, patient and slow at how I go about doing things that I know will have long-lasting effects on my life. That’s not to say that I wake up every morning planning everything down to the last minute, but I’d like to weigh my chances at things and make them favour me. I don’t ever leave anything up to chance, really, I know that I am in control of my life and where I want to take myself in the future, but I also know that everything is going to take a lot of time, practice and patience. And then one day, I’ll rule the world! Hahaha.
5. Could you share some of your designs? (sketches and/or finished pieces)
6. Where do you get your inspiration?
Honestly, I don’t know, or rather, I can’t exactly pinpoint where I get inspiration. I guess inspiration comes to me, and that’s the beauty of it. I could be walking out my door and see a homeless person walking past me and then all of a sudden I’m inspired by their clothes (which has happened countless of times, actually!). Being an artist and designer I’m sort of aware of everything. My brain analyses everything so fast that sometimes I’m not aware of it doing so, because then when I’m in class daydreaming, this vision from wherever and whenever in the past just pops into my head and I’m like, “Oh my God! That’s such a good idea!” and then I immediately put pen to paper so as to permanently record my thoughts.
Now, the beauty of note-taking for me is that although I think one thing at one point in time and then jot it down, I can then interpret it differently when I go back to my notes or doodles later in the future, because my frame of reference has changed. Then those reinterpretations turn into something completely new or they lead me down a different path in my mind and then I just start going all over the place! It’s crazy how the mind works, but then I guess I’m sort of crazy like that!
7. Who are your favorite designers and trends right now?
I appreciate all designers, some naturally more than others. It’s safe to say that my favourites are those who are closest aligned to my own personal aesthetic like Hedi Slimane, Raf Simons, Ann Demeulemeester, Rad Hourani, Hussein Chalayan, and the list just goes on and on.
Current trends that I’m totally into right now? Well, I absolutely love all this play on proportion. You know like over-sized jackets with super skinny pants or super skinny and cropped jackets with fuller pants or skirts or dresses or whatever! I love seeing people play with these proportions and creating new or interesting silhouettes. And I think that’s why some of the homeless people in Los Angeles inspire me because they are the least afraid to try new proportions because they have nothing to lose.
For example, just the other day I saw a homeless man in this beautiful shamrock-green windbreaker that was probably two sizes too big for him, so he cinched it at the waist with a rope or cord or belt and it created this odd “8” shape or hourglass figure on his torso. I think I was attracted to the way the fabric fell and collapsed on his body, creating that interesting volume and shades and lights. And his pants were short-cropped, almost like capris, and they weren’t too tight nor too loose. He also had on this makeshift scarf that looked like it had once belonged to a shirtsleeve or something. It was absolutely fabulous. He did so much with what little he had or could find. Sometimes I wish I had more courage to experiment with such extreme shapes like that!
8. Who would you love to see in your designs if you could pick anyone?
Everyone. Is that arrogant to say?! Haha! I don’t mean to be. But I don’t know, if you’re asking about a celebrity or a famous person, I really don’t know. I don’t care if anyone famous wants to wear my stuff. I mean, that’d be great of course, I’d be honoured to have someone famous wear my stuff, but I wouldn’t need them to. I just want to see people happy in my clothes. I’ve always thought to myself, “I don’t want to make beautiful things, per se, I just want to make pleasurable things.” That’s to say I want to make things where people find their own happiness in them. We’re all drawn to particular design details for one reason or another, and I want to do that with every single piece I design: I want it to resonate with the wearer.
9. And lastly what advice do you have for the first time novice sewer/designer?
Give it everything you’ve got and love every second of it! You have to absolutely love everything that you do, and the more of yourself you put into a project, the more satisfaction you will get from it. Also, don’t be afraid to experiment and make mistakes! I’ve learnt so much just from trying new things and making mistakes! But you have to be brave to face the consequences, good or bad! You’ll only come out stronger in the end! I think a designer or sewer who makes the most mistakes at first becomes the most confident in their ability down the line because then they know their strengths and weaknesses and how to hopefully make it work for them. Everything is a process of discovering your own personal limitations, and the more you know about yourself the better equipped you will be in whatever it is you do in your future!
Here are some of his designs :
halter_spring2012 - a floral print halter top that buttons at the back neck. Spring 2012 look
|a black cotton silk dress done for the LA County Museum of Art, summer 2010; showcasing for fall 2010|
|misc_collection - illustration of miscellaneous collections for 2012 - 2013....the four on the left are from an activewear collection for fall 2012, the grey dress is the bias dress for fall 2012; the striped dress is for spring/summer 2012|