What’s hot this season? Accessorizing your wardrobe with vintage Burmese images and colourful 1950s inspired pop art
How did Yangoods start?
It happened like many good things – in Mojo. A colleague, Bob [Percival], showed us his collection of old postcards, and I showed them to Delphine [de Lorme] and Clara [Baik]. Delphine’s an interior designer and painter, and she has always wanted to work with Clara, who has brand experience in fashion. They saw the postcards, and it clicked. There are so many designs in Myanmar, so the creative energy of both came through to become Yangoods.
Tell me about the design.
Delphine has worked in pop style for a while. You can see some of her painting in Singapore and in Mojo. She adapts and creates pop images from Myanmar designs. It’s a blend of colors and a collage of pictures and drawings. Super colorful, super pop.
We have two lines: the Burmese Vintage, which is a rejuvenation of Myanmar heritage, and Myanmar Pop, which is colourful. Some of it is drawings, some are old photos from more than one century ago that we have changed because, for instance, they are not smiling or their eyes are closed. Sometimes we remove one person from the photograph or turn the head completely. We recreate a scene. There is a lot of reworking and post-production.
With all of the design parts, it took six months. Before you produce any item, you have to create a sample. So when it came out, we showed it to friends and family. Most of the answers were, ‘Can I buy it?’ And we had to say, ‘No, this is only a sample. We only have one!’
Have you run into cultural issues with your designs?
Htin Htin is more in charge of the public relations. She’s always giving precious advice about Myanmar fashion as seen by a Myanmar and Myanmar background for items, colors, or ornaments. She gives us the local point of view. It’s happened a few times. ‘Maybe we shouldn’t do this. Maybe replace this element with this element.’ Sometimes, we focus purely on the aesthetic without the full knowledge to understand Myanmar culture.
What products do you sell?
We have 48 different products. Our target is 200. We really want to create a lifestyle brand; we want to propose items for your everyday life, and we want both Myanmar and foreigners to experience Myanmar design in their everyday lives. We have pillows, notebooks, some stationary, paperweights, and tablemats.
The brand started with three women, so there are a lot of bags and clutches and female items. For Clara, her focus is to have a blend between good fashion and having a very useable product. For example, our bags are waterproof with enough pockets and strong zippers. For her, the product has to be durable with good design and practicality.
Are your products produced in Myanmar?
It depends. We still cannot do everything here, but we stay on the lookout every time a new factory opens. The first focus for the company is having a high quality product at a decent price. What we can produce here, we do. Of course, the target is to produce 100% in Myanmar. For customers and us, it’s the best way.
What sets you apart?
There aren’t many shops doing something new with souvenirs. We have an artist on the team [Delphine], and we would say we have a European touch and French art nouveau and pop influence.Quality is the focus. Our focus is to show the bright side of Myanmar, to make Myanmar trendy and fashionable, to make young Myanmar women proud of their heritage.
Clara worked with Bean Pole [one of the largest fashion brands in Korea] and has been in fashion for 20 years. She’s been a brand merchandiser, brand manager, and fashion designer. She knowshow to control quality from the brand to the finished product. We also focus on being affordable. A small clutch is 10,000 Ks and our biggest tote bag is 50,000 Ks. Souvenirs start at 2,000 Ks for a bracelet. The products are female-centric.
Can we expect anything for men in the near future?
The next season is focusing on men more. We do it like fashion – having seasons twice a year to keep things fresh. For men, we’re working on passport covers and – it’s not very healthy but – a cigarette box. We are working with some quality cigar makers in Myanmar to bring their brand out. And the rest is a secret!
Where can we find Yangoods?
We have two stores, Le Planteur and Bogyoke Market, and the rest we call them corners because we have shelves but we don’t have our sales team there. We have 2 stores and 5 corners. We will probably open in Mandalay airport in the coming month. First we focus on Yangon. Of course, after we focus internationally. That’s really the goal, to spread Myanmar design outside of Myanmar to Europe, Japan, Korea. [Spreading
Myanmar design] makes us the most happy. All of our fans on Facebook feel really proud of Myanmar design and vintages images. They are really vocal about it on social media.
Anything else you’d like to share?
The visible part of the iceberg is the souvenir shops and corner stores, but we’re doing a lot of business-to-busi-ness stuff. We created the French National Day souvenir. We created a personalised version of our paperweight, and produced 550 to 600 of them.
For Le Planteur Restaurant, we created all the wall art. We can do corporate gifts and celebration gifts.
This article was previously published in MYANMORE’s monthly lifestyle magazine, InDepth #10, August 2015