Wearing Burmese longyi has been fun and lovely especially when you see it on a foreigner. This has been a lifetime tradition for Myanmar people carrying along over generations. The longyi industry in Myanmar has plenty of choices to offer yet Myanmore sat down with UKK, the biggest supplier of longyis throughout the whole nation, to talk about how their business turns out to be a big plate on the table.
An advocate for cultural preservation, Kyaw Ye Hein (25) is in charge of the UKK – a brand that stands for the value of the symbol it represents: the Burmese attire. He does what he does, not for profit nor fame, but for the simple reason, an appreciation for Myanmar tradition. With cultures around the globe having different rankings for their traditional dresses, not all of them are as functional the Burmese longyi according to Kyaw. Similar to the sarong, which is predominantly worn in Manipur and Mizoram districts of upper Myanmar and Northeastern India, the longyi is a versatile piece of clothing that is not only light but freeing which goes well with all sorts of tops; t-shirts, dress shirts and maybe even tank tops but we wouldn’t recommend that.
UKK, an acronym of his father U Kyaw Kyaw, was a supplier of high-quality longyis for many different brands back in the day. However, efforts were made so that UKK could be a manufacturer and a brand on its own. UKK employed more than 400 weavers in Amarapura, Mandalay distributing longyis all across the country. Kyaw’s family have been running their factory for over 150 years, but in recent years the assimilation of both Burmese and Western culture is posing a threat to the lore of wearing longyi in Myanmar. Kyaw believes the mania of pants and skirts have shifted the interest of the general population, especially the youth.
Another threat for the longyi market is the arrival of cheap, lower quality garments exported from foreign manufacturers. Through and through he explains that the traditional way of weaving longyi takes not only time and supervision but also great expertise. “Quality over quantity, that’s how it should be. Then my father had an idea to establish a brand of our own”, he implies.
With the market demanding more than just a good product, UKK is catching up with the new digital generation as their Facebook page has over twenty-one thousand people opting to see all their latest designs and activities. UKK is also keeping the tradition alive by using family weaving methods to give its customers quality longyis made with passion, unaffiliated with foreign technology. Kyaw wants the longyi to be a staple in casual Myanmar fashion, something that could be worn ideally instead of thick jeans in 40-degree weather.
“Lately our traditional attires are only worn during ceremonies and special occasions. We want to demonstrate that our traditional longyi can be an everyday outfit. We sell the traditional lifestyle over the products,” said Kyaw Ye Hein.
Although plastic packagings are commonly used within the market. Kyaw wants UKK to be an environmentally friendly brand that uses biodegradable paper for almost all product packaging.
“We made it, we build it. Our brand is putting extra efforts to become as eco-friendly as possible,” he claims. “Our brand is putting extra efforts to become as eco-friendly as possible”.
At present, UKK longyi is available in their main outlet on U Wisara Road, Kamayut township as well as shop.com.mm. In the showroom, customers can experience one-stop shopping for all the products they need–shirts, jackets, bags, longyis. Simultaneously UKK strives to present the brand as one of the best longyi brands in Myanmar, they have a potential plan to export Burma pride to Southeast Asia and Europe as their garment factory makes uniforms on a large scale for banks and other corporates even clutch bags, curtains and cushions.
The intentions UKK have preserved a tradition yet casual lifestyle with a passion which drives the brand to become a unique icon in the industry. To keep the local cultures and traditions, they are now also planning to host traditional cultural shows to showcase casual Myanmar fashion in the near future.
“We want you to try our traditional wear and we guarantee you’d love it!”, he smiles. Meanwhile Kyaw Ye Hein will be running other businesses in Myanmar as their 3 stars international hotel in Yangon is on the rise and the co-working space beside the UKK showroom is on its way.
Address: No. 314/A, U Wisaya Road, Kamaryut Tsp, Yangon
Contact: 01 510 294
Opens 9am – 6pm