25 Nov 2020
Wisharawish Akarasantisook, who goes by the nickname Ou, a fashion designer who embraces local and authentic textiles while giving it a contemporary and edgy touch of tailored forms and geometric shapes. He places importance on traditional wisdom and culture and brings sustainability into a contemporary context.
Graduating from Chulalongkorn Faculty of Arts and Institut Francais De Le Mode, his breakthrough was winning the Mango Fashion Awards back in 2012. He believes fashion is more than just clothes; it's rather a lifestyle. Ou explained, “I love reading all kinds of books including documentaries to gather inspiration, especially in wording and vocabulary, and from there, I create a brand new story.”
With a passion for travel and encountering new experiences every step of the way, he perceives everything as an adventure. Ou explained further, “However, I did not hope to be a fashion designer initially, I always wanted to become a producer as I studied in the Faculty of Arts. I continued my studies in Fashion Design and I believe there’s always a transition in fashion, it shifts all the time, it’s timeless and it never gets old.”
With Ou’s brand, “Not Just A Label”, he takes local or authentic material and manifests it into a current, edgy refreshing style. He works to give back to the community as well, especially through using textiles that are handcrafted.
Ou introduced a more eco-friendly and sustainable fabric with his latest collection such as using fibres that can be recycled, reducing the use of colour dye and undergoing methods that are more sustainable such as using the original colour of the fabric. He also made a conscious effort to produce only a sufficient amount of stock or reduced stock as much as possible to save logistics energy.
Eight years ago, Ou joined the Mango Fashion Awards and that was where his fashion career opened doors, “I had recently graduated back then and wanted a new challenge. Half of that collection’s fabric was actually Thai Silk, I wanted to use something that was right in front me and bring it to a more international level. Being a graduate, I was super enthusiastic. I did not expect or hope to win but I saw it more as an opportunity and platform to showcase my work,” Ou explained.
By staying updated with the trends of the fashion industry, Ou does not only find inspiration within the fashion industry but he prefers visiting art exhibitions, looking at photos or reading books. For this reason, his work isn’t plainly about fashion; it’s more a form of art and inspiration as well as keeping in mind of the context of local society and surroundings.
The biggest challenge within the industry for Ou is that fashion is not seasonal anymore, there are always new things and ideas coming in with so many platforms. Nonetheless, Ou still loves it as he added, “Fashion never stops evolving, there’s always something new to try out. No matter if it turns out a failure or success, there are always new and different challenges along the way so I never get bored of it.”
With a personal style that holds a “less is more” concept, however not completely minimal, Ou prefers focusing on the material itself. He explained, “I believe if the material is of good quality, everything else will perfectly fall into place. It’s like cooking, if you have fresh and quality ingredients, there’s no need to work so much on the taste as the ingredients are already perfectly splendid.”
Having recently won the Design for Asia Award 2020 - Gold Award - for Apparel & Accessory, it turned out a success as Ou worked with 14 local communities all around Thailand. All of the materials were from Thailand and displayed an authentic context. The Hong Kong Design Center noticed something special about this collection as the materials were local but it somehow translated into a contemporary framework and can be globally recognized. Along with that, Ou finds Thai crafts truly unique as nowadays it’s quite rare to find the classics. Consequently, he chose to focus on that by using traditional handmade materials and handwoven textiles.
Ou also loves challenging his team to their fullest potential. He added, “I fully respect their work but would like to challenge them in what can be brought to the table - new designs or fresh ideas. This is a way to discover new aspects of things. I believe this is what stands out from my brand.”
Being known for traditional handwoven textiles combined with modern design and innovative technology, Ou tends to come up with things that are distinctive but at the same time also keeping in mind with the materials he has at hand. For instance, to make the most of what he has which definitely goes along with the trend right now to be sustainable, to think before consuming and taking the time to design the whole process.
“I strongly believe it’s important to create new and refreshing ideas towards the community. In the world we are living in today, as I mentioned earlier it’s quite hard to find the traditional sides of things, it’s slowly fading away as time ticks so I presume it is best to embrace the authentic aspects of things,” Ou explained.
For his his latest project, he is working with the Rajabhat University Education Organization and 5 communities. Through linking his work with education, he is doing his part in ensuring that his vision of sustainability is passed on to the younger generation.