At ABOVE Studio aesthetics meets environmental respect through beautiful handwoven accessories that cherish the art of local craftsmanship. By using only local resources available in Thailand the brand aims at making a better version out of this world. We had the opportunity to speak with Sommy, ABOVE’s founder, who fights every day for her passions – nature, design and fashion – making innovation her everyday challenge.
What is the story behind the recently launched ABOVE Studio woven accessories brand? Tell us more about the brand and its mission.
I am a former associate fashion designer from NYC. After I had come back from a trip to the Northern part of Thailand in 2017, I found the hidden beauty of handcrafted products from local villagers and I would like to help those villagers with extraordinary weaving skills so I established close relationship with them in making order of woven basket from them with the design that I like.
You are a former associate fashion designer from NYC. What made you move from the realm of high fashion to one of the sustainable creations? Do you feel that the industry as the whole is falling a bit behind?
I grew up in a cornfield and my family was in agriculture business in a province near Bangkok. My parents always told me to take care of this world, love the nature and learn to help the people around me. I realized now is the greatest opportunity to pursue what I have always wanted to do. If we can make a sustainable product out of our nature, we will collectively improve our society and our planet.
Thailand is usually known as ‘the land of smile’. How do local cultural values reflect in Above? Is there a specific lifestyle you are trying to communicate through your brand?
I think smile represents sincere and genuine in our brand. The artisans put his/her skills and heart into the product they make and really want to make sure people who use it love it. Every time I went back to my homeland, Thailand, I find that everyone just keeps smiling at each other. Then I realised this may be something unique and symbolic to my own culture, local Thai culture. Thai people always keep smiling, no matter what happens. These things make me become a positive person and live my life slowly in current world’s competitiveness and rush. I truly want to radiate this positivity through our brand and products.
Since your brand is closely linked to the natural surroundings of Thailand, what type of challenges have you encountered trying to be environmentally conscious?
Most of the products are made from Water Hyacinth. In Thailand, it is lodged in a wooden jetty in the River around our country. Water hyacinth is a weed that clogs waterways. This is a way of recycling, as those unwanted plants become accessories and, at the same time, they can help the villagers to make a living. Moreover, I plan to expand the products to home decor, and I try to use natural and handmade textiles from another village.
Your collections are handcrafted by local artisans from every part of Thailand. Besides being a celebration of the art of local craftsmanship, what’s the social mission incorporated into your brand?
This is essentially big part of our mission. Every product sold will contribute back to local communities and aid whatever local people need. For example, clean water and school supplies, in order to help the community, grow stronger and better. This will create a real basis for a sustainable community.
How do you see the future of sustainable fashion?
Nowadays it’s hard to preserve and protect local cultures, and we are living in the technology world. Supporting local makers would be the best way to preserve these cultures for our next generations to come.
Virtually all major clothing companies have a work in progress in the field of sustainability. What makes ABOVE Studio stand out?
ABOVE Studio and the ABOVE brand, we work and interact closely with our local artisans and even contribute a part of our profits to innovative projects, like improving human capital and the skills they need for making the handmade products. Our selection of products is limited because we make sure that our products are 100% quality oriented, and 100% made with love by our local artisans.