FROM THE SEA TO THE SOUND

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Black sports coat by designer Banchang Douangphrachanh’s “Regatta Line”. Courtesy photograph | AllKlier Photograhy

The businessman can now sprint to his next appointment in his suit; the sailor can now combat the tempest without getting wet; and the hitchhiker can now traverse through the mountain trails dressed to the nines.

Banchong Douangphrachanh is one out of few menswear designers based in Seattle, and her most recent collection, the Regatta Line, puts function back into fashion.

The garments are primarily made up of fabrics such as neoprene, ripstop, and Gore-Tex, all of which are flexible and waterproof.

Some of her creations include a double-collared, surf-suit jacket and ripstop rain shirt, which emanate a certain coolness and masculinity when put together. If those are too thin against the cold, one can look towards the waffle-shawl, collar sweater, a lovely wool pullover that actually helps fit as opposed to simply cloak the body.

“The right clothes give you the freedom and choice to excel in your sport,” Douangphrachanh said.

Douangphrachanh was born in Laos, a nation snuggled between Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

She came to the U.S when she was 5 years old.

“My childhood was pretty normal,” she said. “I am from a middle class family – happy, healthy – we didn’t really struggle with money.”

Growing up, Douangphrachanh never dreamed of becoming a fashion designer.

“My parents wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer. I am Asian and those are the two professions they identified with,” Douangphrachanh said.

“So I grew up in America most of my life, got accepted into med school. I went to college like everybody else. After college and working for a couple of years, paying off my debt, traveling, growing up, I was free to kind of do what I wanted. I had the luxury and privilege to do something else besides what was set before me.”

“As un undergrad I was in the mountaineer club – you know – you go up mountains, ice caves and all this fun stuff, and some members were complaining about the lack of gear being offered. I was like, OK, I could make that someday. I want to make a great mountaineer coat.”

Then Douangphrachanh applied for graduate school.

Douangphrachanh earned her master’s degree in fashion design at the Academy of Art University.

While studying there, she received valuable criticism and feedback from Simon Ungless, the school’s director of fashion.

Ungless has worked with renowned designers such as Alexander McQueen and Christian Lacroix. He has also tutored Sarah Burton, who is right now the creative director of Alexander McQueen.

“He’s a man of few words,” Douangphrachanh said. “If I didn’t learn design from him, I would have quit [fashion design].”

Under the guidance of Ungless, Douangphrachanh has learned to work under pressure, even when she has completely exhausted her creative energy.

She described working with Ungless with a lot of, “just get it done, get it done, get it done. If not, why are you here?”

Her hard work ethic is matched by her artistry and fine tailoring skills. When looking at Douangphrachanh’s collection, one can notice a harmonious combination between athleticism and virile elegance.

For the Regatta Line, Douangphrachanh said she was inspired by boat racing and the different shades of gray that paint Puget Sound.

“I wanted to develop a strong idea about a man who is in full suit, just full on decked out, sailing,” Douangphrachanh said. “That man would go from the sea to the sound.”

Functional fashion is an evident theme in her collection, but Douangphrachanh has indicated that she wants to someday incorporate the fantasy and glamour of women’s clothing into men’s clothing.

“To me [women’s wear] uses better design techniques, like draping, so I want to add elements of women’s wear into menswear,” she said.

Douangphrachanh has also said that one of her biggest goals in life is to work for department stores such as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.

“I haven’t started on my next collection yet – taking manufacturing one step at a time,” she said. “The cost of my clothes is in the moderate luxury end at a price point from $200-$1000.”

This story was originally published by The Thunderword.

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