BWILD Isan is a community that gathers designers and craftsmen with various skills from different communities. This initiative is based in the province of Khon Kaen, and the reason for its existence is to present the ‘Isan identity’ through the eyes of the people of ‘Isan.’
“BWILD Isan means the courage to transform ordinary things from Isan into something special, whether it’s materials, people, lifestyles, or ordinary things in the eyes of others. We will use creativity to give value to these things by using the skills of craftsmanship, local wisdom, diverse abilities of the team, and the collaboration of people of different ages in the community.”
This is what Chompoo-Kanchana Shnatepaporn, the strong woman founder of BWILD Isan, tells us.
Chompoo is a Udon Thani girl who moved to Khon Kaen province and continued her family’s fabric business, transforming it into the “By Heart” brand. Specializing in high-quality traditional and wedding attire, this small clothing shop gained the opportunity to feature a collection in a magazine due to its excellent response. The positive feedback led to business expansion, marking the beginning of collaborations with various people.
Chompoo, a recent graduate and skilled artisan, recognized the struggles of earning a living in the Isan region. She questioned whether providing space for young people and artisans to work on what they love could eliminate the need for migration from their hometowns and families. The focus was on creating sustainable careers and improving the quality of life for workers. Chompoo didn’t just contemplate, but she took action!
In this ordinary yet extraordinary space, she produces enduring fashion products ranging from clothing, shoes, and bags to home decor – all crafted by local artisans in Khon Kaen. These items tell the local Isan story, narrated by Isan people for Isan people.
Beyond that, her ambitious goal extends beyond profit – she envisions sustainable development and self-sufficiency for the community. Crucially, she aims to provide equal opportunities for everyone in Isan society.
If you’re wondering what BWILD Isan is all about, this is the proud story we’re excited to share with you.
Opportunities in Crisis
“One might say that opportunities don’t come knocking on the door; sometimes, they need a little push.”
Chompoo spoke with a sincere tone, reflecting on the origins of BWILD Isan. She had initially planned and formed a team in the year 2019 to kickstart a new project. However, the arrival of COVID-19 in the following year forced everything to come to a halt. Faced with a crossroads, this Udon Thani girl chose to continue the fight with a simple yet profound reason: “Because of people.”
Despite knowing that there would be significant expenses, she believed that supporting skilled artisans and designers was more valuable than money. For her, the support provided to these talented individuals was an investment that went beyond monetary value. Money could buy hours of learning, adaptation, and happiness derived from the relationships she currently cherishes. The challenges and obstacles brought about by COVID-19 made her realize the importance of family, the difficulties people faced, and the necessity for many to return to their hometowns.
With these insights, she resolved to create the brand ‘BWILD Isan‘ to offer a career path for people to work on what they love in their hometowns. Simultaneously, she wanted people to see their hometowns in a new light – as a source of culture, knowledge, and creativity that could be explored and shared endlessly.
After the birth of the brand, Chompoo underwent training in courses like RENEN and ‘Por Laew Dee The Creator,’ which significantly impacted her business. With clear goals and a stable foundation, she found the ‘just right’ balance in her business, aligning with the concept of ‘พอดี’ or ‘Just Right.’
“Creating BWILD Isan, we’re not just pursuing profit; we also think about people and society. It has led to a community that brings together local designers and artisans who share a common belief in creating something meaningful together. We want this space to be a stage for the younger generation in Isan, allowing them to do what they are good at, be with their families, and ultimately feel proud and recognize their own worth.”
“We believe in building a brand that is valuable. Whenever we have value, we will be in people’s hearts,” she confidently declared. This assures us that the brand is not solely focused on creating fashion products but is interested in collaborating with the community and the younger generation. Communicating the essence of Isan to the global audience in a valuable way is a challenging endeavor, and each person joining the team is not a simple matter.
Chompoo engaged in discussions, sought out individuals from recent graduates turning into hometown designers like Ma-Deaw-Apichet Etitirat to local artisan communities in Khon Kaen. With diverse ages and roles, she emphasized a clear division of responsibilities.
She cited the example of a designer, where the key responsibility is designing, but it should not dictate the work process of the artisan. For the artisan, the crucial duty is to work wholeheartedly without limitations, rules, or restrictions, whether it’s knitting, weaving, or dyeing fabrics – be themselves to the fullest.
The outcomes of their work reflect the ‘courage’ of individuals of various ages, creating boldly and vibrantly!
“In addition to seeking new talents, we turned our attention back to the people in the community. We discovered that the artisans in Isan have potential in traditional crafts such as silk weaving, dyeing, traditional crafts, and tailoring. This led to collaborative efforts. We strive to encourage the younger generation to utilize their skills, complemented by the wisdom of tradition. It’s a mutual enrichment because designers themselves may lack an understanding of local wisdom or the rooted craft, while the community may lack adaptation to the technological era.”
“In the end, it’s about mutual dependence, collaboration, and facing challenges together while preserving the culture, original wisdom, and way of life of the Isan people. It’s about growing together with value,” expressed the founder.
Most importantly, BWILD Isan aims to be a fashion brand that does not rush new product releases, does not overproduce, and believes in Sustainable Fashion. Chompoo chose fashion and craftsmanship as the starting point to pave the way and create new opportunities.
‘Wild in The City’ is the first collection that brings together designers with different talents to learn, experiment, and create together. The main inspirations include determination, courage, belief, faith, and protection, which are incorporated into the design themes, such as silk scarves, clothing, drawings on fabric, neckties, perfumes, bags, and ceramics. This collection received the Best Collection Award from the Qurated Fashion Incubation Project 2020.
Following this, the second collection, ‘Ant Colony,’ explores the beauty of Isan during the hot season. Amidst the hot air and dry soil, beauty emerges, symbolized by sunflowers and the process of ant egg harvesting. This practice contributes to the creation of a spicy delicacy during the kimhan season, reflecting the traditional way of life in Isan. The designs include silk scarves with sunflower and ant egg patterns, as well as neckties with red ant and termite queen (nang phaya) patterns. This collection received the Champion Award from the Thai Designer Academy 2021.
After working on these two collections, Chompoo realized the importance of ‘doing just enough.’ Producing a variety of products led to a reassessment of the business’s standpoint, realizing that BWILD Isan should exist to create value for specific customer groups. The brand should be dedicated to spending time developing products, improving work, and finding the right place. Chompoo did not want the brand to be just one that follows trends.
Finally, it resulted in the creation of the Kai Baan Bag (Chicken House Bag), stepping outside the conventional, being fun, and reflecting the true values of local life. It draws inspiration from everyday life, homes, and traditions across provinces. The bag subtly suggests that ‘anything is possible,’ and in the future, one might carry a chicken coop bag, wear a hawaiian shirt with a chicken pattern, proudly showcasing their Isan identity.
We asked her one more question: Why did she turn back to look at Isan culture with a discerning eye?
“Because we are in an era where Fast Fashion products from foreign industries flood in, destroying the income channels of Thai artisans. Not everyone can switch to other jobs or find income with different skills. We are people in the area. If we don’t rise up and do something, we can’t expect others to create opportunities for us. We don’t want to be the ones waiting for opportunities handed to us. What we are doing now, we hope it will lead to acceptance of the work of Isan designers and appreciation for the craftsmanship of Thai artisans.”
“Coming back to look at Isan makes us see the charm, the genuine nature of Isan people—good friends, hardworking, and resilient. Isan people always have a fun story to share. They live and eat simply, but the determination and resilience of Isan people are unmatched. No matter where you meet an Isan person in the world, you will greet them as if you’ve known each other for a long time. It’s the special quality that Isan people have,” she added.
Everything is possible, and one of the possibilities that Chompu picked as her goal is equality.
“We want equality to happen and want more opportunities in Isan,” firmly stated the Isan native.
“There are younger ones studying design who face discrimination just because they are Isan people. Even though our Isan children are talented and determined, they have to pursue their dreams on their own. We feel that the struggle without recognition is exhausting. Part of the reason we created this brand is because we want being ‘Isan people’ to be accepted,” Chompu explained.
Equality, meaning the opportunities not given to Isan people. Why do Isan people have to go to Bangkok to find jobs? Why are Isan people rejected despite having qualities that are not inferior to anyone, possessing intelligence, culture, charm, stories, and a ‘life’?
To keep this idea in the DNA of BWILD Isan, the organizational concept supports everyone having their own team, like pulling points together to break out wider. If one day this girl from Udon Thani is no longer here, these points will be arranged in a row. Linked together as a strong line, creating a path for the new generation of Isan designers, mature craftsmen moving forward with stability.
“One day when the younger ones and the villagers are strong enough, they won’t have to rely solely on us. Instead, they will grow on their own paths, and we will be like a big umbrella giving them shade when they need to rest during the hot days. When they have strength, they will go back and fight anew,” Chompu said.
“We want to see Isan people have hope, pride, not inferior to anyone. We want there to be plenty of opportunities happening in Isan, our beloved birthplace. We want to see cooperation building strength in our Isan community, creating opportunities that we build ourselves, without waiting for anyone to hand them to us. And on the day when we are no longer here, BWILD Isan will still continue the journey with the same mindset from the beginning. Doing this, we don’t feel like heroes; it’s more like passing on the game,” she added.
“We want to use our lives until the age of 40 towards the end. We want to find our last job, a job that we have the strength to do the most before it ends. We want to do good enough for ourselves to think about, at least for others to remember what we have done. BWILD Isan has made us realize that we still have usefulness and value to others,” she concluded.
This may be the meaning of the life of a 47-year-old Udon Thani woman and the emergence of a small community that wants to drive the creativity of our Isan homeland.
“The best thing we can achieve this year is to create pride in being born Isan,” she concluded.
Phone: 06 1441 4265
Facebook: BWILD ISAN
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