What is HmongStudios?
So, how did this whole thing start? The story is actually a pretty interesting one.
Last summer, I took a trip to Vietnam. One of the places I visited was the rural mountain village of Sa Pa, home to the Hmong people. The Hmong are a very interesting people. The second I got off the bus, I was swarmed by about 8 girls, asking me about myself and where I was from. Eventually, they made me pinky promise to “go shopping later” and they were gone. “Wow, these are quite the salespeople” I thought to myself. “However, they seem to have made one mistake — they didn’t actually tell me what they had for sale!”
As I started wandering about the town, I began to realize exactly what the had for sale. Beautiful and vibrant indigo textiles in every form you could imagine. They had placemats, table runners, tablecloths, and even clothes. But what really caught my eye were the bags. Before the trip, I had been shopping around for some travel bags, but they were all either too expensive, of shoddy quality, or just plain ugly. In contrast, the bags which the Hmong made felt incredibly sturdy, and were a reasonable price.
So it was decided. I would get myself a nice plain indigo bag, and that would be that. However, as I toured the city, I found that I could not find any plain indigo bags at all. All the Hmong people’s designs were extremely vibrant. Way too flashy for my taste.
Frustrated, I turned to my tour guide and told him that the Hmong are missing out on half of their market. If they just made plainer bags, they could probably sell a lot more, especially to men. He was a bit surprised by this comment, but he did note that most tourists tended to carry plainer bags than what the Hmong people designed.
That’s when I was suddenly struck with the idea. I asked him if he would be able to introduce me to Hmong people whom I could collaborate with to create toned down designs of their bags. I knew the materials and the process which they used produced incredible quality bags, so it was just a matter of making them a bit less flashy to appeal to the American market. To my surprise, my tour guide said he‘d give it a shot! Thus HmongStudios was born, with my tour guide acting as my business partner.
The idea of these bags are that they are half designed by myself, to appeal to the American tastes, and half designed by the Hmong, to keep the bags authentic to their origin. I am so excited to finally open my store and show these bags to the world!