“Drawing and painting shoes and clothes made me realise that I have a passion for fashion design when I was in primary school. And I think I am on the right track. I love doing this and never get tired of it,” said Kong Sothea (“Da Mo” to his friends), whose fashion designs were selected among the finalists of the Air Asia Runway Ready Designer Search in Malaysia last year.
A recent graduate in Fashion Design from Limkokwing University in Cambodia, Mr Sothea, who just turned 23 this year, mentioned that even though he loves fashion design, he was not initially brave enough to study it. He chose Architectural Engineering.
“I think my parents would love to see me studying architecture. After spending a year at it, I knew I couldn’t go on with it as it didn’t interest me. I found out that doing the thing you love brings success and you never feel tired of it, no matter how hard you work. I switched to study fashion design and my parents supported the move,” Mr Sothea recalled.
He added that in his batch there were only three students studying that major. But times have changed. There are now many students in the field and most of them are young men.
“I think it does not matter whether you are boy or a girl. To get beautiful designs, you have to put lots of effort into it and persevere no matter your gender,” he said.
Last year, he saw a post calling for fashion designers to show their outfits. Before he applied, he read their requirements and criteria critically. He then built up his concept, inspired by Romdoul flowers, and ensured that his designs were ready to wear. He didn’t expect to be selected at first.
“The Romdoul flower represents Cambodia. I thought it would be interesting to show this to other countries through my designs,” he stated.
After being selected among two designers in Cambodia, he spent one-and-a-half months designing a fashion collection for the runway.
Mr Sothea said, “I had to redo the designs lots of times until I felt satisfied with them. I wanted to put Cambodia’s flag on a design too, yet it did not work out as the colours clashed with my outfits. So I applied only white colour.”
While many fashion designers have a narrow view of the market, Mr Sothea thinks differently.
“I think fashion offers so many opportunities to work as a stylist for many fashion shows at many big brands in Cambodia. Once you love doing something, you will give it your best, even when it is not easy. Then, success will always follow,” he said.
Mr Sothea added that though there are many scholarships available for Cambodian students, he personally sees them as being rather narrow in scope for fashion design students. Aside from having a desire to open his own fashion design shop, he said he wants to pursue further degrees if he gets the chance and can afford it.