We, as the Designer Interviews ("DI") had the distinct pleasure and opportunity to interview award-winning, most creative and innovative Douangmany Heuangkhamsene ("DH").

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Designer Profile of Douangmany Heuangkhamsene

I am a founder of Her Works, a social enterprise, producer and retailer of contemporary ethnic handicrafts. We are the first in the market to produce handicrafts that were based on multiple minority groups’ designs in Laos. Our designs were awarded and Her Works then earned the opportunity from foreign institutions to join international conferences for women empowerment. Her Works aims to employ local ethnic women in the production of all hand-made handicrafts. By doing so not only do we help the community by giving them access to the mass market, but we also promote the unique diverse culture of Lao minority groups.

Douangmany Heuangkhamsene Designs

We are pleased to share with you original and innovative design work by Douangmany Heuangkhamsene.


MANGMEE Purse

Douangmany Heuangkhamsene Design - MANGMEE Purse

Designer Interview of Douangmany Heuangkhamsene:

DI: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?

DH : I have never thought to become a designer before. It happened because of the fact that I have felt in love with the Lao ethnic handicrafts and the traditional art, which made me want to design products from those pattern.

DI: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?

DH : Her Works is a social enterprise manufacturing ethnic-minority-designed contemporary products. The key to all Her Works products is that the materials are handmade by the minority ethic groups from various location in Laos. The materials can be made by hand-weaving, embroidering with natural coloring. Her Works was formed with a mission to conserve, promote and broadcast the unique artistic textile designs of the ethnic minority groups. This helps in preserving the fading culture and also provides another platform for the minority people to equip themselves with a skill set that could enhance their living standards as well as their communities.

DI: What is "design" for you?

DH : To me, designing is the ability to present and communicate works in your own way.

DI: What kinds of works do you like designing most?

DH : Product Design especially bags.

DI: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?

DH : Mangmee,the design that brought me 3 awards is my favorite design. I spent one year to develop this design and it was also very hard to find the right material and the Iumien or Yao ethnic artisans to hand stitch the pattern. The stories behind this bag also made it become my master piece.

DI: What was the first thing you designed for a company?

DH : Bag

DI: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?

DH : Natural fiber and natural color dyed

DI: When do you feel the most creative?

DH : When I woke up at night, and I could not get back to sleep, then ideas would start to flow into my mind.

DI: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?

DH : Mood board to make sure that I won’t go off-track

DI: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?

DH : Neutral

DI: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?

DH : Happy

DI: What makes a design successful?

DH : When people understand and value our design

DI: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?

DH : Story behind a design

DI: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?

DH : Nowadays, designers should consider first the environmental impacts that your design would bring about. Good designs should at least not cause any negative social and environmental effects. It would be even better if your designs could create a good cause.

DI: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?

DH : I think design has already evolved so far that many of designs in the past have brought many negative impacts to our environment. The challenge now is that how we could use our design to make our world an environmentally better place to live.

DI: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?

DH : February 2019, in Tokyo Big Sight. October 2019 in Laos.

DI: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?

DH : Most of my inspiration come from Lao traditional ethnic arts. In Laos, my country, we have a very diverse culture with 50 different ethnic groups. Each group, dress and speak differently and have a very unique art and pattern. Studying about these ethnic art has always been my passion and inspiration to my works

DI: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?

DH : Folks + Japanese minimal. Lao folks are very diverse and colorful. However, I love natural color and the minimalism influenced from Japanese culture, so I try to balance it to my works.

DI: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?

DH : Laos. the cultural heritage of Laos has definitely affected my designs. the benefit of it is that it has influenced my design to be unique, and the making process of my products are the culture that has already fading. Thus, to protect our cultural heritage and the technique is always our company's mission.

DI: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?

DH : Should give designers their most comfortable way of work. It depends on style, choose the style of the designer that you like. don't choose just because they are good designers.

DI: Can you talk a little about your design process?

DH : First - come up with concept - check global trends and color - come up with mood board - design products

DI: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?

DH : Vintage wood shelves, vintage colonial windows, vintage ethnic headbands for wall decoration, vintage rattan basket, vintage ethnic silver jewelries

DI: Can you describe a day in your life?

DH : My responsibilities are varied. Everyday has different to do list. Mostly, I would plan projects and what to do for the company, then pass the works to whom it may concern. Visiting rural villages, and work with the community to design pattern and craft fabrics, then me and my team will have to come up with product design.

DI: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?

DH : Try to be yourself. your design should represent yourself and characteristic. When people see your design they should feel you that would make your design successful.

DI: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?

DH : Negative: It is difficult when you have to come up with new design that should make people "WOW" more than your old works. Some people might not agree or appreciate your works. Positives the ability to express your thought and passion through your works

DI: What is your "golden rule" in design?

DH : My design should always include Lao ethnic culture and patterns.

DI: What skills are most important for a designer?

DH : Clearly understanding what you want to communicate through your design.

DI: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?

DH : traveling and spending time with ethnic people in the rural areas is my tools. because most of my design are to present the traditional art and culture, so learning about them is very important and to make sure that i could present it correctly. Moreover, I could also check that if my idea is possible to create because they are the one who would craft the fabric.

DI: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?

DH : I don't like forcing myself to come up with a design. Good design will come unconsciously, then I will note it down and develop the idea.

DI: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?

DH : about 2 weeks

DI: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?

DH : What is my inspiration?

DI: What was your most important job experience?

DH : 2 times unsuccessful in running restaurants. The failure has taught me a lot, and I try not to make the same mistakes.

DI: Who are some of your clients?

DH : Tourists and expats in Laos

DI: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?

DH : Design my own product that I love and I would use it myself because I don't need to care that other would like it or not. If other people value it then it would be a bonus.

DI: What are your future plans? What is next for you?

DH : Designing and running a fashion show

DI: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?

DH : I mostly work as a team. I mostly come up with concept and then pass the works to my team to continue and I will check with them.

DI: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?

DH : I am now working on designing a collection of ready to wear cloths and bags using OMA ethnic pattern, an unseen minority ethnic group only in Laos with population less than 0.1% in Laos.

DI: How can people contact you?

DH : herworks.lao@gmail.com What saap: +856 20 58883388 www.herworks.la