Representing the creative future

Masters of NYC: Mook Attakanwong

One important message from this recent Parsons grad: "DIY never died."

From traditional kimonos to beautiful and rare textiles, Mook Attakanwong would spend her early days surrounded by an eclectic collection of curios in her parents’ antique store; sketching Buddhas and learning about history with her architect father. Exposure to the arts from such a young age cultivated Mook’s interest in fashion, which was enforced within the household. “I am also the youngest in the family,” she notes. “I have three older sisters of a 6 to 11 year age gap, who are very different. When I was young they were already entering their teenage phase, but they always included me in everything. Being around their different groups of friends showed me that there are diverse styles out there.” Also, having a mother with amazing taste helped. “I still steal clothes from her,” Mook admits. “Not to take any credit away from my dad though – he has shoes for all occasions!”

Runway collection, Parsons MFA Fashion Design and Society (2016)

Taking different styles to another level, is Mook’s position as a transatlantic citizen. Having grown up in Bangkok, Thailand, and encountering Parsons’ MFA Fashion Design and Society course director at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia, she made the decision to cross the oceans and take up residency in New York, the United States of America, a place where styles from different cultures cross-pollinate. Mook’s research for her graduate collection eloquently draws from this: the key elements include the uniform of Los Angeles motorcycle gangers and the notion of rebellion, but more importantly, her personal struggle “to exist within the eastern cultural codes while living west.”

Collage by Mook Attakanwong

Of the many rebellious style forms of Western culture, biker gang items (t-shirt, jeans, leather jacket) have become so integrated into our daily lives. While these pieces are symbolic for strength and freedom, they have become wardrobe ‘staples’ for everyday wear and therefore more relatable. The idea of being rebellious could differ on whomever you ask, though. So what’s Mook’s take on the word? “Being a rebel to me means breaking the rule when it’s not right for you. In my personal life, I’m probably at my peak right now!”

Shredding, ripping and patching up the rule book, Mook tells us that “DIY never died” and believes that it is at its height right now, thanks to social media. People are learning to weave their own wall hangings, cut t-shirts and patch jackets to suit their own look. However, she says, it is not as genuine as it used to be, as many are turning to marketed products such as DIY kits rather than using what is easily and readily available. “I mean, sure it’s convenient, but what’s the fun in that? It’s still curated by someone else. DIY is supposed to be spontaneous and simple, using the things that are easily available to you.”

Keeping things hand-made is at the core of what Mook is doing now after graduation. Under her own name, she is working at a slow pace releasing product by product. One of the most rebellious things, she would argue, in our current industry is how emerging designers are going against the grain. “They are slowing down the fashion system for higher quality and in reciprocation the consumers are becoming more educated, conscious and are demanding transparencies. It takes two to tango and we are slowly changing things!”