• A model shows Madaew
  • Rising fashion star Apichet 'Madaew' Atilattana, clad in a robe printed with the motifs of Isaan's favourite board game Nam Tao Pu Pla poses with artist Kongpat 'Ong' Sakdapitak at the launch event of KOxMA. Nation/Anant Chantarasoot
  • The KOxMA collection features a colourful print inspired by Thailand
  • Transgender and net idol Chawathida Kuptawarin parades on the catwalk. Nation
  • The banana leaf-inspired print that brought Madaew fame. Photo/EPA
  • Che Guevara's famous portrait is combined with sayings more usually seen on truck stickers for this off-the-shoulder top. Photo/EPA
  • Kreaw, a Karen hilltribe boy who once modelled for Louis Vuitton, shows off a KOxMa creation. Photo/Anant Chantarasoot.
  • KOxMA also offers pyjamas, skirts, Thai-boxing shorts and sports bras. Photo/Anant Chantarasoot

Absolutely Isaan

Art October 03, 2016 01:00

By Kupluthai Pungkanon

The Nation

2,053 Viewed

Net icon Apichet “Madaew” Atilattana and artist Kongpat “Ong” Sakdapitak create a collection of quirky outfits

A social network phenomenon since the age of 15 after posting images of himself dressed in his own designs created from everyday items such as mosquito nets and banana leaves, Apichet “Madaew” Atilattana recently joined up with artist and lifestyle icon Kongpat “Ong” Sakdapitak to launch a collection of weird and wonderful outfits under the name KoxMA.
Sponsored by WeHaveFund.com, a website devoted to helping young people sell their ideas, and Siam Center’s Absolutely Siam, the collection dubbed “The Magical Realism of Thainess” comprises more than 200 items that go up for sale later this month at the KoxMa pop-up store at the downtown shopping centre. 
Madaew, now 17, who is known as “Thai Baan Fashionista”, has been creating his own couture pieces since he was a small lad, borrowing his mother’s pots and pans and appropriating fishing nets and woven chicken cages and turning them into costumes. His followers have seen him in a long fishtail dress made from wrap-around mosquito netting and an avant-garde dress made from layering woven chicken cages together to create a fresh form and an interesting 3D pattern. Another dress, this one made from galvanised iron sheets used in roofing, is nothing short of a work of art. In addition to using everyday objects, Madaew also incorporates natural materials such as flowers and banana leaves in his designs, which include a long dress made from coconut leaves and husks worn with a woven basket hat decorated with flowers. 
And Madaew’s fame is growing. He’s been featured on the BBC, in Hint Fashion magazine and on Buzzfeed, interviewed by Time and even invited to participate as a guest designer on “Asia’s Next Top Model”. 
Kongpat, whose quirky pop art designs can be found on gallery walls as well as packaging, is well known for his street fashion flair and is a front row regular at Bangkok’s fashion shows. His signature outfits mix vintage pieces with unexpected items to create a thor
 oughly modern look that is both understated yet fun.
Despite the differences in age, Kongpat and Madaew have enjoyed working together. “We are both ‘look Isaan’ [children of the Northeast] – I come from Loei while Madaew is a Khon Kaen native – and we wanted to present our roots through this collection,” Kongpat, 40s, says. 
“People have always looked down on Isaan,” he adds. “In the past, they would sneer at som tam, our spicy papaya salad with fermented fish, saying it’s the food of rural bumpkins while gobbling it down and enjoying every mouthful. Today som tam is a must have and on sale in the food courts of every posh department store. So that’s the idea. When designers say their inspiration comes from travelling to Maldives or Hawaii, I want to say mine comes from Isaan. That’s why we took a shot of a mat with a set of som tam, sticky rice, spicy minced pork and grilled chicken then screened it on a piece of cloth that people can apply to 
 a skirt, blanket or whatever they like.”
The pair haven’t stopped at food. Other quirky prints inspired by the everyday “magical realism of Thailand” include flower garlands, truck driver’s stickers and the Thai board game “Fish or Shrimp” (“Nam Tao Pu Pla”). Kongpat has also been inspired by Madaew’s favourite prints and sketched chicken coops and banana leaves to incorporate with the designs. Visitors to the pop-up store are invited to mix and match T-shirts, skirts, Hawaiian shirts, pyjamas, coats, dresses, Thai boxing shorts and sport bras to create their own unique style and accessorise them with sandals and bags for a complete look.
“No one can tell if what I am wearing is cheap or expensive. I buy clothes from everywhere; shopping malls, Club21, flea markets like Chatuchak or on street near my house,” Kongpat says.
The artist is also keen to underline that different generations can work together well, especially when the youngsters are ready to listen to advice.
“Society is always talking about ‘startups’ for young people and my advice to these youngsters is that they should be certain about what they want to do and then follow it through right the way to the end. Start small then grow bigger. Technology gives us accessibility and mobility, young startups should learn from that and use it efficiently. Net idols tend to be here today and gone tomorrow. In order to stay in peoples’ minds you have to be real. It is not about the computer but your hands. Madaew is a good example. I told him to learn more about art and basic drawing. He has to be real,” the artist says.
Madaew’s follower Suttiwan Sinpramoun, who hosts the online programme “Kob Toot Mai Lhood Trend” (“Friends with Tootsie Won’t Lose Trends”), says that Madaew has become an inspiration for many young people, especially gays and transgenders. 
“I often invite Madaew to my show. We have fun together, chat and demonstrate makeup techniques as well as mixing and matching clothes. The feedback is very good. I dream of launching my own startup like Madaew.” As for Madaew himself, he says he’s very proud and grateful for the opportunities he’s been offered. 
“I value items that most people think of as waste. I like what I do and I do it wholeheartedly. I dream that one day everybody will have at least one item of clothing designed by me in their wardrobe. This project is a dream come true,” he says.
“I also think that it is essential to be yourself and be sincere in order to be successful in the public’s eyes and make them remember. I want to be consistent and not forget my roots, where I am come from and project really answers to that need. Our clothes are designed to suit everyone, be they male, female or transgender. We are all equal,” Madaew says.
- The KOxMA pop-up store is at Siam Center from October 15 to 26. The outfits are also available at www.WeHaveFund.com.
- Find out more #wehavefund #absolutesiam #koxma and www.WeHaveFund.com.