Redefining Lanna style while keeping to its roots
As the name and logo of the Long Goy brand suggests, founder Supakorn Sunkanaporn, who is known as Kla, is passionate about Lanna design. The heart of Long Goy lies in the way he likes to reinterpret traditional Lanna styles to suit contemporary settings.
“Long Goy means ‘to try’, which is what I like to do when I experiment as I try to make things for others."
” A second meaning of Long Goy is that it works a bit like an invitation to anyone who would like to come and see what we do. It also reflects our brand identity about reinterpreting Lanna style. The logo comes from the Thai letter ‘อ’, which in the northern language is called “Ah”. When I created our new logo, I designed a new font thinking it just looked beautiful. It didn’t have any special meaning. I just liked the rhythm of it,” said Kla
The Rhythm of Long Goy
“We are a new kind of Lanna storyteller in Lanna. We want the world to know about us and develop our
brand’s visibility at national and international levels. The more people know about us, the more
people there will be who know about Lanna.”
In his childhood, Kla was surrounded by people working on textiles. Old ladies sat beneath his house, sewing clothes for
“Bua Khiao Cotton”, his mother’s clothing business. The rhythmic whirring of sewing machines was a familiar sound, and
his mother was a shining example of how culture and work blend together. It was this that inspired Kla to study product design, working on how to promote Lanna identity through street fashion for his bachelor thesis at King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology, Ladkrabang.
“I’ve been working on this experimental brand for about five years since my thesis. I want to evoke Lanna-style in new ways using different techniques and fabrics. When creating the brand, I first saw Lanna as a place to collect stories about; that was until someone told me that Lanna was not just a place but a people. So, I focused on people to rethink the story of Lanna through their lifestyles in the places they lived. Wherever we go, we remain Lanna people, right? We want to tell people’s stories through fashion, bringing the Lanna of the past into the present and taking it to the future.”
“My first year’s work was really an extension of my thesis. I brought together lots of different things associated with Lanna that interested people and, using new patterns, created “the First Collection, the Story of Lanna”
Every step Kla takes…
Long Goy’s subsequent collections expanded on motifs, telling stories from a bold viewpoint. One such collection added new features to the traditional Chiang Mai motif of standing lion sculptures that are commonly found in front of temple entrances.
“The lions have the same posture at every temple, which I thought was a bit uninspiring, so I had the lions adopt the poses of tigers as seen in Japanese murals to make them more interesting.”
In Kla’s eyes, Lanna manifests itself in every work created by Lanna’s skilled craftsmen, the ‘sala.’ “Lanna craftsmen are interesting. Take the sign makers on Chang Phuak Road, for example, who should most certainly be thought of as ‘sala’ too. They know a lot about laser cutting and execute very fine techniques in their work. They live in a community like the carpenters, blacksmiths and plasterers did in the old days.”
Seeing potential in what others often cannot, Kla became inspired by the laser cutting Sala to create a cool and unique
new collection of clothes that involved a more technical style of production using patterns made from recycled acrylic scraps
“The content found in acrylics is another facet of Chiang Mai’s story. With the growth in new cafes and hotels, there was great demand for new shop signs. So, I picked up discarded acrylic frames after the letters had been removed to make shop signs,
using the frames to create designs that reflected the growth of Lanna from the viewpoint of laser-cutting technicians.”
Kla Doesn’t Stop
Covid brought many things to a halt but not Kla, who decided to use free time caused by the pandemic to study pattern making and sewing, enrolling at the Bangkok branch of the world’s number one fashion school in Japan, the Bunka Fashion School.
“For my final collection at Bunka, I chose to tell an imaginary story about a subway in Chiang Mai. I imagined what it would
be like if Chiang Mai had a subway. Naturally, trade and investment would grow in many areas. I tried to compare it with Kyoto, which is like Chiang Mai since both cities have many temples and are highly cultural. I studied the culture and life of Kyoto,
which has had a subway since the 1980s. I created stories as if Chiang Mai had a subway by making clothes simulating what the subway drivers might be wearing to work. Then I put subway-related advertising signs on them as a gimmick.”
Patterns change but content remains the same
"We don't want Long Goy to be a brand that only makes indigo clothing. We want to describe Lanna
in new ways with new forms while still using locally sourced hand-woven fabrics and local people to make them. In this way we are trying to support Lanna’s heritage and promote it on the international stage.”
Long Goy’s distinctive Lanna style uses new ideas and techniques Kla creates to make his clothes look modern while following the traditional concepts he chooses to realize.
Three steps to becoming Long Goy
“I've often wondered about famous singers who've been singing the same songs for 20-30 years. Do they get bored repeatedly playing their songs even though the audiences who come to listen may be new?”
The first step is to find a story to tell and a way to tell it. Some concepts for collections don’t take a long time to research, but others can take several weeks. Kla says he relies on keywords, combining them together to make collections consistent. The second step is to experiment with techniques to creating the patterns for the story to be presented. The final step is to integrate the new patterns into the clothes he creates.
“Creating something new is always a challenge. It’s quite difficult for me to focus on one thing as I want to talk about everything I like. I must choose what fits current trends. I may want a particular design, but then I find the material is out
of stock, so I must search for alternatives. Sometimes, I must use 50 percent of materials bought in the market and 50 percent from the community to maintain the workflow.”
Kla is as passionate about architecture as he is about design and Lanna. Long Goy’s new studio and showroom, which is being built on land by his house in San Kamphaeng, is expected to be completed in October. With an expanded workspace and
a showroom to display products, Kla hopes customers will learn more about Long Goy. He likes to think that his business is akin to the work of musicians, who create melodies that people will repeatedly want to hear.