Heather Smith is a British-born designer who graduated from Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. In 1999, she took her first trip to Laos and later began to make regular visits while working in London. It was in 2012 that Heather, her sister Joanna Smith, and Veomanee Douangdala launched Passa Paa (which means language of cloth in Lao). Their concept was to create an experimental space to explore and incorporate traditional motifs into contemporary handmade fashion items and home accessories.
For Heather’s first Passa Paa collection, she drew inspiration from the traditional techniques of the Hmong ethnic group. She reinterpreted these motifs into bold prints which are screen printed onto cotton, silk, and Hmong hemp – which is traditionally the base cloth from Hmong batik. Leather sourced in Thailand is then applied to create her version of the Hmong reverse appliqué for tote bags, purses, clutches and cushion covers. Through her work, Heather hopes to inspire a new generation of creativity in Laos.
The Passa Paa Studio
The Passa Paa shop and studio in Luang Prabang, Laos opened in November of 2013. Join me for a studio tour and a visit to their shop.