Published in Mizzima Weekly on 20 May 2015
French citizen Delphine de Lorme is the creative director of the vintage store Yangoods, which opens this month at Bogyoke Market. She talks to Mizzima’s Jessica Mudditt about her passion for pop art and all things vintage.
When did you decide to open a vintage store and how did the collaboration with your business partners Clara Baik and Htin Htin come about?
It was in October last year. I was at Mojo Bar with Clara, who I’d worked with on Mojo’s interior design. Mojo’s owner Jean Curci showed us an image that had been designed back in the seventies, and Clara said how much she wanted to create a line of Myanmar vintage products. But she said she couldn’t do it alone and needed a creative director. Actually as soon as I first met Clara, I knew that we would work on something together. She’s Korean and I’m French and we’re very different people – but she has a lot of energy and creativity and is a very hard worker – she used to manage 180 clothing stores in Shanghai before moving to Yangon. Our third partner Htin Htin is the editor of Moda magazine and was really interested in collaborating on this. She handles the press side of things.
How many products did you design for the debut collection?
Eighty – it took me about six months. I worked with a team of Myanmar graphic designers and it’s been very interesting to work with them. When we started out, they didn’t know what pop art or vintage was – it was an entirely new concept to them. Explaining the pop art painting movement was a lot of fun – now they call me ‘Vintage Girl’! Now, whenever they see something that is old, damaged or broken they know that I will like it and sometimes they bring in old pieces of wood or what not because they’ve learnt to identify the style. They were so interested and grateful to learn something new – their smiles motivated me whenever I felt a bit discouraged – of course not every day is easy.
What was the biggest challenge in getting this off the ground?
For me it was working night and day, because I was also working on the interior design of Le Planteur Restaurant until December. Some days I worked 18 hours straight and I was totally exhausted. Another challenge was working with a team that didn’t share the same reference points as I. Although it’s ultimately been very rewarding, it was very difficult to work on a pop collection when ‘pop’ didn’t mean anything to them. For example, explaining the pop art colour, baby blue, was really hard. And we have different concepts of beauty – in Myanmar most people consider lots of jewelery and lots of gold as being beautiful, but of course I wanted to remove all the gold from the images! The very first week was very difficult because they couldn’t understand my accent and their English wasn’t strong. It took a lot of patience as everything I said had to be explained by our assistant – but things quickly improved. And they’ve surprised many times with their ideas. I always push our designers to use different colours and materials, even if it ultimately doesn’t work. I admit I am a perfectionist, so I am always with them and I make the final touches because every design is signed off by me.
As pop art is virtually unknown in Myanmar, do you think it will take some time for it to appeal to local consumers?
I really would like Yangood’s products to be loved by Myanmar people. I have no idea if they will be, but I didn’t do it just for foreigners – I did it for Myanmar people too. I know that Myanmar people take pride in their traditions and I have been careful not to change anything – for example if I use something from Kachin State, I try to keep it as close as possible to the original. Our collection includes many things Myanmar people take great pride in, such as the elephants used for traditional celebrations, special places in Yangon – as well as Aung San Suu Kyi. It’s a mixture of tradition and pop.
I also hope it leads to local artists taking inspiration from everyday things such as the city itself and buses. What I bring is an artistic vision from a foreigner’s perspective. Myanmar people don’t consider the old buses as super cool like I do, because they just want a comfortable bus with air conditioning – and I totally understand that.
Where did you source the materials from and what are the price points?
Most were sourced locally, but some of our designs had to be made elsewhere in Asia because we’re targeting very high quality products. In future we hope to be able to source everything locally. The images have been sourced from a variety of places. Most often images on the internet are too low in resolution so we can’t use them. And many photographs have been destroyed or damaged over time – it’s very difficult to preserve things in Myanmar due to the climate. I bought some pictures and designs from Pansodan Gallery – who I hope to collaborate with more in future – and some of my Burmese friends gave me family portraits. Most of the images are from the turn of the 19th century; although I’d like to develop a seventies collection, it’s difficult due to copyright issues because we need to know who the photographer and subjects are. My focus for this collection is to really show how Myanmar was in the past: the traditional lungyis and costumes, the girls holding long cigars, that kind of thing.
As for our prices, we really wanted to avoid being super expensive so that as many people as possible can afford it. Our line ranges in price from $2 to $50. And if we’re able to order larger quantities, prices will be lower still.
How would you describe the difference between Yangoods products and those at the well-known store Pomelo?
The difference is that what we’ve created is pop art, whereas Pomelo uses vintage images that aren’t altered. I’m not saying that Pomelo isn’t creative because they are very creative indeed, but Yangoods items are a collage of different things that tell a story. I’m actually a painter, so it was a new challenge for me to design things like bags and calendars. But Yangoods gave me the green the light to be really creative.
How did you secure a store at Bogyoke Market, which is the premier market for tourists?
Our Burmese assistant scoured Bogyoke Market with great determination and she found an empty store in the main alley, which was our goal. We contacted the owner and it was actually less difficult to arrange than we expected. The rent there is expensive – but we hope it will be worth it. We’re also hoping to exhibit our products at hotels and other areas, but at this stage nothing is confirmed. But this is the best moment for us because we’re about to open the store and after months of seeing our designs ‘flat’ on-screen, the actual products are here. It’s extremely satisfying.
Yangoods is located at No. 64 in the Baho Building in Bogyoke Aung San Market – it’s on the ground floor and two metres away from the central alley that houses the jewelry shops.
For more information, visit Yangood’s Facebook page.