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Fashion designer draws inspiration from his failure

Khamphao Sungdai spent a month at a temple in Vientiane to restore balance in his life after the failure of his 10-year-old garment business, but is now back on the fashion scene with a new venture that he established with financial aid from his wife.
Mr Khamphao, who has loved designing and creating outfits since his youth, gained considerable experience in designing and other aspects of the fashion industry while working for garment factories in Vientiane for over a decade.
He established his own garment factory with the Khamphao Chareun brand at Nongvaeng village in Hadxaifong district in 2003, and soon had a workforce of 60. The clothes he designed attracted both local and foreign customers and his business did well.

Khamphao Sungdai (third from right) and other designers with Lao celebrities at an event to celebrate the 28th anniversary of Samlan Phothisan Jewellery.

Mr Khamphao attracted foreign investors, who signed a three-year contract with him to export garments from his factory worth 8 million baht. But he then ran into trouble as he did not have sufficient knowledge of foreign languages to communicate with his foreign partners, and the revenue from the exports was not enough to cover the expenses of his factory.
He took loans from private lenders to cover his expenses and to pay salary to his staff but was unable to turn a profit. Finally, he decided to close his business in 2014.
To escape his failure, Mr Khamphao spent almost a month being as a novice in a temple in Vientiane, to learn how to survive and continue his life.
The lessons he learnt at the temple gave him the courage to make a fresh start in business, and he opened a tailoring shop, with the brand name Khamphao Chareun, in his village of Chomphet-Tai in Sisattanak district in 2015. The new venture was made possible through financial backing provided by his wife.
Within a year, he attracted many new customers, ranging from ordinary people to Lao superstars. Mr Khamphao has designed outfits for singer Tar A’Pacts, whose encouragement inspired him to change his brand name to Khampao Sungdai.
“The brand name Khamphao Sungdai is a hit and has become a signature brand that local customers can trust,” he said.
“At the end of Buddhist Lent, companies were interested to place orders, and the shop also received a lot of orders during the wedding season,” he said.
Mr Khamphao also designed a collection for Ms Samlan Photisan, to mark the 28th anniversary of the establishment of her jewellery brand, which was a huge hit.
Companies have ordered collections and uniforms from his shop, and Daokham Hotel, Vientiane Plaza and JDB have used his services.
Lao celebrities such as Sack Cells, Tee Oudalay, Sam Intharaphithack, Tui Overdone and Ola Black Eyes too are among his customers.
This year, Mr Khamphao designed wedding outfits for Alee, a member of the boy band MAZ, as well as a collection for 60 of his celebrity friends who attended the marriage. This, he said, was the largest wedding-related order for the Khamphao Sungdai brand.
He said most customers like his shop because of the friendly service, reasonable prices and free after-sales service.
Mr Khamphao now has six orders for wedding collections and has signed a contact with Honda Sikhay to design uniforms for its 40-member staff.
He designs around 15 to 20 suits a day and then sends them to an assistant for sewing. Silks suits are stitched by Mr Khamphao himself.
On an average, he designs up to 100 suits a month, mostly for weddings, with prices ranging from 800,000 kip to 1.5 million kip. Most outfits are completed within a week though customers who pay more can get delivery within three days.
Several of the staff at his shop are his relatives, or people whom he has personally trained. He also plans to train his son so that he can take over the business some day.
“I don’t want to become as big as other brands, but I want to work step by step and make the most of my abilities and my finances to earn more money. And I will continue developing my brand to make it as good as foreign brands,” he said.
More than anything else, Mr Khamphao thanks the failure of his first venture for his current success.
“We can learn lots from our failures and mistakes. It makes you avoid taking on something that is bigger than your abilities and doing business with foreign partners. I now have enough knowledge to avoid losses and risks,” he said.

By Sisouphan Amphonephong
(Latest Update November 13 , 2017 )

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