It’s not often that we are lucky enough to witness fashion that is solely meant to tell a story or invoke a feeling. Now you may argue that all fashion has an inherent message it delivers, and while that may be true, this designer crafts her garments with no particular person in mind. The clothes are simply an expression of herself with each design and photo a different art piece of its own.
Having grown up doing traditional hand sewing, one might assume that Keng Xiong of House of Xiong had fashion in her blood — and she did — but at the heart of it all was storytelling.
Initially having gone to school for film photography and production, Xiong learned how to really capture a moment in time, and that skill transferred into her fashion. With the help of an immensely talented photographer, her friend Linda Her Vang who has now passed, they were collaboratively able to create beautiful, high fashion editorial narratives.
“… I had to be creative in how I incorporate my culture and my cultural fashion into my designs.”
But Xiong’s college major didn’t mean a lack of interest or dedication to fashion design. It was through film that she was introduced to the world of costuming – another way of looking at how fashion can tell a story. Xiong’s developed eye for fashion has also propelled her to the role of lead stylist for the upcoming Indiana Fashion Week happening late July 2022.
When asked how she would describe her aesthetic as a designer, she hesitantly describes it as “avant-garde” and I do not disagree. Here is a look at one of my personal favorite photo shoots entitled “Hu Plig”.
According to Xiong, “To hu plig is to call the spirit, and during the Hmong New Year, Hmong people call the spirits of their ancestors to bless their family for health and longevity for the new year.”
Xiong loves to draw inspiration from her Hmong culture. She has really honed in on figuring out how to marry traditional Eastern aesthetics with a more Western sensibility.
“…there’s not a lot of resources for me to use more of the traditional material, so I had to be creative in how I incorporate my culture and my cultural fashion into my designs.”
It’s all in the details with Xiong. Whether it’s the beading, the tassels, the makeup, the hair, the backdrops, she is really able to incorporate a very high fashion approach to her work. It all begins with a concept and she starts her design process from there, figuring out how to bring in her “Hmong touch” to really push her design into something we are not accustomed to seeing in Indiana. And it is this very idea that brought me to my next question.
Although I love to keep my conversations with these designers light hearted and fun, as a fellow member of the AAPI community in Indiana, I could not resist asking her for her opinion on the importance of community and representation given the rise of Asian targeted hate crimes these last couple of years. Xiong stated how she doesn’t know if the circumstances have given her more purpose, but she wants to “…bring more awareness to different cultures that are here in America…” and it’s through her designs and photography she does just that.
“[I want to] bring more awareness to different cultures that are here in America…”
Now, when it comes to the future of House of Xiong, she may be taking a slight detour and begin utilizing her film knowledge a little bit more.
“I want to do a more like, fashion short film kind of things. I think that’s the direction I want to go. And just, you know, use that film knowledge that I wanted to for so long….Because I like fashion storytelling. And I think that’s a lot of what I’ve done in the past few years is storytelling through photography. And now I want to take it to the next step…fashion short films.”
I have no doubt Xiong will do what she says and I cannot wait to be able to see her fashion in video format.
My conversation with Xiong was one of the most enjoyable I’ve had the pleasure of having. Whether she knows it or not, I believe she is really trailblazing for Asian designers here in Indiana. Her work is not only breathtaking, but extremely important.
If you would like to learn a little more about and keep up to date with Keng Xiong, you can view her work here: