"Sawasdee ka! I'm Raweewan from Lampang in northern Thailand. Growing up, my father was a postal worker and my mother stayed at home to look after my sister and me. She taught us the most important lessons...
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"Sawasdee ka! I'm Raweewan from Lampang in northern Thailand. Growing up, my father was a postal worker and my mother stayed at home to look after my sister and me. She taught us the most important lessons we have learnt in life, saving, diligence and taking very good care of our things. See, as a one income family, she was very good at saving: she could fix things and knitted scarves and sweaters so we always had something new to wear every winter. She believed money was to be saved and spent only for necessary things. She taught us to save something from our school lunch money and at the end of the month our dad would match the amount. Together we would go to the bank and deposit into our savings account. I loved to going to the bank because they always gave us a small collectible card with interesting information, like Thai instruments, Thai boats, etc.
"After school, according to Thai education, one can go to high school or a vocational college, which is what I did. I had originally chosen accountancy with dress-making as an elective, inspired by one of my mother's relatives, who used to make clothes for us. Then I decided, why not make my own clothes line? And this is how my story as a designer began. When I started to learn, I realized that making clothes is an art form where one gets to exercise one’s creativity plus, needs to learn different techniques for the different styles, and I was becoming so excited about my new project.
"It meant that would be acquiring skills that would last me a lifetime and, moreover, I could be my own boss. When I told my family they gave me their full support because they saw how serious and excited I was about it. I finally received a Bachelor's degree, majoring in Textile Design and I received many job offers from different companies as there weren't many people who had studied in this field, but I was reluctant to choose any of them because their offices were located in different towns.
"As I was trying to make my decision, a friend of my father’s suggested applying as a Special Teacher in an Out School Education program run by the Thai government. The purpose of this kind of school is to support people who don’t have chance to attend normal school. However, the curriculum is the same. As a Special Teacher my role was to support stable occupation and my main duty was to visit who lived in far away villages, survey how they lived, and how much money they could earn. For most of them, their income depended on agriculture by selling some produce when they had more than enough. When the harvest season ends, the younger people go to the city to find some labor job. I usually saw lot of children and older people staying at home during this period.
"I learned that many of them, especially the women, wanted to have permanent occupation but they couldn't leave their house and their children. It was a big opportunity for me and my team to teach them whatever they were interested in, and most of them wanted to learn how to make clothes. Some of them used to work in a clothing factory and though they knew how to sew, they didn't know how to make a pattern for a specific item of clothing, and they did know how to cut and assemble the different pieces.
"I dedicated myself to teaching them the basics so they could make simple design by themselves. I always saw their happy smile each time they wore what they had sewn. They started to take orders from others, and earn more money to support their family.
"During that time the Government wanted to promote Thai culture and they announced that Government Officers and students should wear Thai costumes every Friday. Everyone was very excited because it's boring to wear only our khaki uniform. I made my own dress with our local fabric which I had been saving for long time. A friend loved the dress and asked me to make one for her and soon other friends asked for more dresses. Though they were paying for them, since they were friends I wasn't charging them that much, but as the orders began to increase, I started enrolling the help of some my students.
"Many of my friends suggested I quit my teaching and open a workshop. I wanted to do that, but being a government teacher is of great pride for me and my family. Even though the salary is not much, it is stable and the benefits apply to my family too. I am also happy to help other people.
"I feel very proud of what I have achieved despite what others' were saying at the time when I was deciding to study dressmaking and textile design. People need clothes to wear! Back then they doubted that I could be successful at it, and now they see I have overcome this challenge. I am always happy about being able to do whatever I chose to do.
"When I met with the people of Novica, I realized a new challenge was coming my way. I would like to see if people from the other side of the world will appreciate my designs. I will do my best so you do!"