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Soumountha Keophilavong

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When I feel strong and unapologetic about who I am/what I convey. It often happens when I mix modern pieces with quirky, 'je ne sais quoi' details.

2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?

All the time. Women with swagger, the ones whose personality cannot be silenced even when they are not even talking, the ones who have a relaxed relationship with themselves and their style.

3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?

Honesty and willingness to take risks.

4. Was there a moment in your life when something “clicked” for you about fashion or dressing or make-up or hair? What? Why did it happen then, do you think?

The moment I wore red lipstick for the first time. I was 16. Always been a docile tom boy from a very conservative and traditional family but the moment I wore that red on my lips, I knew I was always that fierce girl and would always be that fierce woman whether I wear make up or not and whatever I wear.

5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?

If it is obvious, it's probably not right.

6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?

Never leave your home feeling unsure.

7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?

I once asked my business partner, a talented fashion designer with the best eye I have ever seen, what I shall wear to meet her fashion crew. She said:
'Whatever you wear, you'll be great. They'll love you.'

For me it was a turning point. Even with people who breathe and live Fashion, the most important thing is: 'Do I make people get who I am? What I stand for?'. The rest is details.

8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.

Yes. I am very, very consistent.

For everything in my life, it has to look like it comes out naturally, in a relaxed and authentic way BUT at the same time it is obvious that there has been a lot of hard work, deep reflection, sacrifices and experimentation to get where I am now. I am not there by chance. Everything is orchestrated and planned but I also always want to leave room for the unexpected and tell it like it is.

I am in a happy marriage but I never bought into the delusion of 'Happy For Ever'. So yes I do work hard on it. Most of my friends are surprised by this and always say;'You guys never seem to fight'...

9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?

Not really.

10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?

Yes. A vintage Magenta kimono for my very blonde Australian best friend.

11. Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in and why? 

I don't dig or follow trends. Not sure I am even aware of most of them :/

12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?

Her: Used to be skinny. Five pregnancies. Not skinny anymore. Always Nice Legs.

Me: Used to be skinny. 3 pregnancies. Not skinny anymore. Always Nice Legs.

Nothing has been passed down to me. The only fun fact is that one of my fave tops ever is one of her tops from the seventies. I kept it even though I can no longer fit in it.

13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?

My younger sister. Something she calls treggings?

14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?

From early childhood to my early thirties: I would probably change styles dramatically every year. Because it was too fun not too!!!

I was also trying to figure many things about myself: my immigrant background, my asian ethnicity with my french upbringing, my new body curves and how to reconcile these with my boy girl style,...

15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?


I NEVER dress for men and their fantasies.

16. Please describe your body.

I am short, broad-ish build, have no waist.

I have small-ish breasts but would not have them otherwise.

I have a belly with stretch marks from a twin pregnancy. I am like a tiger.

I have crooked teeth. Not pretty but kind of very me too.

I have good legs, ankles and arms.

17. Please describe your mind.


18. Please describe your emotions.

Stable. Most of the time.

19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?

No make up.
Light blue jeans.
Natural Life comfy top.
VPL 2 tone cardigan
Gigi sandals.
Hair: not combed. A total mess. Just the usual to be honest.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

My friends who are fashion designers and my little sister.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

It used to affect me more because I was working for a think tank and wanted to be more credible and look older.

I now work for myself so nothing really affects me.

23. Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you?

Yes and Yes.

I think you can have taste without having style. However you cannot have style if you don't have taste.

Taste is about exploring all horizons and being identify and relish from covetable, new experiences and products. You want to share your taste and hope they'll agree with you.

Style is deeply personal. It is about knowing yourself, loving yourself and letting others know about it but not caring about what others think of it. There is something unapologetic about it.

24. Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing?

Yeah. Some Balenciaga high platform leather burgundy boots. They were so beautiful I had to have them. Never managed to walk with them more than 5 minutes.

25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?

Maybe mixing
timeless outfits with edgy details,
casual wear and formal make up,
drapey forms with tougher accessories

26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?


Maybe when I write my mama blog too.

27. Can you recall some times when you have dressed a particular way to calm yourself or gain a sense of control over a situation that scared you?

Too many times to tell about them. Actually probably almost every single day.

28. Would you say you “know what you like” in the area of fashion and clothing? If so, do you also know what you like in other areas of life, that is, are you generally good at discernment? Can you say where your discernment comes from, if you have it? Or if you don’t have it, why or why not?

I am very discerning because I keep experimenting: a little when shopping, a lot in my head. I always play dress up in my head. It is Mardi gars every day up there in my head.

29. Did your parents teach you things about clothing, care for your clothing, dressing or style? What lessons do you remember? Or did you just pick things up?

Be resourceful because you will never have enough money for it.


You can wear a garbage bag and have style. If you know you have it.

30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?

I don't even think I want to feel sexy.
If by alluring you mean to get noticed, maybe black eye liner a la Amy Winehouse.

31. Many people say they want to feel “comfortable,” or that they admire people who seem “confident.” What do these words really mean to you?

Comfortable means being able to walk without looking like you have a wedgie or being able to walk in your heels without looking like you have legs spread apart all day long.

Confident means being to walk straight, chin up and happy even though nobody in the street looks at you.

32. If dressing were the only thing you did, and you were considered an expert and asked to explain your style philosophy, what would you say?

My style philosophy/motto:

Developing your style is like falling in love again and again with yourself. You will take risks, be betrayed by your own choices, forgive yourself, try again and be in love again. You will laugh at yourself, be annoyed at yourself but eventually will trust yourself and your instincts.

33. What is really beautiful, for you, in general?

Creativity and kindness.

34. What do you consider very ugly?

Greed and intolerance.

35. Are you generally a good judge of whether what you buy will end up being worn? Have you figured out how to know in advance?

Yes. I never buy things that are not being worn. Before I buy anything, I mentally do at least 5-10 styling combinations with existing stuff in my wardrobe.

36. When you look at yourself before going out, and you are trying to see yourself from the outside, can you describe a bit about what this “other person” is like? What do they like, dislike, what sorts of judgments do they have? Is this “outer eye” based on someone you know or once knew?

This other person is fun but guarded, borderline stand offish. She has a high opinion of herself. A juggernaut of energy but not easy to satisfy.

Yes, most of people I know including my family and my husband say it is the impression I give when people meet me for the first time.

37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?

The process starts when I wake up. Then I open my wardrobe to remind myself of what I own, sometimes I do dive into my mess to recover some 'forgotten' items.

Then the conceptualization takes place in the shower. I review options, color combos, accessories etc.

I always consider my today's mood but also a need to recreate something I have felt in the past when wearing some trousers or dress or styling my hair a certain way. I have a good memory and can relate my emotions and feel on a specific day with an outfit I wore.

38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?

Content. Pride.

39. What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up?

I always dress up in my opinion. It is only visible to my eyes though.

40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?

Nightmare. Never.

41. What would you say is “you” and what would you say is “not you”?

I can hardly answer this - strangely.

Sexy short skirt and high heeled stilettos is not me, I guess.

42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?

I am a French Lao who lived in the UK for 13 years and moved to New York in 2010.

It does influence me in the sense that I am always in search of what that 'ME' means style wise despite living in very different cultural and geographical habitats. Where you live should not change the essence of you and the way you dress. You tweak things but the essence remains the same. It is just a little more challenging when you move around.

44. What sorts of things do you do, clothing, make-up or hair-wise, to feel professional?

I always put make up even if it is just some eye brow powder.

45. How do you conform to or rebel against the dress expectations at your workplace?

I never wore a woman's suit. It is just a way to feel credible in a men's world and I despise this.

46. Do you have a dress code, a school uniform, or a uniform that you wear for an extracurricular activity?


47. Are there ways in which you conform to or rebel against these uniforms?

I wear red lipstick when I drop my kids at their catholic pre school at 8am. Mothers are not supposed to wear bright red and should look saintly. So yeah I do it on purpose.

48. Do you find it comforting or constraining to have a uniform?


49. What is an archetypal outfit for you; one that you could have happily worn at any point in your life? What do you like about it?

My dad's vest, a white tee, and skinny dark jeans with red lips.

I love it because it used to drive my very traditional dad mad at first. It was not an outfit for a proper girl. Eventually he started to pass over his old vests to me :)

50. Do you ever wish you were a man or could dress like a man or had a man’s body? Was there ever a time in the past?

No because being a straight woman never prevented me from dressing 'like a man'. This statement does not mean much to me.

51. If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?

It is a tough one because America in the 40s was so beautifully styled, the cuts impeccable but could never suffer the bullshit women were subjected to...

so probably Francoise Hardy, France, late 60s is the winner.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?


53. When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?

I am such a dork.

54. Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from?

Charlotte Rampling
Jane Birkin
Audrey Hepburn
Chloe Sevigny

55. Have you ever had a dream that involved clothes?

More times I can admit...

56. What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try and achieve?

The pin up

57. If you were totally comfortable with your body, or your body was a bit closer to what you wish it was like, what would you wear?

Leather pants
Surfer bodysuit

58. Is there anyone that you are trying to attract or repel when you dress?

Attract - not that I think of.

Repel - boring people.

59. Are there any dressing rules you’d want to convey to other women?

Not sure I believe in rules for dressing.

60. What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?

No real opinion. I wear some sometimes. Very randomly.

61. What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable?

Dry cleaning

62. How does makeup fit into all this for you?

It is part of the styling. I will sometime choose my outfit depending on whether I wear eye liner or not. It is a balancing act sometimes and a go for the extremes act some other times.

63. Is there a certain look you feel you’re expected to like that you have absolutely no interest in? What is it? Why aren’t you interested?

Lulu Lemon gear. People think it is a no brainer for busy mamas. For me, it is just lazy comfort.

64. Can you describe in a basic way what you own, clothing and jewelry-wise?

50 % second hand and vintage
25 % basics (mass market)
20 % alternative/emerging designers
5% (established) designers

65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?

A very long lime green skirt with red under skirt and fake bossom that my cousin and I designed together for my wedding

66. Tell us about something in your closet that you keep but never wear. What is it, why don’t you wear it, and why do you keep it?

A Dolce Gabbana organza black dress. I don't fit in anymore.
I keep it for my daughter.

67. Looking back at all your purchases over the past five to fifteen years, can you generalize about what sorts of things were the most valuable to buy?

The ones made with great materials especially leather accessories (Balenciaga bag, Celine boots)

68. Is there an item of clothing that you once owned, but no longer own, and still think about or wish you had back? What was it, what happened to it, and why do you want it back?

My Balenciaga burgundy boots. I gave them to my older sister and she looks fabulous in them. I kind of want them back because it annoys me to see someone else wear them :)

69. If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep?

All my wedding dresses I co-designed and an Alexander Wang silver blazer because it goes well with everything!

70. Building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?

Start by the statement and timeless pieces and buy the basics around them because when you own beautiful pieces you should wear them all the time.

71. What’s the first “investment” item you bought? Do you still own or wear it?

A Louis Vuitton trench coat. Yes.

72. Was there ever an important or paradigm-shifting purchase in your life?

When I had kids and started my own company.

73. What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for?

Leather jacket. And black boots - never managed to find THE ONES.

74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?

Closet - neat.
Drawers are a freaking mess.

75. Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched you?

Anything my best friend offers me because I know she has spent a lot of time thinking about it.

76. Did you ever buy an article of clothing without giving it much thought, only to have it prove much more valuable as time went on? What was the item and what happened?


77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

Completely randomly.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

Not particularly.

79. How does how you dress play into your ambitions for yourself?

I dress in a way that keeps me in line with my ambitions. I want to inspire other women so I do have this in mind when I dress.

80. How does money fit into all this?

Unfortunately a lot. I would like to buy more emerging designers but cannot always afford it.

81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?

Red lipstick

82. Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?

You are so French because to be honest I feel anything but French style wise.

83. Do you remember the first time you were conscious of what you were wearing? Can you describe this moment and what it was about?

When I was a little girl and my mom got me to wear a floral print dress with lace details for the school picture. i was so outraged: 'I am NOT Laura Ingalls'

What’s your birth date? 
Where were you born and where do you live now?

11th November 1975
Savannakhet (Laos)
New York, Harlem

Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background.

It is a happy mess.

What kind of work do you do?

I am the co-founder of ecommerce startup.

Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?

Married with 3 kids under 4.

Please say anything you like about yourself that might put this survey into some sort of context.

I am working on a Fashion ecommerce so I do think about style, clothing and what it means for (more mature) women.

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

Tired :)

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