Khim Hang is the man behind the label Han, a brand headed for fashion fame. At day five of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Sydney, his runway show was packed with bloggers after a glimpse of his latest collection.
But there’s more to Hang’s label beyond well-tailored shirts, a relaxed aesthetic and an absolutely killer all-red silk outfit that makes you never want to wear a conservative pant-suit again. Han is an ethical and sustainable luxury fashion label. For Hang, owning an ethical business is a nod to his heritage.
Hang’s family has an emotional and fascinating story. His parents fled the Khmer Rouge during Pol Pot’s communist regime, and Hang, 23, grew up with stories from his dad, telling him about the dangers of being killed like so many of his immediate family had been. They arrived in Australia with no more than some crumpled up cash and the clothes on their back. Hang told The Urban List, that his parents, “now have a beautiful house and live comfortably, but they had to work very, very hard to get to where they are.”
"... the idea that I was offered this freedom and able to live a life that was very privileged, makes me want to support those who don’t have the same opportunities that I was given."
“Han’s ethical trade just really came from my core values,” Hang told SBS. “Being born in Australia, with Cambodian heritage, where my parents had basically nothing in Pol Pot’s era, I think the idea that I was offered this freedom and able to live a life that was very privileged, makes me want to support those who don’t have the same opportunities that I was given. I just wanted to ‘give back’ and that became a part of the brand’s identity”
Han’s studios are based in Cambodia, a location known for manufacturing clothing. However, unlike many brands in neighbouring factories with poor working conditions, Han’s workers receive nearly three times the country’s minimum wage, and have reasonable work hours and access to onsite childcare facilities and quality food vendors.
Even with these industry-standard manufacturing capabilities, Hang actively promotes against consumption.
“Our factory means that we’re able make products on the one site, so people can track the whole brand through the one business,” he says. “But our program is ‘buy less, buy better’.
“I envisage our customer as someone who buys something and really loves it, and they don’t buy something new ‘next season’. If they do spend again, they’re likely to get it in another colour or something, because they have an established a uniform, which kind of demonstrates how our pieces are aimed to last, rather than look seasonal.”
Hang’s collections go by ‘Season One’, ‘Season Two’, rather than the traditional ‘Autumn/Winter’, as he doesn’t want customers to be given the impression that their garments have an expiry date or pigeon-holed to only six or so months.
Season One’s runway show was held on Thursday at Sydney’s Carriageworks. Packed with Australia’s fashion elite, the venue puffed smoke machines and blasted Kanye West, perfectly complimenting the underground rebellion of Han’s urbanwear.
“Season One for us is about taking it back to the bare essentials,” he says. “The collection is about taking core pieces that people wear every day like track pants or a sweatshirt, and those key pieces have been textualised so they now have different uses. It’s about taking these ‘casual’ items and making it okay to wear, I don’t know, formally or to have other style purposes.”
Hang says that he had to work really hard to pursue his love of aesthetics; clothing, style and art, and was not ultimately supported by his parents.
“I think my parents are proud of what I do and happy about it, but maybe confused at the same time,”
“I think my parents are proud of what I do and happy about it, but maybe confused at the same time,” he says. “I love my parents, but we have different views on life and different visions because we were brought up in such polar-opposite cultures.
“I definitely had that very stereotypical ‘Asian’ push where my family wanted the safe and comfortable route of a doctor, lawyer or pharmacist. But that wasn’t my passion and I think in life, you either do something because you love it or you do it before of fear of not paying bills, and I’m confident about my decision to go against my parent’s wishes and decided to purse fashion.”
A key stand out in Hang’s collection was the deep red coat, shorts and shirt, amongst the monochrome of the runway. While Vogue may see this as the next trend, and I asked if it was a response to communism (it isn’t; Cambodian communism wasn’t reinforced by the colour red) Hang’s dad says that red means blood to him. And as Hang wows audiences, he succeeds his passion in a world away from his parents, seeing red for its design and aesthetic, rather than a reminder of warfare.
Read more about Han Studios Season One collection
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