Meet “Jolene” – designer Som Kerdsiri’s saucy, modern cowgirl collection inspired by Dolly Parton.
Have you ever dreamt of being a sassy, cowboy babe with the attitude to match? Well, graduate designer Som Kerdsiri sure has, and she’s created a whole collection in ode to the fantasy lives we all daydream about living.
Bangkok born, Scotland based designer Som Kerdsiri didn’t actually start off her career in fashion, believe it or not. In fact, Som initially went to the University of Glasgow to study civil engineering, but after realising her passion for fashion, she dropped out in second year to explore her love of designing. She enrolled to the Edinburgh College of Art and even went on to study abroad in Amsterdam for a semester, specialising in denim.
Well we’re sure glad she did, because otherwise, we wouldn’t have been graced with the existence of her absolutely fabulous graduate collection. For her graduate project, Som decided to create a parallel universe – one where she lives out her secret identity fantasies. The theme of the collection is ‘What If?’, and depicts a woman who represents everything Som loved and wanted to be as a child. This dream girl is a no-nonsense newsreader by day/sassy, synchronised swimmer by night who steals accessories and clothes on the reg, from her rough and tough, cowboy boytoy. Meet “Jolene” – Som’s fantasy alter ego and coincidentally, the title of her final project.
If the name “Jolene” immediately got Dolly Parton stuck in your head, then you’re on the right track. Som’s final project was inspired by one of her idols (and dream muse), Miss Dolly Parton herself. Her inspiration results in a gorgeous collection of modern, flirty cowgirl pieces, that are made out of a vividly bright and beautiful print that Som designed herself. The feminine pink and yellow pieces are decked out in fringe details and lots of volume; complete with a pair of saucy, red hot thigh highs that act as the perfect haute cowboy boot alternative for the fashion forward cowgirl.
Each piece of the collection completes a piece of the puzzle of a woman that Som has imagined. Som says that creating a character really helped her with the design process, saying, “having a strong narrative that informed my designs allowed me to create an expressive, subversive and humourous collection.” We talked to the promising designer about everything from Dolly Parton and Queen Rihanna, to risqué online shopping.
What was the inspiration behind your amazing collection?
This collection is simply inspired by things that I like. A silly pseudo biography of my life, if you will. The story involves a protagonist that is from a parallel universe. In this universe she is a straight talking newsreader who moonlights part time as a synchronised swimmer, with a bad-boy cowboy boyfriend who is willing to share his clothes and accessories.
Was the concept of your collection something you always knew from the start? Or did you have to go through multiple ideas before deciding on the end result?
With this being the first time ever I had complete creative control over what I was going to be doing, it took me a long time before I landed on this concept. I went through so many different ideas and had no clue what the collection was going to be. I decided to just go with ‘stuff that I like’, hoping would keep me interested and stimulated for a whole year.
How do you decide on which pieces you’re going to make, like tops/dresses/shorts/jackets, etc? Do you plan your pieces beforehand or do they come naturally to you?
It was much easier for me to decide which trousers and jackets I was going to make because I usually go for more of a boyish aesthetic. But for this concept I knew I needed to have skirts and dresses so I did try and plan each look carefully while keeping my overall silhouettes in mind.
What’s your favourite piece from the collection?
Definitely my gold cowhide trousers with thongs cut into the waistband. They’re kind of funny, dirty and tongue-in-cheek, all the things I want my collection to be.
How did you decide on a colour scheme of pinks and yellows? Is there a significance to why you chose those colours?
I always thought that I would have something dark and moody for my final collection but while I was designing the collection I got really into with the colour pink and yellow and kept colouring everything in it and got all the sample fabrics in that colour. So in the end I couldn’t fight the attraction any longer and went for it.
The red thigh-high boots are killer – they really bring your collection together. How did you come up with the idea? Was it planned or a last minute thing?
It was a last minute thing. Everything in my collection was getting too sweet and cutesy so I wanted something to “dirty” up the look a little. It’s a lot harder than you would think to get your hands on latex thing-high red boots! I actually spent a lot of time searching on some dodgy sites in my quest for the thigh-highs.
Prints make up a majority of your collection. How did you decide on the perfect print? Did you design it?
I did design all of my prints. I never would have thought I’d have a printed collection; it was a very last minute addition that was meant to only be for one or two pieces but they ended up taken over the whole project. I initially thought that I would try and buy a paisley fabric for one of my suit jackets but my head of department saw the scribble that I did for a sketch and suggested that I should just do my own print. There was not a lot of time by that point to create samples so I would draw like crazy, edit, get it printed and pray that it worked.
Who do you envision wearing your designs? Who is your customer?
Rihanna. Mostly because I love her but also because she could wear a bin bag and still look like a goddess. So Riri if you are reading this…
This whole collection is all about contradicting elements and the juxtaposition between carefree and conservative. So with that I like to think my girls are humorous, flirty and expressive but can also be prim and proper in her skirt suits.
Who would you love to be your personal muse?
This collection is called “Jolene” inspired by the iconic human being that is Dolly Parton. So Dolly would be too perfect, I struggled with designing the dresses and had to sometimes think to myself “what would Dolly wear?”
What was the biggest lesson you took away from university? Do you think it’s necessary to study fashion if you want a career in fashion?
I loved my time in the art school and think it’s a wonderful environment for you to develop and explore. I don’t know if it is necessary or not, you might be able to pick up all the skills you need during an internship, but university is still the only time you will have to design and create whatever the you like. Be as creative as your heart desires.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to go into fashion?
Explore and take inspiration from lots of different things, work hard and have conviction in your own ideas, and don’t worry too much, because it will drive you up the wall. But really, also, I could use some advice myself, Job please!