DESIGN | Fresh blood in Fresh Traditions: Third annual Hmong fashion show will include a male designer for the first time


Tradition and contemporary design mix on the runway this Saturday, as a group of up-and-coming Hmong designers take the stage at Epic in Minneapolis for the third annual Fresh Traditions fashion show.

The show is produced by the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent, a nonprofit dedicated to the promotion of Hmong artists, and will feature six Hmong designers. This year five of the designers hail from the Twin Cities, including the first male designer to participate in the event.

To select the participants, CHAT Executive Director Kathy Mouacheupao considered each designer’s background and personal goals, and assembled a mix of career designers and first-time fashionistas.

In preparing for Saturday’s event, each designer has had complete creative control over their line, selecting their own models, music, and lighting. But along with artistic freedom, participants must face a challenge. As a way to incorporate tradition into an otherwise westernized runway show, each had to conceive one outfit using five customary Hmong fabrics.

Mouacheupao says the fabrics—black velvet, black silk, blue silk, neon green, and hot pink—are so characteristic of traditional Hmong attire that human remains from a gravesite were able to be identified as Hmong just by the clothes found there.

Though reminiscent of ancestral Hmong clothing, the five colors will show up in a variety of contemporary designs on the runway at Epic. “We’ve had everything from two-piece swimsuits to evening wear. It’s always really fun to see what the designers come up with,” Mouacheupao says.

In addition to raising funds for CHAT and exposing talented Hmong designers, Fresh Traditions is a vital community-building event.

“For the Hmong community, we want the young people to feel proud to be Hmong and for the non-Hmong community, we really want to create a cross-cultural understanding,” Mouacheupao says. “We can use our artists as a really strong communication tool.”