His clothes are found in the wardrobes of celebrities including Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Floyd Mayweather Jr, but Cambodian designer Remy Hou is humble about his internat-ional success.
It was Hou’s growing international fame that led to an invitation for him to stage the closing show at Cambodia Fashion Week on Sunday, and the designer hopes his new collection, Heist, comprised of leather jackets, business and evening wear, will be a hit with audiences.
“It’s an honour for me to participate in Cambodia Fashion Week. My ambition is to premiere my brand for Cambodians, for my people to use,” he explains.
Born Rathana Hourhornnhean Hou in 1981, Hou emigrated to the US with his family as a child, but still holds Cambodia close to his heart.
It’s a connection he says is expressed in the logo for his Engineered by Remy fashion label, which is set against the blue-and-red background of the Cambodian flag.
Hou told the Phnom Penh Post he never set out to be a designer, but instead drifted into the US fashion industry by a circuitous route after studying for degrees in business administration and telecommunications management in college.
A post-college job at the telecom company Helio, now Virgin Mobile, was mostly responsible for leading him to it, he says.
While at Helio, in between fielding customer support calls, Hou began designing custom sweaters for co-workers and clients.
“From there, my clothes got into the network of celebrit-ies, and I got persuaded into fashion,” he says.
“The thing that I find most unforgettable is making spec-ial pieces for actors and act-resses. It builds the connect-ivity between the brand and who I am.”
Though he never formally studied fashion, Hou was able to remake himself into a successful designer on the Hollywood circuit, with several of his one-of-a-kind pieces being worn by celebrities at red-carpet events.
Interestingly, Hou says he never had any passion for fashion as a child, but says he remembers once sewing himself new underwear at a refugee camp on the Thai border out of necessity.
After dabbling with designing sweaters while working at Helio, Hou then began making more complex shirts and dresses.
“The first time, after I showed my fashion designs to my parents, they just smiled and asked me, ‘Why?’
“They were a bit worried when they thought I was moving into an industry that was unstable, because at the time I already had a career,” he explained, adding that he knew entering the industry was risky.
“I knew diving into fashion would be a risk for me, but I also thought when my work did get to the level I wanted it to be, working for myself would be a lot better than working for someone else.”
One key piece of advice Hou says he would give to anyone keen to enter the industry, is to treat it as both an art and a business.
“As a fashion designer, you should not only be creative, but you also need to look at business aspect as well. You should think of fashion as a business that you apply your creativity to,” he explains.
“For me, jumping into fashion when I didn’t have any experience worked because I had some experience in business and that taught me to focus on marketing my brand.”
Remy Hou’s Heist collect-ion will go on show at Canadia Tower on Saturday night during Cambodia Fashion Week’s closing party.