Angelys Balek On Spreading Her Word
From a very early age Thai-American Angelys Balek knew art would be a big part of her life. In terms of the aesthetics of couture, her appreciation for fashion was initially influenced by her mother. “She liked to get her own outfits made. She would explore the styles and materials and then have a tailor to cut garments just the way she wanted,” says Angie. “I got that from her—an eye for line and fitting, as well as colours and patterns. ” As for art, Angie found inspiration all around her as a child. “I always kept a notebook with me when I was young so I could sketch anything I saw that interested me. It was the beginning of the path to studying Fine Arts at Bangkok University.”
And it was while at university that she took a first proper interest in couture. “Fashion TV was becoming popular at the time,” says the 39-year-old. “I would watch it constantly to keep up with international trends. At the same time the Thai fashion industry was starting to take off, driven by pioneering Thai designers who had studied in London and come back to open their own fashion businesses. I very much wanted to do the same thing.”
After graduating from Bangkok University in 2001, Angie got her wish and moved to the UK to study at the London College of Fashion. Graduating in 2003, her intention was to stay on in England and gain work experience. She even toyed with the idea of starting a business but the paperwork and bureaucracy involved put her off. In the end, after coming home and “a few years of trying this and that and some self-exploration”, Angie decided to go to America to continue her fashion education and hone her own style. “I enrolled in a course at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and really started to look at art as the basis for a style. My design process always starts with making art. I then implement facets of that art into my pieces.”
As well as opening a small boutique at Siam Square, this period was busy for Angie as she sought international exposure for her nascent brand, Angelys Balek. Looking for a way to get it out there, she decided to enrol in fashion competitions while still studying in New York. “One of the pieces I sent to the Women’s Wear Daily competition won a finalist spot out of hundreds,” she says. “That opened up all kinds of opportunities and then being named one of the top four emerging designers at Worth Global Style Network’s Global Fashion Awards in 2013 really kicked things off.” So much so that Angie was able to launch her brand in New York and a year later her designs were showcased at Art Basel Miami.
Through hard work—and despite personal set-backs such as a car accident that left her weakened for two years—the designer and her brand have prospered. “I will never give up, but I know when to give in,” she laughs, explaining the decision to temporarily pause the brand’s ready-to-wear products in 2016 when her health deteriorated. During the hiatus she shifted her focus to swimwear and worked on efforts to steer the brand towards sustainable fashion. “It’s funny,” she says. “We are a Thai business but better known outside of the country. We entered the European market just three years ago.” In fact, recent international collaborations include the Rainbow Glam capsule collection with Anna Dello Russo. “We unveiled at the CFDA Awards in 2019 at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Sadly the pandemic has curtailed activity but we continue to work on designs and on building our online market.” Currently living in Phuket to care for her father she says, “I want us to be better known both here and abroad.”
More society profiles: Nattavuth Tangkaravakoon Is Industrious By Nature