Interview: Ben Viapiana, Italian Designer In Bangkok
“With Viapiana you get what you ask for. If you want purple denim, super stretched with pink thread, sure I can do that. I make them myself, so there won’t be millions of reproductions from a factory. People dig that. We love clothes that make a statement and remind us we’re unique.” – Ben Viapiana
“Viapiana“, is his family name. His father was a tailor from Italy and Ben grew up with tailoring. He discovered how freeing this sewing machines can be, as a escape to a free and borderless world and to customize anything. His Jeans-Fashion work is absolutely limited, unique and purely handmade in Bangkok. His style has it’s roots in the Bangkok skateboarding community. The boarders have been the cutting edge fashionist’s Ben has been looking for a long time, because often what they do influences fashion in Bangkok in some way.
Name: Ben Viapiana
Place of residence: Bangkok
Food: Proscuitto di parma …
Music: Pretty much anything
First things first: How did you come into the world of “fashion”?
It all started in the basement of my house, where my father had his tailoring business. Everyday I would see him making these amazing suits, pants, and shirts. Actually I was never interested in fashion to tell you the truth. My father would always tell me to pull up my lowriding jeans and dress in some proper clothing but I always refused. One day he told me that he would be ok with me wearing my style of clothing if I made it myself. So immediately I picked up the car keys and went and bought some denim. When I got home again I measured out a pattern from an existing pair of jeans that I already had and I started to make them. Ever since then I have been trying to one up myself and strive for a better outcome (my first pair that I made were a disaster, just to let you know).
Why did you decide to go this way. Is there anybody who inspired you?
At first, my only inspiration was myself. Trying to perfect what I already started. But as you know, nothing is perfect so I’m still trying as of today. Nowadays I look up to other denim brands for their ideas and methods of production but I will still always come back to my old way of me sitting alone behind my sewing machines pumping out piece by piece, one at a time.
Did you grew up in Italy or Canada and what was your reason to go to Bangkok?
I was born in Canada but my father was brought up in Italy. I guess a lot of “Italian” has rubbed off on me. I’m happy with having a double heritage behind my name, especially when Canada and Italy are both great countries. I came to thailand for a vacation and I really enjoyed my time here. I had no intentions of staying when I came, and this is before I even started to sell any product. But I stayed here and I’m continuously building my custom denim workshop.
As a “farang” (foreigner) how long did it take you to be part of the “fashion scene” in Bangkok?
The fashion scene in bangkok is a strange one. I don’t think I’m in it and I’m not sure if I want to be, but I do respect the things Thai designers are coming up with. When they are creative, they have a way of thinking that is not like the rest of the world. You don’t have to be a big part of a scene to feel comfortable with your work. My work represents me, not the scene and I’m fine with that.
How’s the Bangkok Fashion scene compared to the Italian?
Not as luxurious. But there is a lot of new designers from Thailand who are trying to give their country a good name. There are some great new things in Thailand, the problem that they see is the going out of Thailand and getting the recognition they deserve.
Is the Bangkok Fashion scene recognized internationally and what potential do you foresee?
There needs to be a better outlet for Thai designers to be seen around the world. Not enough of the talent is released into the world.
What’s your idea of good fashion?
Good fashion is anything that makes you comfortable and follows “fashion common sense”. Example, NO socks and flip flops … NO plaids and stripes … NO oversized jeans with tight shirts or vise versa. Just use your head and you wont be that far behind.
As a local, what is the best off-beat travel spot in Bangkok?
Well if you skateboard like I do, right now it would be at Ekkamai and Petchburi. The PINK skatepark. If you are just interested in a good chill spot you need to check out “Umpawa floating market”. I would recommend going there in the afternoon straight through to the evening. You can enjoy riverside food and a small market atmosphere with evening fireflies that light up the sky.
You’re currently expanding your custom-made line from jeans to accessories like bags. At which “project” you’re working at the moment?
At any given moment I’m doing some custom jeans for someone, (or myself). But it is true I am in the process of making some shirts and bags. There will be a few kinds of bags made from various materials as well. Denim and leather are the primary materials my bags will be featuring.
Do you have a ringtone and if not, what would be your favorite sound. I for example would love to have a Thai tokay?
I actually never had a ringtone until I came to Thailand. I seriously kept it on silent. But now I just use the standard Nokia ringtone, nothing special. I always thought of having a fart ringtone or something obnoxious, but I could never go through with it. With my luck my phone will start farting away in church or something.
What’s typical Thai and what’s typical Italian?
Anything you make it. The country’s culture depends on the people to preserve it, so do what you do making sure you give your country a good name.
Any messages to your fans and our readers?
Just play clean. No dirty fighting and respect your elders even if they’re ugly.