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Young designer creating her own Yunnan fusion

By in Features on

Kunming is one of China's most ethnically diverse major cities, featuring a unique mix of ethnic Han with Yi, Bai, Dai, Tibetans, Naxi and other minorities. Each of these ethnic groups have their own distinct language, culture and style.

In addition to local ethnic influences, Kunming is also absorbing outside ideas and styles from Southeast Asia, India, Japan and South Korea. Sitting at the crossroads of East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia, Kunming is quickly becoming a unique melting pot of Asian styles.

22-year old Baoshan native A Ling is but one example of the young wave of Yunnan-born designers designing, producing and selling one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories in Kunming. Before living in Kunming, A Ling spent eleven years in Dehong prefecture near the border with Myanmar, where most people belong to the Dai ethnicity.

After teaching herself how to sew little more than a year ago, A Ling began making handbags and selling them to friends she knew through her day job working at a café in Kunming. Once revenue from her bags eclipsed her day job's pay, she decided to quit slinging coffee and devote all her efforts to making bags. Now she has a website promoting her bags - alingcrafts.com.

We sat down with A Ling to find out more about the inspiration behind her work:

GK: How did you end up making bags?

A Ling: I taught myself how to sew because I wanted to create beautiful things that I could use every day, so handbags were a natural choice for me. I really enjoy the process of turning an idea I have into a finished bag. I've already made more than 200 in the last year and have just started making computer bags.

GK: How do you find inspiration for your designs?

A Ling: Painting and music are big influences on my work. I paint at home a lot and I like to come up with bag designs when I'm painting, I also have to listen to music when I make bags. Also, even though I'm a Han Chinese, I grew up in a predominantly Dai environment - my designs have definitely been influenced by my experiences and exposure to their culture and art.

GK: What are your favorite places in Yunnan?

A Ling: I like living and working in Kunming as there are more opportunities here than anywhere else in Yunnan, but I also like Dali, it's a good place to chill out for a while.

GK: What would you like to be doing in five years?

A Ling: I still hope I'm making bags, hopefully by then I'll be able to open a store or maybe even a restaurant.

Image: alingcrafts.com

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