Words: Jady Ojiri | Photo: Jason Perez
From a fish farm based in the heart of Waianae, O’ahu to the homes of “Project Runway” watchers across the nation, this woman has done it all. Previously known as male fashion designer Andy South, Ariyaphon Southiphong is the fashion mogul that has everyone talking and the mastermind behind the clothing brand “Andy South.”
Growing up in Hawaii, she described herself as a “big fish in a small pond” and how all of that changed when she landed an opportunity to be a designer during “Project Runway’s” season eight in 2010.
“At home [in Hawaii], everyone would love what I do,” Ari stated. “It was great because it really built up my confidence, but going to New York actually taught me how much I really want this [fashion design].”
Ari went on to express how being on the show really transformed her as a designer. She learned to accept constructive criticism and to also stay true to her own voice as a designer. One of her biggest assertions was that at the end of the day, if you are doing or producing something you love and connect with, then it’s ultimately the right thing to do.
As time went on, after becoming a top three finalist on the show, Ari began to become more in touch with her identity. She was in the midst of making her transition from Andy to Ari, and she describes the change as being very scary but ultimately rewarding in the end. Today, she knows who she is, as both a designer and a transgender woman, and she is thankful for everything she’s experienced over the past few years.
When asked about her personal style, Ari described it as being “ever changing, ever evolving, and eclectic, because I think you never wake up on two days feeling the exact same way. If you wake up feeling one way, you should be able to dress yourself that way.”
Throughout her journey, Ari has taken influence from other designers, including Yohji Yamamoto and Junya Watanabe. She expressed how both of these individuals think outside of the box and are able to produce what they really feel within themselves, which is exactly what she hopes to achieve as a designer.
Through her clothing line, Ari asserts that her designs are targeted towards, “All women. Real women. You know? That’s the greatest feeling for me… Having a woman who’s never really loved the way her body looked, and then putting something on and all of a sudden be crying and saying that that’s the first time that she’s ever felt this beautiful… That’s the reason why I do what I do.”
With that in mind, Ari has been really getting in touch with more of the things that she’s passionate about. She revealed how this past year has really been a year about reconnecting with her passions that she lost touch with during the hustle and bustle of her big break into the fashion industry.
Ari went on to explain how she’s taken up hula again and how she’s really making an effort to lead a more active lifestyle, which lead to the creation of her most recent designs that she featured at the 2016 Honolulu Fashion Week over the weekend.
“Right now, I’m really into these one pieces. They’re these one piece neoprene yoga suits that I’ve been literally living in. They’re just so easy to put on and it just makes me feel really streamlined throughout the day,” Ari stated as she described one of her personal favorites from the new collection.
Over the span of a few years, this Ari has definitely transformed as an individual and made her presence known in the fashion world. Her impact as a designer has only just begun and who knows where her talents will lead to next.
To get a taste of Ari’s show stopping designs, keep up with her through her Instagram @arisouth or through her website, http://shop.andysouth.com.