Little person, grand design

Think back to when you were seven years old — do you remember what you used to do for fun? Some may have spent their days playing with their favourite toys. Some may have attended dance class, or kept busy convincing themselves that their imaginary friends were indeed real.

But Purisa “Minnie” Hengtrakulsin, a nine-year-old girl, can remember what she was doing at age seven as if it happened only yesterday.

“I want to start my own fashion line,” Minnie recalls telling her mother, Tisa Hengtrakulsin, back then. Tisa gave support to her daughter’s dream without hesitation.

Minnie pulled out a hardcover notebook and opened the first page to sketch.

“This is me in the middle as the chair person,” Purisa explains of her drawing. “To the left is my mum and to the right is my dad. I told them I wanted to have my own brand name of kid’s clothes. I’ll be the designer and my parents will be my employees.”

The image may have only been an idea at the time, but Minnie was determined to make it come true. She started to sketch out designs for the first collection themed the “Modern Victorian”.

Minnie’s father, Pume Hengtrakulsin, took Minnie to Phahurat to shop for the best-fitting fabric for her designs. With the money she collected from angpao, red envelopes containing money given out during Chinese New Year, she bought all the fabric and hired a dressmaker to fashion her ideas into more than just a sketch.

With help from Tisa, Minnie later posted photos of her collection online under the name “Purisa Glitzy”. It wasn’t long after that her first order came in from a Thai lady who lived in the United Kingdom. The family was thrilled for Minnie.

“I’m so happy for my daughter,” Tisa said proudly. “Now she knows that she can do and be anything as long as she puts her mind to it.”

GONE COCO

While kids nowadays are raised on tablets and smart phones, Tisa thought the best way to let her daughter learn about the world was through the old-fashioned way — books.

She believes that children who use social media from a really young age tend not to be as creative as those who explore and expand their knowledge via books.

Minnie was raised in a family of children’s clothes sellers. Pume and Tisa own a wholesale children’s clothing shop in Bobae Market, where Minnie first learned to mix and match clothes precisely to her liking.

Whenever Minnie had time off from school, her parents seized it as an opportunity to explore the world with their daughter. On one Sunday two years ago, they took her to a book fair where she spent hours going from one book stand to another.

Among the books she casually flipped through on that day, there was one that drew her attention the most. The book, a comic-style biography of French fashion icon Coco Chanel, happened to be a life changer for the young girl.

She was immediately absorbed into the creative world of Chanel.

“I’m so inspired by Coco Chanel,” Minnie told her parents. “She was a designer during the day and singer at night. I know I can also be both because they are my passions too.”

Minnie read and reread the book to the point where she could recall essentially every line. She grew committed to emulating the life of her favourite fashion idol.

“I’m going to be Coco Chanel,” Minnie told herself.

MONEY’S WORTH

Minnie had a strong understanding of money — its values and how to make it — since age five. Tisa taught her daughter to be savings-savvy in several ways.

“Whenever Minnie got angpao money from her family, I told her to divide up the money for three purposes,” Tisa explained. “One is for bank savings, one is for personal needs such as toys or books, and another is for business investment. I taught her how to save up money for strategic investments.”

The first time Minnie truly learned the value of money came after Chinese New Year four years ago, which came shortly before Valentine’s Day. Pume and Tisa took Minnie to a flower market known as Pak Klong Talad to buy red roses.

The family bought a bunch of roses for five baht each and resold them for 10 baht each. They set up a stall to resell the roses in front of their clothing shop in Bobae market. Minnie and her cousin were in charge of selling the roses.

“Have you got a rose for your loved one on Valentine’s Day?” Minnie would ask passers-by, charmed by her adorable voice.

In only a few hours, all the roses had been sold. Her parents started counting the revenue to show her how much she earned from her brief business stint.

“I want Minnie to know that earning money is not easy but it is possible to do it with the right ideas at the right occasions,” Tisa explained. “She seemed so surprised to see how much money she earned from her investment.”

Lessons like these helped give Minnie a smart, business-oriented mindset, leading her to her eventual decision to launch a children’s clothing line.

SEEKING INSPIRATION

After launching her first Victorian-themed collection in 2015, Minnie begun seeking inspiration for a new line. She was waiting for the right idea to act upon.

Purisa Glitzy

When Pume took Minnie to see a famous Thai musical based on the novel Si Phaen Din (“Four Reigns”), written in 1953, about a woman named Mae Phloi who lived through four monarchs’ reigns, beginning in the early 20th century.

After the show was over, Minnie felt inspired by the music and women’s fashion of the historical period. She asked her father to tell her more about the style of Thai women during the reign of King Rama V. He recommended she do some homework about it.

Minnie went to her school’s library and started researching that period of Thai history. At the time, she discovered, society was beginning to adopt more influences from Western culture. Women’s clothing thus resembled a mix of Thai and Victorian styles.

“That’s when I started to sketch images of clothing inspired by the musical,” Minnie explained. “I decided to name the second collection Mae Phloi after the main character of the show.”

Minnie’s second collection is what gave Purisa Glitzy its big break. She used Western female models to wear her clothes in classic Thai-looking settings.

After her second collection came out, people begun to recognise her name — especially after the late King Bhumibol passed away on Oct 13 last year when the young designer was invited to have her creations featured in the opening act for a fashion show called “I was born in the reign of King Rama IV” at the Asiatique.

The collection, consisting entirely of white clothes, drew from elements of traditional Thai design.

“We never pestered her about when she planned to design her next collection and we never pushed her to do these extra projects unless she really wanted to,” said Pume. “I don’t want Minnie to feel like she is ever being pressured.

“We don’t expect her to keep producing this extra work. We just want Minnie to be a kid and do well at school. Everything else is just an added bonus in her life.”

DRAWN TO DREAMING

Minnie was raised with a can-do attitude. Whatever she dreams of doing, her parents and teachers lend her their utmost support.

“I want to be a veterinarian when I grow up, but I want to design clothes too,” said Minnie. “I hope I can design a variety of clothes for all genders as well as for animals. I also want to be a singer, actress and a model.”

For a young girl, Minnie has already achieved several of her dreams. Her next is to become a model.

“I believe the younger generations are more unique than our generation,” Pume said. “They will grow up with several skills which they can make a living out of. I believe people like us with only one set of skills won’t be as common in the future.”

Tisa believes that Minnie’s various passions could be a burden to her one day. She doesn’t want her daughter to get burned out with school and all the tasks she’s taking on.

“I once asked my daughter if she felt tired and has had enough of all the work,” Tisa said. “I told her that she could stop anytime she feels like it. No one will hold anything against her.

“But when I looked into her eyes, I begun to realise that all this extra work really just comes from being passionate. I talked to my husband and we agreed that we shouldn’t let our daughter give up her passion.”

Minnie recently released a new collection, “Bittersweet”. Her brand has become increasingly well-known and Minnie has been named as a designer to watch.

For a young girl, she’s achieved a great deal, but she still believes that there is room to develop. She already has her future business plans made up.

“I want to have my own store where parents can go to buy clothes while their children can play in the playground,” Minnie explained. “I want to create a family-friendly space that everyone can enjoy. I have already planned out how each corner of the shop will look. But the whole point is that everyone in the family can enjoy being in my shop.”

The word impossible doesn’t seem to exist in Minnie’s books. Giving up is not her style.

what to wear: Purisa Glitzy is the fashion line of nine-year-old designer prodigy Purisa ‘Minnie’ Hengtrakulsin. Her work has drawn inspiration from various historical periods, such as the Victorian era. Photos: Supplied

eyes on the prize: Minnie at a photo shoot for Purisa Glitzy. The latest collection is themed ‘Bittersweet’. Photo: Supplied

drawing inspiration: Minnie wants to sell her designs in her own shop one day.