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Meet Yaya Aksarapak Bondu and Pearl Ruktawan Yuttawongs of The Phukaw in Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yaya Aksarapak Bondu and Pearl Ruktawan Yuttawongs.

Yaya Aksarapak and Pearl Ruktawan , let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Started in 2008 at the Fairfax and Melrose Trading Market, The Phukaw’s first appearance was displayed. Every Sunday we waited in line to set up our booth and sell our products. Many buyers show interest and appreciation towards the Thai culture with their kind words and attitudes. After spending our Sundays at the market for about 3-4 years, we opened up the first location at Main St. Santa Monica. Two years later The Phukaw moved to Hollywood Blvd, Thai Town.

Has it been a smooth road?
We’re certain that all starting businesses have gone through many hardships —it has always been difficult. First of all, with the language. My mother struggles a lot with how to start our business even when trying to contact the manager at the Fairfax trading post. They first didn’t understand what we wanted to do. Secondly, our product. Although it’s very unique, many people don’t understand the real value of it and claimed that it was overpriced. All these products are handmade and one of a kind. You will not be able to find it anywhere else since the resources are so limited there {Thailand}.

The first time moving to store location from Santa Monica to Hollywood, Thai Town was a little bit of a challenge. Many asked what are we doing here, selling Thai clothing in Thai town. Why would Thai people buy our stuff? To be honest, we were a bit worried. But afterwards, things started to shift in a better direction. There is Thai New Year Festival and weddings that keeps our business running. Not only that but productions are interested and rented many costumes and props out.

We have clients who have no idea regarding the meaning of a wedding dress. To be frank, they mostly compared the Thai traditional dress with the Western white dress. Now I did not say that the white dress is nothing compared to our traditional gown. But what bothers me is when my clients said that their white dress is already almost $1000 which they believe that spending another $500 for the Thai wedding dress is too much since they’ll be wearing it for only an hour. It’s not too difficult to point out that not only having a Western cultural influence, they should preserve THEIR traditions as well. This, I would say, is one of the common issues we are experiencing throughout the business.

So, let’s switch gears a bit and go into The Phukaw story. Tell us more about the business.
The Phukaw is the replica of Thailand. 9 out 10 people would say that our store makes them feel as if they were in Thailand again. Many believe that Thai outfits can be worn only for special occasions. In fact, we can adapt to wear for variety events or even to wear them daily. We take our traditional fabrics and placed it with modern clothes to blend in the taste of culture then and now. It is one way to keep the beautiful Thai ways within the liveliness of the 21st century so that the precious tradition of Thai fabric will be conserved.

We have all kinds of Thai costumes from children’s costumes, beauty pageant wear to wedding dress sets for brides and grooms, and the bride’s mate & groom’s man. We provide causal Thai traditional outfits for attending temples and formal events. For those who seek for specific sizes and design, here at the store we offer the custom-made service. Most of clients prefer having the outfit custom made for the better fit of their unique body types.

The Hill Tribes styles are from the Northern part of Thailand. The Phukaw bring in the mix of the Akah, Yao, Hmong, Karen long neck tribe, and Ekor tribes clothing to the store. All the materials are at least 30-40 years old. We had the merchandise cleaned sanitarily for customers’ health conditions before displaying at the store. We then have them hand made the clothes to our designs. Note that some of these clothes are the original ones. Most of the hill tribes clothing are one of a kind and does not have stocks.

Here we have both rental and purchase options of customers. Our price range is not set in stone. We allow them to give us the budget and we’ll go from there.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
These clothing is never out of trend since it’s vintage. Also, wedding dresses are always updated as far as trends goes. We are in progress in going deeper in the fashion industry–productions and celebrities’ stylist


  • Wedding Dresses $350-$7000
  • Hilltribe Clothing $50-$1000
  • Casual Wear $10-$500
  • Shoes $30-$100
  • Jewelry $3-$5000

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Act Vinai
Buddy Production

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