Designers Leading the Change: Meet Le Ngok


Meet Le Ngok, a Philippine based brand exploring the narrative highs and lows of its designer Carla Zhang, who pushes the creative boundaries of experimental design in fashion with the use of various mixed media and a multitude of innovative techniques.
Le Ngok CollectionCourtesy of Carla Zhang


Your Chinese and Philippine heritage are such a rich tapestry. How do you think it has influenced your way of thinking and working?

I was born and raised in China and moved to the Philippines as a teenager, where I later attended college and pursued fashion studies. My journey has been influenced by different cultures, languages, educational backgrounds, and experiences, which has diversified my way of thinking and shaped my approach to work, learning to be more resourceful.


Being a recent graduate, do you think that studying fashion has prepared you for the industry that you’re getting into?

Fashion education has opened my mind to various art forms in general, and my college was very supportive, providing many opportunities to connect with the industry. Of course, the real industry practices after graduation are on a different level. Nonetheless, I am grateful for my fashion studies, and the most significant lesson I learned was critical thinking and adopting a creative attitude while getting into the industry.


Le Ngok CollectionCourtesy of Carla Zhang


Usually, when designers start on this path towards creating sustainably, it’s because they’ve had an "ahá" moment, where they’ve realized how harmful the industry can be. Do you remember what that moment was for you?

It was during the pandemic quarantine when, after throwing a bag of trash, a thought struck me: “Do I really need that many things in life?” I was in my sophomore year at that time, tasked with creating a capsule collection for one of my courses. I came up with a collection titled “Wasteland of Tomorrow” and sourced 70% of the materials from used clothing, fabric scraps, deadstock and waste. One of the materials I used was even a discarded fruit foam net, which was collected from a fruit vendor near my residence.


Sustainability is part of your brand’s DNA, how do you weave it into every aspect of your design and production process?

Resourcefulness is always one important factor to consider. From material sourcing, to the design concept and process, production and utilizing all the leftovers from the production.

I prioritize eco-friendly materials such as recycled fabrics and deadstock in our material selection process; design with minimal waste in mind, repurposing materials and upcycling pre-existing fabrics or garments to create new pieces and reduce waste. Additionally, I’m transparent about my sustainability practices, sharing information with all the customers.


Le Ngok CollectionCourtesy of Carla Zhang


Transitioning towards sustainable practices isn’t always smooth sailing. Can you share some of the challenges you’ve faced and how you’ve tackled them?

Balancing creativity and sustainability while building the label can be challenging, especially when designing pieces for sale in the ready-to-wear and accessory markets. To tackle this challenge, I created an accessory collection called “The Pot”, with a 3D printed bag body to minimize waste from its printing settings. I sourced its strap and lining from deadstock and recycled fabric. Launching this concept has garnered constructive feedback from the market and has contributed to the building of my label.


It’s impossible to be 100% sustainable, but every bit counts. What are some practical steps you believe everyone can take to reduce their environmental impact?

I believe one practical step is to learn the characteristics and maximize the usage of every material you have. This step can help in reducing waste, repurposing or upcycling materials, and embracing a mindset of resourcefulness in the long run. 


Are there any innovative sustainable materials that you would like to explore in the future?

I want to research and test the feasibility more on sustainable, durable, and better-recycled 3D printing materials.



Le Ngok CollectionCourtesy of Carla Zhang


Creating ethically isn’t just about the end product, it’s about every step along the way. How do you ensure fair and safe working conditions throughout your supply chain?

At present, I maintain a small-scale production team and ensure fair pay for those who work with me. When sourcing from external suppliers, I prioritize checking their working conditions and production processes beforehand.


Your pieces are crafted through a combination of traditional weaving and innovative 3D printing. What pushed you to step out of the box of conventional fashion in order to pursue this path?

As I explored my design journey, I found my creative voice in storytelling through mixed media. I aspire to push the creative boundaries of experimental design in fashion. 


And through this storytelling, what is the message you’d like to communicate through your brand?

My pieces are a fusion of tradition and innovation, seeking to break away from regularity, embrace distinctiveness and individuality; And LE NGOK’s recent FW2024 artisanal collection “There’s Nothing Wrong” draws inspiration from my personal journey with anxiety, recognizing that many in our generation silently share similar experiences. 

I wish to create a continuous journey of discovery into the deeper meaning of creativity, that each LE NGOK piece is a sensorial story in itself connected with the audience. 


Le Ngok CollectionCourtesy of Carla Zhang


Managing a brand with a focus on sustainable values in an industry characterized by rapid turnover of collections demands creativity and adaptability. How do you manage this without leaving your values behind?

Aside from creating unique and timeless designs to ensure longevity and reduce the need for frequent collections, constant learning, flexibility, and strategic decision-making are crucial, especially for LE NGOK as a startup brand. I believe it’s an ongoing journey of finding the right balance between creativity, adaptability, and staying true to my values.


What unique tips do you recommend to your customers to ensure their pieces stand the test of time?

I always tell my customers that my brand is all about creating mindful designs that revolve around my personal core values. Delivering a piece of story, an original idea, regardless of time and trends.


What advice would you give to other fashion graduates looking to take the leap and set up their own sustainable brands?

My first advice is to keep researching and learning about sustainable practices, materials, and supply chains. Another one is I think it’s good to begin with a focused approach and a few core products to test the concepts, gather feedback, and improve the offerings before scaling up.


Visit NJAL I The Shop and discover all of Le Ngok's pieces